Veteran right-hander Michael Pineda will make his 2020 debut on Tuesday night as the Minnesota Twins try to cool down the red-hot Chicago White Sox in Minneapolis.
Pineda was arguably the Twins' best starting pitcher during the team's 101-win season in 2019, compiling an 11-5 record and 4.01 ERA in 26 starts while striking out 140 batters and walking 28 in 146 innings. However, he received a 60-game suspension in September after testing positive for a banned diuretic.
Pineda, who has been working out at the team's alternate training site in Saint Paul, finished serving the final 36 games of the suspension on Monday. He is 5-3 with a 3.24 ERA in eight career starts against the White Sox, including 4-0 with a 2.88 ERA in four starts last season.
The return of Pineda should provide a boost to a Minnesota team that dropped its sixth consecutive game, the longest of the Rocco Baldelli era, on Monday night, blowing a 4-0 lead in an eventual 8-5 loss to Chicago. The Twins suddenly find themselves in third place in the AL Central, 2 1/2 games behind the first-place White Sox and 1 1/2 games behind the second-place Cleveland Indians.
After the Monday night loss, Baldelli held a rare team meeting.
"It was obviously a tough game, and we don't meet as a group very often ... but after the game today, we did," Baldelli said. "I prefer to keep what we discussed, all the specifics, among our group. We do know, though, that you're going to lose games. You're going to have difficult stretches where it feels like nothing goes your way and you're not getting it done when you need to, and you're just playing well enough to just lose.
"We haven't been playing winning baseball. We haven't been taking it to the opposition and making things happen. ... We have to play better, and guys know that. ... I think (the meeting) will help."
Things were a lot more positive in Chicago's locker room after prized rookie center fielder Luis Robert first tied the game with a home run to dead center in the seventh inning, then drove in what proved to be the game-winning run in the ninth with a ground-rule double.
It was the 10th home run of the season for Robert, the most by any major league rookie, and came on the heels of his walk-off, three-run homer in the 10th inning in a 5-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Sunday.
Robert's latest home run was also the 54th in August for the White Sox, a team record for a single month. Chicago rallied to improve to 12-2 in its past 14 games.
"With the lineup we have, four runs is nothing," Robert said of the deficit the club faced after the third inning. "This speaks to what kind of team we are. We never put our head down."
White Sox left-hander Dallas Keuchel (5-2, 2.70 ERA) will try for his fourth straight win on Tuesday night. Keuchel owns a 4-3 record and 3.57 ERA in seven career appearances and six starts against Minnesota, including a 1-2 mark and 3.09 ERA in three outings, two starts, at Target Field.
This will be Keuchel's second start against the Twins in 2020. He won the first one 10-3 on July 25 in Chicago, allowing two runs on three hits over 5 1/3 innings.