(SportsNetwork.com) - Phil Hughes will take aim at his third straight win on Sunday, as the Minnesota Twins face the Baltimore Orioles in the rubber match of a three-game set at Target Field.
Both sides picked up a victory in the series behind the strength of excellent starting pitching. The Orioles triumphed 3-0 on Friday in the series opener thanks in large part to Ubaldo Jimenez, who submitted 7 1/3 innings of solid work on the mound. Kevin Correia helped Minnesota bounce back by allowing only one run on five hits, while striking out three over seven innings in Saturday's 6-1 win.
After three poor starts to begin the year, Hughes recorded his second consecutive quality start against the Tigers last Saturday. The right-hander allowed only two runs (one earned) on four hits with no walks over seven innings to improve to 2-1.
"It was good," said Hughes, who enters Sunday with a 5.14 ERA. "In the first, I was coming apart a little bit and not staying within myself and overthrowing a little bit. But I was able to settle down pretty quick and get on a roll, which was nice."
The Twins were hitting just .201 during the four-game slide before receiving a much-needed boost from Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier on Saturday. Mauer smacked a three-run homer among his three hits and drove in four RBI, while Dozier belted a solo shot to go with three hits and three runs scored. Starting right fielder Chris Colabello, who is tied for third in the AL with 27 RBI, continued to struggle, finishing 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. Colabello has just two hits in his last 20 at-bats. Dozier has hit eight homers on the campaign, which is tied for the fifth most in the MLB.
Miguel Gonzalez will try to stifle the Twins as he takes the hill for Baltimore. Gonzalez, who has never faced Minnesota before in his career, allowed four runs (three earned) over six innings on Sunday in a 9-3 loss to Kansas City.
The Orioles have gone just 2-for-17 with runners in scoring position through the first two games of the series. Star third baseman Manny Machado has struggled since making his return to action, going just 1-for-13 in three games. Although Baltimore is still without slugging first baseman Chris Davis, who is on the disabled list with a torn oblique, offseason acquisition Nelson Cruz has provided Orioles manager Buck Showalter with a powerful bat in the lineup.
Cruz is ranked in the top five in the MLB in home runs (eight), RBI (27) and slugging percentage (.613). He made a big impact on Friday's game with a towering home run off of Minnesota's Ricky Nolasco.
"It was obviously a difference in the game," said Nolasco. "It's a tough one to swallow with the slider I had going tonight to get beat in that situation. But that's what separates Nelson Cruz from other guys. He made a good adjustment and got down there and got that ball. That's what good hitters do."
Matt Wieters had Saturday off, but the catcher could provide a spark to Baltimore's offense in a hurry if he maintains his momentum. Wieters has multi-hit games in six of his past seven, while batting .419 with a pair of homers, three doubles and eight RBI over that span.
Baltimore and Minnesota split six meetings a year ago.