Twins turn to Ortiz to get back on track

Twins turn to Ortiz to get back on track

The Twins' pitching during the first three games of the season gave hope that their starting rotation might be in better shape than first thought.

Unfortunately, things have not gone quite as well over the team's last four games. After posting just a 2.66 ERA in their season-opening series against the Orioles, the Twins have run up a 5.40 ERA in their last four contests, allowing 22 runs, including six home runs.

Poor pitching is not exactly something a club can afford when it faces a lineup of the New York Yankees' caliber.

"They are a very tough team, with veteran hitters and a couple of young guys that are good hitters, too," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They know how to work the count. The big thing the Yankees do over there is, if you make a mistake, they make you pay for it."

The Yankees have made the Twins' pitchers pay during the first two games of the series, scoring 19 runs against the Twins' three. Mistakes up in the zone have proved costly, and the Twins hope that right-hander Ramon Ortiz can avoid making them when the teams match up for the final time at the Metrodome on Wednesday night.

After losing two straight to start the series, the Twins will try to salvage one game and get things going back on the right path.

"We have to figure out a way to come back here Wednesday night and get after them, and that's what we talked about in the clubhouse," Gardenhire said after Tuesday's 10-1 loss. "We'll try to come back out here and play a little better baseball game for our fans."

Pitching matchup
MIN: RHP Ramon Ortiz (1-0, 2.57 ERA)
All spring, Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson worked with Ortiz on staying tall on the mound and remaining calm, even when trouble arises. The extra work appears to have paid off, as Ortiz allowed just two runs over seven innings in his first start of the year against Baltimore. Ortiz appears to be pitching more to contact than in previous seasons, and that's something the Twins feel will help carry him through more innings. His next test will come against the Yankees, against whom he holds a career 3-1 record and a 4.73 ERA.

NYY: RHP Mike Mussina (0-1, 13.50 ERA)
Mussina showed rust in his first start of the 2007 season, giving up eight hits and six earned runs as the Orioles knocked him out of the game after four innings. It was the second time in as many days a Yankees starter couldn't pitch into the fifth inning. In 28 career starts vs. the Twins, Mussina has a 20-5 record with a 3.17 ERA, holding Minnesota batters to a .246 average.

Player to watch
Alex Rodriguez has hit .333 (16-for-48) off Ortiz in his career. But the real killer has been what Rodriguez has done with those hits. Eight of Rodriguez's 16 hits have been home runs, and he's totaled 13 RBIs off the Twins right-hander. He has also drawn 11 walks.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FSN North

On radio
• 1500 KSTP

Up next
• Thursday: Devil Rays (LHP Casey Fossum, 0-1, 17.18) at Twins (RHP Carlos Silva, 0-1, 1.80), 7:10 p.m. CT
• Friday: Devil Rays (LHP Scott Kazmir, 0-1, 6.75) at Twins (LHP Johan Santana, 2-0, 2.77), 7:10 p.m. CT
• Saturday: Devil Rays (RHP Edwin Jackson, 0-1, 6.35) at Twins (RHP Sidney Ponson, 0-1, 12.71), 6:10 p.m. CT