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Up next: Twins
By MARC TOPKIN
Published July 17, 2006
UP NEXT: TWINS
WHAT'S NEW: The Twins are battling to get back into at least the AL wild-card race, having won 15 of their past 20 and 25 of their past 32, and they are doing it short-handed. They have lost three outfielders to injuries just this weekend, putting Lew Ford, Shannon Stewart and Torii Hunter on the disabled list, further diluting an already weak offense that has been carried mostly by Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. They did get Rondell White back from the DL and called up former Ray Jason Tyner. But the Twins have plenty of pitching, and that's what makes them so tough. As if having Johan Santana and Brad Radke in their rotation weren't enough, they also have left-hander Francisco Liriano, who could end up winning the AL Rookie of the Year and Cy Young awards. Their bullpen has been the best in the majors, led by closer Joe Nathan and setup men Dennys Reyes and Juan Rincon.
INJURIES: Besides the three outfielders on the DL, Jason Kubel is limited by sore knees, and White was called back early from a rehab assignment after missing nearly a month with a strained left shoulder.
KEEP IN MIND: The Twins have the best home record in the majors (33-11) and have won 16 of their past 17 in the Metrodome. . . . Tyner has gone 846 career at-bats without a home run, the longest current streak in the majors. . . . The Twins have struck out an AL-high 648 batters and walked an AL-low 196.
WHO'S HOT: Morneau is hitting .411 in his past 32 games with 13 homers and 37 RBIs. . . . Mauer is hitting .400 over his past 30. . . . Nick Punto, who has been filling in in the outfield, is hitting .388 over his past 17.
WHO'S NOT: Michael Cuddyer is 3-for-16 in the first four games since the All-Star break.
SERIES: The Twins have won the past eight, dating to 2004, and lead 38-28 overall and 21-13 at the Metrodome, where the Rays have lost five straight and 13 of their past 16.