The Minnesota Twins entered this series at Baltimore spiraling out of contention in the AL wild-card race. That's changed dramatically.
The Twins look to further tighten the chase as they try to sweep this four-game set and continue their recent dominance of the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.
A 9-21 stretch dropped Minnesota (62-61) four games off the pace in the crowded race for the second wild-card spot. The Twins have since cut that deficit to 1 1/2 behind Texas, while the Los Angeles Angels trail by one-half game with Baltimore (62-60) and Tampa Bay in the hunt at one and two back, respectively.
Minnesota will continue having a direct impact on the race when it opens a three-game series at Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Before that, the Twins will try to sweep a series at Camden Yards for the first time since a four-game set from Aug. 23-26, 2007.
"We have an opportunity to do something that doesn't happen very often," manager Paul Molitor said. "Just three days ago we were a couple games below .500. You keep pushing and trying to hang around."
Minnesota won its seventh straight against the Orioles with Saturday's 3-2 victory, as rookie Byron Buxton notched his first RBI on a go-ahead single in the seventh to complete a rally for the second straight night.
"When all the hard work you put in in the cage results in a base hit to win the game, that's all you can ask for," said the 21-year-old center fielder, who has five hits in this series. "I received a lot of support to put me in such a position."
The Twins will try to win four straight for the first time since July 10-17 as they give the ball to Mike Pelfrey (6-7, 3.62 ERA). He's 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA over his last five starts, yielding two runs or fewer in four of them. The right-hander has given up two runs in 12 1-3 innings over his last two outings.
Pelfrey is 2-0 with a 4.08 ERA in three career starts against the Orioles, but this will be his first at Camden Yards since a win with the New York Mets on June 13, 2010.
The Orioles opened this 10-game homestand with four straight wins before dropping four of the last five.
"We haven't been playing baseball. They've been beating us, outhitting us in key situations," said third baseman Manny Machado, who is 2 for 12 during the three-game skid
Baltimore has lost all six meetings against Minnesota this season, scoring three runs or fewer in each while posting a 6.54 ERA.
Kevin Gausman (2-5, 4.48) has played a role in that lofty number, allowing a career-high eight runs over 3 2-3 innings in an 8-3 road loss July 7. He's 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in two starts against the Twins.
Joe Mauer is 4 for 5 with a triple against him and is hitting .393 in his last 16 meetings with Baltimore.
Kurt Suzuki is 3 for 7 off Gausman and 8 for 16 with five RBIs in his past four against the Orioles.
Gausman is trying to avoid losing a fourth straight start for the first time. He has a 5.79 ERA in his previous three, though the last two were quality starts.