Series Preview: Minnesota Twins

(Courtesy of Ian Martin)

This particular three-game series against the Twins wasn't that important nine games ago, but after going 6-3 -- winning the Twins' series and both Cubs' series -- this series is the most important of them all as the White Sox, who are 4.5 behind the first-place Twins and Royals, can close the gap in a heartbeat.

Opponent: Minnesota Twins
Record: 43-37
Time and Place: Game 1: 7:05 p.m. (WCIU); Game 2: 7:05 p.m. (FSN); Game 3: 6:05 p.m. (FSN)
2002 Record vs. Sox: 11-8
2003 Record vs. Sox: 5-4

THE LATEST
The invincible Twins -- at least in AL Central opponents eyes -- of 2002 are no more. Since May 29, the Twins have gone 12-17 and are no longer alone in first place. The reason for this? Look no further than their rotation of starters, who each have an ERA over 5.00 this month.

WHO'S HOT (Last 10 games)
Torii Hunter, CF: 13-38, 4 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 6 R
--Finally, Torii Hunter has begun contributing to the Twins. His batting average, which was .215 on May 15, has jumped .042 points.

WHO'S NOT
The Rotation
--Their 1-2 pitching duo of 2002, Brad Radke and Joe Mays, both have ERA's over 5.60. Their best starter has been the 6-6, 3.96 Kyle Lohse. Kenny Rogers has a better record (7-3) than his numbers deserve, while Rick Reed has been on and off with back pain.

PITCHING PROBABLES
Game #1:
Jon Garland (5-6, 4.81) vs. Joe Mays (8-4, 5.77)
--Last week's matchup between the two resulted in mediocre-to-poor outings, which was unusual considering their success against each other's team.

Game #2:
Mark Buehrle (5-10, 4.59) vs. Brad Radke (5-7, 5.64)
--Radke is now 10-9 in 22 starts lifetime against the Sox, recording a 4.70 ERA. Like game one's matchup, these two both pitched against each other last week, however, Buehrle was far superior by throwing a complete game. Both pitchers will be away from the Metrodome this time around, a good thing for both.

Game #3:
Dan Wright (0-3, 5.03) vs. Kyle Lohse (6-6, 3.96)
--This will all depend on which pitcher you get. Lohse has been up and down all season, while Wright is coming off his best start of the season (6 1/3, 1 ER) against the Cubs.

KEY TO THE SERIES
The Sox need to play with the same energy they played in the first two games of the Cubs' series and not fall back into the lifeless offense they've shown far too often this season. Along with that, they need to get to the Twins' starter's early and create a workload for their bullpen.

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