Punchless Giants open series with Twins at AT&T

Punchless Giants open series with Twins at AT&T
June 21, 2011, 3:22 pm

June 21, 2011

MINNESOTA (31-39) vs.
GIANTS (39-33)

Coverage begins at 6:30 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- While the Minnesota Twins have barely climbed out of last place in the AL Central, they'll be feeling a whole lot better than the first-place San Francisco Giants when the teams meet for the first time in six years Tuesday night.

That's because the Twins (31-39) have begun to overcome a dismal start by winning 14 of 16 - including their last seven in a row. Drew Butera's RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday gave Minnesota a 5-4 victory to cap a three-game sweep of San Diego.

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"We're smiling, we're laughing. Winning's great," infielder Matt Tolbert said. "It's starting to feel like it did last year. We just need to keep the momentum."

That seems possible against San Francisco, which has matched a season worst by losing its last four games.

The Giants (39-33) have scored a total of seven runs while batting .180 during their skid - going 0 for 26 with runners in scoring position. They fell 2-1 at Oakland on Sunday, but kept a half-game lead over Arizona in the NL West because the Diamondbacks also lost.

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"No one is happy," first baseman Aubrey Huff said. "There is no doubt about it that no one is where he wants to be. We have to figure ways to score, and it's going to be no easy task. We have to start working counts, getting on and putting pressure on the other guys."

That doesn't figure to be easy the way Minnesota has been pitching lately. The Twins' 2.01 ERA in June is the best in the majors by a wide margin.

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Carl Pavano (4-5, 4.20 ERA) has thrown two complete games this month, going 2-0 with a 1.44 ERA in three starts. He could be fresh for Tuesday's start after needing only 96 pitches to go the distance in a 4-1 win over the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday.

"I feel like I'm settling in a little better as far as getting a little stronger and consistent with the things I'm trying to establish, and so is the team," said Pavano, whose last two interleague starts in 2010 were complete games - including a three-hit shutout against the New York Mets on June 26.

"There's a lot of guys who have stepped in, because we have a lot of injuries, and picked up a lot of guys."

Michael Cuddyer came up big on the Twins' recent homestand, going 14 for 30 (.467) with three homers and 10 RBIs in nine games.

Although Denard Span, Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel and Jim Thome remain out, Joe Mauer returned from the 60-day disabled list Friday. He went 1 for 11 against the Padres.

The Giants were hoping Pablo Sandoval could bolster their offense after returning from a broken hand last week, but he's 3 for 17 (.176) with no RBIs and five strikeouts during the losing streak.

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Madison Bumgarner (3-8, 3.21) has felt the strain of San Francisco's struggling bats all season, getting a team-low 2.8 runs of support per nine innings.

The 21-year-old left-hander hasn't needed much offense lately, though. He's allowed three or fewer runs while pitching at least six innings in each of his last 10 starts, posting a 2.03 ERA in that stretch.

Bumgarner started the Giants' last win, working six innings of a 5-2 victory at Arizona on Wednesday.

This will be the teams' first meeting since 2005, when the Giants took two of three in Minnesota. The Twins won two of three in San Francisco in 2003.