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Preview: Tigers (65-77) at Twins (74-68)
Venue: Target Field
Date: September 14, 2015 8:10 PM EDT
The Minnesota Twins signed Torii Hunter away from the Detroit Tigers under the assumption that he’d give the rebuilding club a veteran presence in the clubhouse.
Instead, he’s starting to become a driving force during the team’s surprising playoff push.
The veteran outfielder hopes to keep swinging a hot bat while ending his struggles against his former club on Monday night when the Twins open a 10-game stay against Detroit.
Hunter batted .295 with 34 home runs and 167 RBIs in helping the Tigers reach the postseason the past two years. He then decided to return to Minnesota in December, signing a one-year deal with the organization in which he played for over his first 11 seasons.
Not much was expected from the Twins as Hunter figured to help mold some of the team’s younger players. However, they’re threatening to make their first playoff appearance since 2010.
Hunter hit a three-run homer off Chris Sale and went 2 for 4 with four RBIs in Sunday’s 7-0 win over the Chicago White Sox. Minnesota finished 5-4 on its road swing and remained one game behind Texas, which holds the AL’s second wild card.
‘I’ve been in this position before,’ the 40-year-old Hunter said. ‘I know what it takes.’
Hunter provided a spark on the trip, going 10 for 25 over his last six games. However, he’s in a 1-for-35 slump at Target Field and is 5 for 41 against the last-place Tigers (65-77).
Manager Paul Molitor said he’ll play Hunter as much as possible down the stretch. That could include the opener since he homered and walked in his two plate appearances against Detroit’s scheduled starter Kyle Lobstein (3-7, 5.31 ERA) in a 6-2 home win May 13.
The Twins (74-68) are going after their fifth straight home series win and seventh victory in nine games at Target Field. They’ve dropped eight of 13 in the season series with Detroit, but totaled 24 runs and 35 hits in winning the last three of a four-game home set in July.
Lobstein is making his 11th career start and third since missing more than three months with a shoulder injury. He’s allowed 11 runs and 15 hits over 10 innings in dropping his last two.
The left-hander also has gone 0-2 with a 15.43 ERA in two career starts against the Twins.
Minnesota rookie Eddie Rosario matched a season high with three hits Sunday, while Brian Dozier, Miguel Sano and Trevor Plouffe had two apiece. Plouffe is 8 for 14 over his last four games.
The Twins are turning to rookie right-hander Tyler Duffey (2-1, 4.18). Since a rocky MLB debut, he’s gone 2-0 with a 2.67 ERA in his last five outings.
He’ll get his first look at a Detroit team that snapped a four-game road skid by salvaging a 9-2 win in the finale of Sunday’s doubleheader at Cleveland. The Tigers are trying to win back-to-back road games for only the third time since July 9.
J.D. Martinez went 5 for 9 with two doubles and three RBIs Sunday.
Miguel Cabrera, who leads the majors with a .341 average, is batting .396 with 10 RBIs in his last 11 games at Minnesota. However, he’s hitting .129 with one extra-base hit over his last eight overall.
‘Miggy is human, you know,’ manager Brad Ausmus said.