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Sunday Night Baseball Preview

   by ASA - 05/11/2008

Boston Red Sox (Wakefield) vs. Minnesota Twins (Blackburn)

While the Red Sox are sitting right where most thought they would be, atop the tough A.L. East, the Twins are one of the surprise teams in the league. Minnesota, despite losing some key players from last year’s team, is currently tied for first place in the struggling A.L. Central with an 18-17 record. After the loss of their top pitcher Johan Santana to the Mets and one of their top position players, Torre Hunter to the Angels, most were picking Minnesota to finish near the bottom of the A.L. Central but so far they have proven that may not be the case.

The Twins have the luxury of being at home in the rubber game of this three game set. While Minnesota has struggled on the road, they have been solid in the Humpty Dome with a 12-7 record. They had won eight straight at home before their 5-2 setback vs. the Red Sox last night. The Twins only series loss at home this year came at the hands of the Angels back in early April which was their first series at home this season. Tonight they try to keep that series streak alive with a win over Boston and Tim Wakefield.

Wakefield has dominated the Twins throughout his career with a 13-4 record and an ERA of 4.00 in 21 starts. In his last six starts vs. Minnesota dating back to 2004, he has allowed three earned runs or less in five of those contests. The knuckleballer has also eaten up innings averaging nearly seven innings per start in his last six outings vs. the Twins. The veteran right hander has started the 2008 season off on a very solid note with a 3-1 record and a 3.33 ERA. He has taken the hill seven times this season and six have been quality starts. Wakefield also enters this game with some big time momentum after his best performance of the season last Tuesday. In that game he held a solid Detroit lineup scoreless over his eight inning stint and allowed just two hits. It was his best start of the season.

While Wakefield is entering this game off his most impressive start, his counterpart, Nick Blackburn steps to the hill struggling a bit with his performance. Blackburn admits that he has not felt “comfortableâ€쳌 on the mound as of late and it has shown. In his first year as a starter, Blackburn looked pretty solid in his first few outings but has recently regressed. Minnesota has lost two of his last three starts and Blackburn has allowed 31 base runners in just 19 innings in those three games. His ERA in those three outings was 5.21. One thing he does have going for him tonight is the Red Sox are simply not very familiar with his stuff. The current players on Boston’s roster have only had 27 combined at bats vs. Blackburn with many of them never stepping to the plate against the right hander. He took the mound just once vs. Boston in a relief role last year and that’s it. Granted, Blackburn wasn’t very impressive in that outing allowing four earned runs in just one inning, however he does still have a bit of that “unknownâ€쳌 quality when facing most of the Boston line up tonight.

Despite what looks like an advantage on the mound, the Boston money line has actually dropped since opening at -130. As of this writing the consensus now sits at about -115 even though over 67% of the people have been wagering on Boston.

After splitting the first two games of the series, we’ll see if Minnesota might be for real and continue their solid play at home or if Boston will expose them as pretenders tonight.

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