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May 31, 2024 7:43 am

Twins aim to carry momentum into opener vs. Astros

Minnesota Twins

Even after Ryan Jeffers homered in consecutive innings — the fourth and fifth — Minnesota needed more.

Given how the Twins have performed of late, there was every reason to expect that more was forthcoming.

Max Kepler delivered a game-tying RBI single with one out in the sixth inning before Carlos Correa added a bases-clearing, two-out triple that lifted the Twins to a 7-6 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Thursday.

Minnesota capped a seven-game homestand with a 5-2 record and will open a nine-game, 10-day trip Friday night against the Houston Astros.

The Twins have won seven of their last nine games.

“We’re finding ways to come back and win games,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I think we’re playing tough. We’re doing a lot of things right. We’re playing the same way with good enthusiasm, executing well up, down and in the middle. It doesn’t matter, we play one way.

“Our guys are playing really good baseball right now.”

Right-hander Pablo Lopez (4-5, 5.25 ERA) is scheduled to start the series opener for the Twins on Friday. He suffered a third consecutive loss Sunday against the Texas Rangers after allowing six runs on seven hits — including a pair of homers — and one walk with six strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings in a 6-2 defeat.

It marked the second consecutive start that Lopez allowed at least six earned runs, the first time he’s done so in his career. He has a 9.00 ERA during his skid.

Lopez has faced the Astros once in the regular season. He allowed two runs on six hits and two walks with five strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings on June 10, 2022, while pitching for the Miami Marlins. He did not factor into the decision of that 7-4 road victory.

Right-hander Ronel Blanco (5-0, 1.99 ERA) has the starting assignment for the Astros on Friday.

In his first start following a 10-game suspension for having a foreign substance in his glove, Blanco tossed seven innings and surrendered one run on four hits and one walk with six strikeouts in a 5-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Sunday. It marked his sixth quality start in nine outings, and Blanco ranks second among American League starters in opponent batting average (.174) and is tied for fourth in ERA.

Blanco has opposed the Twins once in his career, allowing four runs on four hits and two walks while working one inning of relief in the Astros’ 9-6 loss on April 8, 2023. He did not factor into the decision.

The Astros salvaged the finale of a four-game series against the American League West-leading Seattle Mariners with a 4-0 victory on Thursday, capping a seven-game road trip with a 3-4 record.

Not only did Houston score in more than one inning for the first time in eight games, the Astros received a quality start from rookie right-hander Spencer Arrighetti, who fanned a career-high eight while working six shutout innings.

On the heels of a quality start from 25-year-old right-hander Hunter Brown, who recorded nine strikeouts while allowing one run over six strong innings against the Mariners on Tuesday, Arrighetti provided an Astros rotation ravaged by injury attrition a much-needed lift.

“The coaching staff has done a really good job of getting them through some tough times,” Houston manager Joe Espada said of Arrighetti and Brown. “We’re going to need those guys going forward. They’ve done a fantastic job. I’m very proud of how far they’ve come.

“They work hard. I’m not surprised by their success.”

–Field Level Media

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