The Minnesota Twins' surge has been sparked by tremendous improvement from the pitching staff, particularly the bullpen.
With rookie Kyle Gibson scheduled to take the mound Sunday, the Twins will likely need the relievers again as they try to continue their hot stretch against the Seattle Mariners.
Minnesota (45-56) has won eight of 11 after compiling a 5.65 ERA during a 1-12 skid.
The pitchers have keyed the turnaround, posting a 2.74 ERA over the last 11 games. The bullpen has been even more impressive with a 1.60 ERA during that stretch.
The relievers were vital to Friday's 3-2, 13-inning win at Seattle, yielding one run over the final 6 1-3. Samuel Deduno made sure the bullpen wasn't needed nearly as long Saturday as he allowed three hits in seven innings of a 4-0 victory.
Although he's struggled to pitch deep into games, Gibson (2-2, 5.72 ERA) has been much better lately.
The rookie right-hander has failed to last beyond the sixth inning in each of his five starts since being promoted from Triple-A Rochester last month, but his last two outings have ended in Twins victories.
That was the case again Tuesday, when Gibson allowed two solo homers in six innings of a 10-3 win in 10 over the Los Angeles Angels.
"I threw seven out of 23 first-pitch strikes, which is pretty bad," Gibson said. "I still need to work ahead in the count, which is something I'm working on."
Brian Dozier continued his hot hitting against the Mariners (49-55) with a solo homer Saturday. The second baseman is 8 for 25 (.320) with two home runs and four RBIs in six meetings this season.
Justin Morneau also homered for one of his two hits Saturday after entering 1 for 14 in his first three games this year against Seattle.
The Mariners are scheduled to send Erasmo Ramirez (1-0, 8.71) to the mound for his third start of the season.
The right-hander allowed three runs in 5 2-3 innings of a 4-3 win over Cleveland on Tuesday. That was a huge improvement over his season debut July 11, when he was tagged for a career-high seven runs and four walks over 4 2-3 innings of an 8-7, extra-inning loss to Boston.
Unlike the Twins, the Mariners' bullpen is struggling during a 1-3 stretch. The relievers have surrendered 11 runs with 11 walks and five homers in 15 1-3 innings over that span, and Yoervis Medina has been a major culprit.
The right-hander has allowed four runs and three homers - one to Dozier - in 1 2-3 innings over the past two games, getting charged with Friday's defeat. He had tossed 11 scoreless innings over his previous 10 appearances.
"He'll be OK," acting manager Robby Thompson said. "I'd rather look at it the other way and say he's only given up three. It just so happens it's been in the last couple days. He's done well and there are no red flags or concerns."
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