The Minnesota Twins and Miami Marlins finished at the bottom of their divisions in 2012. While things appear to be looking up for the Twins, the Marlins may be even worse off.
Minnesota can match its longest winning streak from 2012 when it meets visiting Miami in the opener of a split doubleheader Tuesday.
A 5-3 road win against the White Sox on Sunday gave the Twins (8-7) their fourth straight victory, putting them on the verge of equaling their longest run last season from June 30-July 3.
Josh Willingham, who has at least one RBI in each game during the streak, hit a three-run double in Minnesota's four-run seventh inning. Before that, Aaron Hicks - 0 for 19 over his last seven games - had an RBI single to tie the score at 2-all.
"I'd put us up against anybody right now," starter Scott Diamond, who gave up two runs over six innings, told the team's official website. "I think we're playing pretty confidently. As long as we can execute our pitches and continue to work, I think we're going to be better than everybody thinks we are."
Minnesota's pitching has been strong during the four-game run, compiling a 2.19 ERA while allowing 30 hits, eight walks and striking out 36 over 37 innings.
Kevin Correia (1-1, 2.95 ERA) figures to give the staff a good shot to continue that trend in the first game of the doubleheader, as he's gone at least seven innings in all three of his starts while limiting opponents to three earned runs or fewer.
Correia was slated to start Monday night's series opener, which was preemptively postponed due to approaching inclement weather. Four of Minnesota's last eight scheduled games have been wiped out before they began because of weather problems, including three at home.
"It's been frustrating, needless to say," Twins president Dave St. Peter said. "Everything pointed to a really ugly night, one that playing baseball on wasn't really an option, due to the rain, due to the snow, due to the wind, due to the cold. It just doesn't make much sense."
Correia will have to overcome some past struggles against the Marlins, though. He's 3-4 with an 8.01 ERA in eight starts versus Miami.
Facing this Marlins lineup, however, may not prove to be particularly daunting. Miami (4-15) is off to the worst start in franchise history hampered by an abysmal offense, though Giancarlo Stanton finally recorded his first RBI in a 10-6 loss at Cincinnati on Sunday.
"It doesn't give any excuse to my terrible play before that," said Stanton, who was 4 for 18 with eight strikeouts in the four-game series against the Reds and is batting .188. "I can only look forward. I could have hit left-handed and done as well."
Stanton's struggles are far from the only thing weighing down Miami's offense. The Marlins rank near the bottom in baseball in batting average (.212), slugging percentage (.266) and on-base percentage (.271). Their six home runs are the fewest in the majors.
"We haven't hit well enough to overcome those mistakes," said manager Mike Redmond, who played for the Twins from 2005-09. "Hopefully, this gets Stanton something to build on."
Making the start for Miami in the first game will be Ricky Nolasco (0-2, 3.86), who has felt the brunt of the inept offense while getting 1.54 runs of support per nine innings.
Nolasco has never faced the Twins, while teammates Juan Pierre and Miguel Olivo are 8 for 19 and 6 for 10 off of Correia, respectively.
Mike Pelfrey (2-1, 7.30) gets the ball in the nightcap for Minnesota, and he's struggled in his career against the Marlins. Pitching for the Mets from 2006-12, the right-hander went 1-8 with a 5.20 ERA in 17 starts versus Miami.
Stanton is 8 for 17 with two home runs against Pelfrey, who beat the Angels 8-6 last Tuesday after allowing four runs and seven hits over five innings.
Rookie Jose Fernandez will make his fourth career start for the Marlins in the second game. Fernandez (0-1, 3.60) is coming off his worst outing thus far, allowing five runs and six hits in four innings of an 11-1 loss at Cincinnati on Thursday.
The 20-year-old right-hander had a 0.82 ERA after his first two starts.
"If this would have happened to me last year, today I would have still been like going crazy about it. Now, it was just a bad day," Fernandez told the Marlins' official website. "I talked to some people, and the next day I was there getting ready to do what I do to prepare for the next game. I'm pretty happy about that."
The Associated Press News Service
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