The Minnesota Twins started their 10-game homestand with a three-game sweep of the struggling Kansas City Royals. Now comes the tough part.
Minnesota leads the American League's Central Division by three games over the three-time defending champion Cleveland Indians, who will visit Target Field for a key four-game series starting Thursday night. But first is a three-game interleague series with the National League East-leading Atlanta Braves starting Monday night.
Right-hander Jake Odorizzi (12-5, 3.73 ERA), who had his scheduled Sunday start against the Royals pushed back a day by manager Rocco Baldelli, will face right-hander Mike Soroka (10-2, 2.37) in a battle of All-Star pitchers in Monday night's opener.
It will be the first career start against the Twins for Soroka, who has gone three starts since picking up his last win. He garnered a no-decision in his last start on Wednesday, a 5-4 loss to Washington in 10 innings, allowing only a Juan Soto solo home run and three hits over seven innings. He walked three and struck out three.
Odorizzi is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in two career starts against the Braves.
This is the sixth interleague series between the two teams with Atlanta holding a 12-11 edge. But Minnesota fans will happily point out it was the Twins who edged the Braves, four games to three, to win a memorable 1991 World Series that featured a dramatic catch and walk-off home run by Kirby Puckett in Game 6, and 10 shutout innings by Hall of Famer Jack Morris to win Game 7, 1-0.
Atlanta comes in after splitting a four-game series at home with Cincinnati, dropping the finale, 6-4, in 10 innings on Sunday . New closer Shane Greene, acquired at the trade deadline from the Detroit Tigers, gave up a three-run game-winning homer to Tucker Barnhart after Ronald Acuna Jr. sent the contest into extra innings with a dramatic two-run homer with two outs in the ninth.
It was the second straight game that Greene has struggled. He blew a one-run lead in the ninth in his Atlanta debut on Saturday, but the Braves came back to win that one, 5-4, in 10 innings. Greene, who gave up five runs in 38 innings while compiling 22 saves with the Tigers, has allowed four runs in two innings with Atlanta.
"I haven't seen him enough to think anything yet," Braves manager Brian Snitker said after Sunday's loss. "I want to look at him more. Those kind of guys have those kind of games, and we'll see.
"It's tough," Snitker added. "Real tough. We're sitting pretty good right there when we tied the game. We could have played all afternoon. I liked our chances."
Minnesota, which has won six of its last seven games, comes in off a 3-0 victory over the Royals. Catcher Jason Castro hit his 11th homer of the season, extending the Twins' streak with at least one extra-base hit to 66 consecutive games. It also was the 217th homer of the season for the Twins, tops in the majors.
"It's been fun to be a part of, for sure," Castro, one of 11 Minnesota players with at least 10 home runs, said. "That's what I think makes this group such a special group is that any given day you don't know who it's going to be. Guys have been stepping up one through nine and then the bench is there as well. It's been fun."