After missing 59 games with a broken fibula from a takeout slide by Nick Swisher, Tsuyoshi Nishioka will finally make his much-anticipated home debut for the Twins on Thursday. Nishioka was activated from the DL on Wednesday, but he's expected to start in the series finale against the White Sox.
With Tuesday's game rained out, Minnesota is looking to sweep a short series from their Chicago rivals for the second time in as many chances in 2011. But the Twins' dominance of the Sox stretches back much further--the Twins have won 13 of the last 15 games against Chicago.
Making it 14 out of 16 won't be easy--ace Mark Buehrle will get the start for Chicago. He has defeated Minnesota 25 times in his career, the most wins he has against any team.
Nick Blackburn (5-4, 3.47 ERA) will take the mound for the Twins. He's coming off a decent start against Texas where he got a no-decision after pitching 7 1/3 innings.
The Twins are still in the AL Central cellar, but they're playing their best baseball of the year thanks to some surprising sources. Alexi Casilla has been remarkable in the last few weeks, (I know; it felt just as weird to type as it did to read), and the much-maligned bullpen has been lights out as of late. After no Minnesota lead seemed to be safe during the first two months of the season, the bullpen has an ERA of 0.98 in the month of June. With Nishioka coming back Thursday and the return of other stars on the horizon, the Twins might just be able to hang around in a division that nobody seems to be running away with.
First pitch at Target Field is scheduled for 12:10 PM CT.