Dominican lefty Francisco Liriano seeks a third straight successful outing since returning to the starting rotation today when the Minnesota Twins try to finish off a sweep of the Chicago Cubs in the finale of their three-game interleague series at Target Field.
The 28-year-old, who won 14 games in 2010 before slumping to just nine wins last year, opened this season with losses in his initial five decisions and was sent to the bullpen for a five-outing stint between May 14 and 25.
He allowed runs in just one of those relief outings and returned to starting on May 30, when he twirled six innings of three-hit ball with nine strikeouts in a 4-0 defeat of Oakland.
Liriano continued the momentum - if not the luck - in his most recent appearance on June 5 in Kansas City, when he allowed four hits and a run in six innings with eight strikeouts, but dropped a 1-0 decision to the Royals.
Liriano, who has a 5.66 earned run average in 20 2/3 innings at home this season, has never faced the Cubs.
For Chicago, Canadian-born righty Ryan Dempster goes for a second straight victory after a prolonged slump to begin 2012.
The 35-year-old was 0-3 with a 2.90 ERA through his initial nine starts this spring, before finally breaking the skid with seven innings of three-hit ball and three strikeouts in a 10-0 win at Milwaukee on June 5.
Dempster has been particularly effective on the road thus far, holding opponents to just five earned runs on 26 hits in 34 1/3 innings - a 1.31 ERA.
He is 0-1 in two career meetings with the Twins but has been hit hard, surrendering 11 runs on 12 hits in five innings.
On Saturday, 25-year-old Scott Diamond tossed six shutout innings while Joe Mauer smacked three hits to go with a pair of RBI and a run scored as the Twins routed the Cubs, 11-3.
Diamond (5-1) fanned five and surrendered seven hits for a Minnesota staff which had a 6.11 ERA coming in. The Canadian-born hurler lowered his ERA to a minuscule 1.61.
Trevor Plouffe had a solo homer, a two-run double and an RBI groundout for the surging Twins, who have won nine of their last 11 contests.
Jeff Samardzija (5-4) allowed eight runs on nine hits and a walk in 3 2/3 innings for the Cubs, who have dropped eight of their last nine.
The Twins lead the interleague series, 12-11, have won seven of the last eight games, including a three-game sweep at home in 2006 and two of three at Wrigley Field in 2009.