Minnesota left-hander J.A. Happ will try to cool down the suddenly hot bats of the New York Yankees as the Twins look to avoid a three-game series sweep Thursday night in Minneapolis.
New York arrived in Minnesota on a four-game losing streak and near the bottom of most major offensive categories in the major leagues, ranking 26th in batting average (.228), 29th in extra-base hits (139) and 27th in average runs scored (3.7 per game). But the Yankees have scored 17 runs on 29 hits, including six homers and seven doubles, in winning the first two games of the series.
New York had four home runs, including two by Giancarlo Stanton, and five doubles in a 9-6 win on Wednesday night.
"A lot of good hitters who have worked really hard," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said when asked about his team's offensive resurgence. "It's no secret it hasn't been easy but I don't think any of us or any of them have ever stopped believing in what they're capable of doing. Of course we still have a long way to go but it's great to see these guys working hard and preparing and getting some really good results. The last few days I feel the at-bats have been really good."
"We know that's what we can do day-in and day-out," Stanton said after finishing with five RBIs in Wednesday's game. "It's a matter of putting it together, not in spurts, but grinding it out and getting close wins. ... We just keep punching."
The Yankees will try to complete the sweep against old teammate Happ (3-2, 5.61 ERA), who will be facing them for the first time since signing a one-year, $8 million free agent contract with the Twins in January. The 38-year-old left-hander was 21-10 for New York in 50 starts from 2018 to 2020. He is 8-4 with a 3.96 ERA in 18 career starts against the Yankees.
New York right-hander Michael King (0-3, 3.62 ERA) will make his first career start against the Twins. King last started on Friday in a 5-2 loss to Boston at Yankee Stadium, allowing four runs on six hits over 5 1/3 innings, including a three-run homer to Rafael Devers in the first inning.
King will follow a big game from Gerrit Cole, who held the Twins to just two runs on five hits over six innings in Wednesday night's win. He struck out nine, including Josh Donaldson twice, and didn't walk a batter while earning his seventh victory of the season.
"Overall it was a tough game," Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. "Our guys fought pretty good, had some good at-bats, got back into it. Not close enough. We've got to play better. As a whole we did not play well tonight."
As for Cole, who was the object of much scrutiny after Donaldson strongly hinted publicly that he thought Cole was involved with using sticky substances to improve the spin rate on his pitches, Baldelli said, "He's one of the best pitchers in baseball. That's why his name comes up in a lot of different conversations. His name comes up because he's so good."
"He's a tough customer," Baldelli added. "I'm not worried about his spin rates. I'm just watching him pitch, and he's a good pitcher."