Opposite dugout: Twins send out pesky, productive lineup against O’s stingy pitching staff

TwinsLogo.jpgManager: Ron Gardenhire, 13th year
Record: 59-74
Last 10 games: 4-6
Who to watch: 2B Brian Dozier (.240/.345/.419, 30 doubles, 20 HR, 61 RBIs, 94 R, 20 SB); RF Oswaldo Arcia (.228/.299/.446, 14 doubles, 14 HR, 42 RBIs); 3B Trevor Plouffe (.249/.315/.413, 38 doubles, 10 HR, 65 RBIs); RHP Phil Hughes (14-9, 3.70 ERA, 1.18 WHIP)
Season series vs. O’s: 2-1, 11 runs scored, 6 runs against

Pitching probables
Aug. 29: Trevor May vs. Miguel Gonzalez, 7 p.m., MASN HD
Aug. 30: Kyle Gibson vs. Chris Tillman, 7 p.m., MASN HD
Aug. 31: Ricky Nolasco vs. Wei-Yin Chen, 1:30 p.m., MASN HD
Sept. 1: Phil Hughes vs. Kevin Gausman, 1:30 p.m., MASN HD

Series breakdown
The Twins might own one of the worst records in the American League as they arrive at Camden Yards, but they also possess a pesky offense that ranks among the most productive in the AL.

Minnesota, which stands last in the AL Central and 13 1/2 games out of a playoff spot, is fifth in the AL with 583 runs. The club doesn’t have plentiful power, ranking 11th in the AL with 104 homers. And it doesn’t jump out in average (ninth, .251) or OPS (eighth, .709) either.

But the Twins get the job done in other ways, sitting among the AL’s top five in doubles (second, 264), walks (second, 460), steals (fifth, 80) and on-base percentage (fifth, .323).

The Twins aren’t quite as productive away from home, ranking ninth in the AL in runs on the road. But it’s still a deep and dangerous lineup that finds ways to break down opposing pitching staffs. All nine of Minnesota’s current starters have an OPS over .700.

Second baseman Brian Dozier defines the club’s style. Despite batting just .240, he leads Minnesota with 20 homers, 20 steals and a .764 OPS, is second with 61 RBIs and third with 30 doubles. Dozier leads the AL with 94 runs and is 10th in steals.

Dozier has hits in seven straight games, batting .400 with five doubles, eight RBIs and nine runs scored during the streak.

Third baseman Trevor Plouffe is also a critical component, leading the Twins with 38 doubles, the second-most in the AL, and 65 RBIs. He adds 10 homers and a .729 OPS.

Right fielder Oswaldo Arcia, 23, has also stood out with 14 doubles, 14 homers and 42 RBIs in just 78 games. Shortstop Eduardo Escobar has hit 33 doubles, the sixth-most in the AL.

First baseman Joe Mauer isn’t having his best season, as he’s on pace for a career-low .725 OPS. But he has always done well against the Orioles, batting .344/.405/.508 with 15 doubles, five homers and 31 RBIs in 52 career games.

While offense hasn’t been much of a problem for the Twins, pitching has.

Minnesota’s 4.47 team ERA and 5.02 starters’ ERA are the second-worst marks in the AL. The Twins do rank 10th with a 3.53 bullpen ERA, however.

The Orioles get to see a mixed bag in terms of quality when it comes to match-ups over the next four games.

Rookie right-hander Trevor May faces Miguel Gonzalez in tonight’s series opener. The 24-year-old has struggled since joining the club this month, going 0-3 with an 8.79 ERA in four appearances (three starts). He tossed a career-high 5 1/3 innings on Saturday, but allowed five runs on 11 hits.

Right-hander Kyle Gibson, 26, takes on Chris Tillman in the second game of the series. Gibson has had a solid year, going 11-10 with a 4.31 ERA in 25 starts. But the former first-rounder has been up and down since late June, mixing gems and duds. Over his last 11 starts, he’s 5-5 with a 5.75 ERA to see his ERA jump from 3.25.

Right-hander Ricky Nolasco faces Wei-Yin Chen in the third game of the series. Nolasco is having a nightmarish first season with the Twins. The right-hander’s ERA has never dipped below 5.49 and he’s currently 5-9 with a 5.62 ERA in 21 starts. However, Nolasco is coming off one of his best outings of the season, as he pitched seven scoreless innings in a no-decision against Kansas City on Tuesday.

Right-hander Phil Hughes has been the ace of the Twins staff in his first year with the team, and will pitch against Kevin Gausman in Monday’s finale. Hughes turned things around in a big way following a rough start to his season. Since pitching to a 7.20 ERA over his first three games, the former Yankees right-hander has gone 14-8 with a 3.37 ERA over his last 24 starts.

Overall, Hughes has a 3.70 ERA this season and is tied for third in the AL with 14 wins. From Aug. 5-21, Hughes pitched especially well, winning four straight starts with a 1.32 ERA, 30 strikeouts and two walks in 27 1/3 innings. He allowed four runs in 7 2/3 innings his last start, however.

Out of the bullpen, closer Glen Perkins has been the club’s best reliever. The left-hander has a 2.72 ERA and 32 saves in 37 chances over 57 appearances.

The Twins have struggled lately, losing eight of 11 contests before scoring six in the 10th inning Thursday for an 11-5 win over the Royals. During that 3-8 stretch, Minnesota sandwiched two four-game skids around a three-game winning streak.

The pitching has been to blame, as the Twins have allowed at least five runs nine times in their last 12 games and 75 total during that stretch (6.3 allowed per game).

Even though the Orioles don’t have to contend with a fearsome pitching staff during the four-game series, they will have to quiet a productive lineup that finds ways to post gaudy runs totals without the benefit of the longball.

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