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Updated: May 5th, 2011 5:30pm
Twins Daily: Scott Baker aims for fourth straight quality start

Twins Daily: Scott Baker aims for fourth straight quality start

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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The Minnesota Twins look to carry the momentum of a sweep in Chicago when they travel to Fenway Park for a four-game series against the Boston Red Sox.

Numbers game

0: The number of times Friday's scheduled starter Scott Baker strung together three straight quality starts in 2010. Baker has already done so in 2011, with quality starts in his last three outings.

17.1%: The percentage of times opposing hitters hit infield pop-ups when making contact against Baker, which ranks as the seventh-highest percentage among American League starters. Last year, hitters hit infield pop-ups 10.6% of the time. A notable fly-ball pitcher, Baker's skillset plays well in Target Field, which is why he is in line for an improvement from 2010 to 2011.

Health report

• DH Jim Thome (left oblique) was placed on the disabled list Tuesday and could miss more than the required two weeks.

• RHP Kevin Slowey (shoulder) is scheduled to be activated at some point in Boston this weekend.

• OF Jason Repko (quad), C Joe Mauer (leg weakness), OF Delmon Young (ribs) and 2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka (broken fibula) remain on the disabled list as well. Nishioka is down in Florida doing workouts, and he will also take groundballs at shortstop in case Gardenhire chooses to go that route upon his return. Young has been taking swings and could return in Boston, but that's not a certainty.

On deck

The Twins begin a four-game series with the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Friday night (6:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN) as right-hander Baker (1-2, 3.16 ERA) looks to tally a fourth straight solid start.

Baker was originally scheduled to battle right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-2, 3.81), but Matsuzaka was forced to pitch in Boston's 13-inning marathon against the Angels on Wednesday night. The Red Sox have not yet announced a replacement.

After a down season in 2010 which saw Baker battle through elbow tendinitis, the right-hander has emerged as perhaps the Twins' best starter through the first month of the season. In his last three starts -- against the Rays, Orioles and Royals -- Baker has allowed only three earned runs in 20 1/3 innings (1.33 ERA) with 17 strikeouts, three walks and zero home runs allowed.

Lights out.

Coming up

• Saturday: at Boston, 12:10 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (2-1, 2.91) vs. RHP Clay Buchholz (2-3, 4.81).
• Sunday: at Boston, 12:35 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (2-3, 5.84) vs. LHP Jon Lester (4-1, 2.33).
• Monday: at Boston, 6:10 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (2-4, 6.61) vs. RHP Josh Beckett (2-1, 2.35).

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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