Before the Minnesota Twins shift their attention to a challenging trip that begins with consecutive series against AL division leaders, they have one more opportunity to continue their home dominance of the Chicago White Sox.
Trying to extend Jeff Samardzija's recent misery, the Twins look to complete a three-game sweep of the White Sox on Thursday.
A winner in 10 of the last 12, Minnesota (69-63) continues to make a serious push for its first postseason appearance since 2010. The Twins would get an even better feel for how far they've come by finding success on a nine-game trek that opens Friday at Houston then moves to Kansas City before finishing with the White Sox (61-70).
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''It's fun to pitch in meaningful games in September,'' Tommy Milone said after tossing seven innings in Wednesday's 3-0 victory. ''We're going through that right now ... and continue to build off of it.''
First, Minnesota tries for a fourth consecutive win overall and against Chicago, which has been outscored 63-23 while going 1-8 at Target Field this season.
That lone triumph at Minnesota came June 23 when Samardzija (8-11, 4.85 ERA) allowed two runs and struck out seven in seven innings of a 6-2 win. The right-hander is 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA in three starts against the Twins in 2015, but had an 8.82 ERA while losing all six starts in August.
"It's not an easy game,'' said Samardzija, who had not dropped more than four straight starts prior to this slide. ''You learn a lot about yourself during stretches like this.''
Samardzija has yielded a major league-high 98 earned runs. His 25 runs allowed in the first inning also are the most in baseball.
He'll try to avoid becoming the first White Sox pitcher to lose seven consecutive starts since Jose Contreras in 2007.
''As far as being prepared, competitiveness, all that stuff, it is as good as it's going to get,'' White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Samardzija. ''He's probably scratching his head as to of how it's ended up like this.''
Kyle Gibson (9-9, 3.82), meanwhile, has allowed only a solo homer to Jose Abreu in 16 innings while going 2-0 against the White Sox this year.
Though he walked three and needed 111 pitches to get through 5 2-3 innings Friday, the right-hander improved to 6-4 and lowered his ERA to 2.92 in 14 home starts with a 3-0 victory over Houston.
"I probably should've gone seven or eight (Friday), so that's the only frustrating part about it," Gibson, who went 0-3 with a 7.22 ERA in his previous seven starts, told MLB's official website.
"But any time you can leave an outing healthy without giving up any runs is a good thing."
Milone surrendered Chicago's only three hits Wednesday. Miguel Sano homered for a third straight game and Trevor Plouffe added a two-run double as the Twins improved to 11-4 against the White Sox in 2015
Sano can become the first Minnesota rookie to homer in four consecutive contests since Marty Cordova in 1995, but it's uncertain how much an ailing hamstring will limit his effort.
"It hasn't bothered him to swing, so he's a tough guy to take out of there," manager Paul Molitor said of Sano, who has 15 homers and 42 RBIs in 51 games since debuting July 2.
Abreu's homer is his only hit in nine at-bats against Gibson.