At the All-Star Break, both the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox thought they had positioned themselves to make a run at the American League Central division title. Unfortunately, they've made that a bit tougher on themselves recently with their on-field performances.
The White Sox and Twins, who now sit 6.5 and 8 games back in the division, respectively, will meet for the first of a three-game weekend set at Target Field starting on Friday night. With just 51 games remaining and an eight-game deficit staring them in the face, if the Twins are planning to make a move, it really needs to start this evening.
Minnesota is coming off of a road trip that saw them drop two out of three against the Oakland Athletics, and two out of three against the Anaheim Angels. The White Sox are in even worse shape, having lost six consecutive ball games.
The Twins will hope that right-hander Nick Blackburn (7-8, 4.49 ERA) can continue the success he's had against the White Sox this season. Blackburn has faced the White Sox three times this season, and has walked away with the victory all three times. Back on May 4 in Chicago, he allowed just one run on four hits in 6.2 innings of work as the Twins won 3-2. He was even more brilliant on June 16 at Target Field, as he threw eight shutout innings, scattering seven hits in a 1-0 Minnesota victory. On July 8, he wasn't that good, allowing five runs on ten hits in just five innings of work, but still managed to get the W in Minnesota's 8-5 win.
To continue that, however, Blackburn will have to be significantly better than he's been in his last two starts, where he's lasted a total of seven combined innings and allowed 16 runs (12 earned) on 21 hits in losses to the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics.
The White Sox will counter with left-hander Mark Buehrle (8-5, 3.21 ERA). Buehrle has faced the Twins twice this season, and has one loss and one no-decision. He was the losing pitcher in the June 16 game against Blackburn mentioned above, despite allowing just one run on three hits in seven innings of work. That game was also the last time he was credited with a loss (he has two wins and five no-decisions in his seven starts since then). On July 9, he allowed three unearned runs on four hits in eight innings, but did not figure in the decision as Chicago defeated Minnesota 4-3.
First pitch from Target Field is scheduled for 7:10 PM Central time at Target Field. The Game Thread is already up and running over at Twinkie Town, so hang out there for the best in-game Twins discussion you'll find anywhere, and we'll have your recap back here later on.