Scott Baker tries to win his fifth straight decision this evening when the Minnesota Twins open a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.
Baker was terrific in beating the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Sunday, as he scattered five hits over seven scoreless innings to run his record to 11-9 on the year to go along with a 4.63 earned run average.
"He was mixing it up," Angels catcher Jeff Mathis said after the game. "He was in and out, up and down. He kept us off balance."
Baker beat the Mariners the last time he faced them, but is just 2-3 lifetime against him with a 4.66 ERA in eight starts.
Minnesota avoided a four-game sweep at the hands of the Texas Rangers on Thursday when Francisco Liriano pitched seven innings to win his sixth consecutive decision as the Twins pounded Cliff Lee early and held off Texas, 6-4.
Liriano (12-7) surrendered five hits and two runs while fanning six batters. The left-hander is unbeaten over his last eight starts. Matt Capps pitched the final inning for his sixth save.
"When you have teams competing for the playoffs, you're going to have a lot of good starting pitching," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "That's why you have a chance in your division and why you are competing -- because you pitch. I think we saw a lot of that in this series."
Delmon Young belted a three-run homer in the second inning off Lee and Jim Thome went deep in the sixth against Alexi Ogando as the Twins maintained their 3 1/2 game lead on Chicago in the AL Central. The White Sox blew out Baltimore, 8-0, Thursday night.
Seattle, meanwhile, also enters on a winning note after splitting a day/night doubleheader with the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday. After losing the opener, 5-3, the Mariners responded in the nightcap behind yet another terrific pitching performance from Felix Hernandez, who pitched into the eighth inning, while Jose Lopez went 2-for-4 with a walk and two RBI to lead the Mariners to a 4-2 win.
Hernandez (10-10) limited Boston to two runs -- one earned -- on four hits and a walk in 7 1/3 innings. He also struck out nine to eclipse 1,000 for his career, becoming the third-youngest player to reach that mark.
The only pitchers younger than Hernandez, who is 24 years and 139 days old, to reach the milestone since '52 are Bert Blyleven (23 years, 121 days) and Dwight Gooden (23 years, 249 days).
"I am really happy about that," Hernandez said, "but I am [happier] to win the game." ' Matt Tuiasosopo added three hits and an RBI for the Mariners, who ended their 12-game road trip at 6-6. The trek was the team's longest since 2004.
"It was a nice win to end our longest road trip of the year," interim manager Daren Brown said. "To end up 6-6 on the trip was big, especially going into two places, New York and Boston, that are tough places to play."
Getting the call for Seattle tonight will be lefty Jason Vargas, who is 9-6 with a 3.43 ERA. Vargas was hit hard in losing to the New York Yankees on Saturday, as he allowed seven runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 frames.
"I thought it was a bit of a rough start, but after the first inning, he was really good," Brown said after that game. "Between the first and seventh innings, he was throwing as well as I've seen him throw."
Vargas beat the Twins the last time he faced them and has pitched to a 1.08 ERA in his two games (one start) against them.
Minnesota has won four of its seven meetings with the Mariners this season.