Clay Buchholz puts his unbeaten streak on the line Friday night when the Boston Red Sox pay a visit to Target Field to open a three-game set with the Minnesota Twins.
Through eight starts, Buchholz is 6-0 with a 1.69 ERA. However, a seventh victory has eluded him as the right-hander walked away with no-decisions in each of his last two outings. Most recently, Buchholz limited the Blue Jays to two runs on six hits in eight innings of work this past Saturday. His previous start came against the Twins, in which he struck out nine batters but also gave up four runs in six innings.
Twins starter Vance Worley has endured a vastly different beginning to his 2013 campaign. The right-hander did finally earn his first win his last time out, although it certainly was not a sharp performance by any measure. He gave up five runs on 11 hits against Baltimore on Saturday, marking Worley's fourth straight start he failed to make it through six innings. His ERA sits at 7.15 on the season.
The Twins were off Thursday. They have gone just 2-4 so far on their nine-game homestand and are coming off back-to-back losses to the White Sox. On Wednesday, starter Mike Pelfrey got the hook after just four innings as he allowed five runs on eight hits. White Sox first baseman Adam Dunn went deep twice and Chicago won, 9-4.
"It's an ongoing process," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Pelfrey. "Sometimes he gets on top and the ball is sinking good, and other times the ball is kind of flat across the zone. And when that happened, they end up making him pay for it. So we'll just keep running him out there and see if he can get better as we go along here."
Offensively, the Twins need outfielder Josh Willingham to get going. He is hitting just .205 from the middle of the lineup after hitting 35 homers and driving in 110 runs last season.
On a positive note, Joe Mauer (.349) extended his hitting streak to 14 games on Wednesday and Justin Morneau (.306) has hit safely in 11 in a row.
Meanwhile, Boston is in the midst of a nine-game road swing. The Red Sox claimed consecutive victories at Tampa Bay to win that series. Will Middlebrooks was the hero in Thursday's 4-3 victory. Down to his final strike with his team trailing by two runs, Middlebrooks hit a bases-clearing double off Rays closer Fernando Rodney. It was only the fourth hit of the game for the Red Sox.
"I think just the approach by everybody in the ninth inning (was huge)," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "We took some close pitches, we load the bases via the walks and down to the last strike, Will's fighting off a couple of fastballs to get to the 1-2 count, and the split seemed to stay in the middle of the plate."
These teams faced off earlier this month in Boston, where the Twins took three out of four.