Phillies-Twins Preview

The Associated Press

The Minnesota Twins may be at the bottom of the AL Central, but Trevor Plouffe's production is one reason why they're one of the hottest teams in baseball.

A struggling rotation has the last-place Philadelphia Phillies looking every bit the part.

The Twins look to continue their resurgence as Cole Hamels tries to help the Phillies avoid a fourth straight loss Wednesday night at Target Field.

Minnesota (25-35) has been mired in the AL Central basement for most of the season, but has won 10 of 13 following a five-game skid to pull within one-half game of fourth-place Kansas City.

The Twins had three homers among 17 hits in Tuesday's series-opening 11-7 win over Philadelphia (29-34), matching a season high in scoring.

Plouffe went 3 for 5 with a homer and three RBIs, and is batting .417 with five homers and 12 RBIs in his last nine games. His 15 hits in that stretch are just one shy of the total from the season's first 32 games for the career .228 hitter.

"The team doing well helps a lot," Plouffe said. "When guys are hitting, it kind of helps you out. It's contagious. I say it all the time and it's true."

Ben Revere has also been hot, batting .417 in his last 14 games after driving in two runs with three hits Tuesday.

"We're making our hitting coach look pretty good right now," Revere said.

Revere and Plouffe teed off on the Phillies, who have dropped nine of 10 thanks in part to a 5.98 ERA from their rotation.

Five-time defending NL East champion Philadelphia is now in last place.

"What can I say? It seems like it's hard for us to get it," manager Charlie Manuel said. "It's hard for us to put together a solid game."

Manuel hopes Hamels (8-3, 2.93 ERA) can as he tries to avoid losing a third consecutive start for the first time since Aug. 7-19, 2010.

The left-hander has wasted a three-run lead in each of his last two outings, surrendering four runs and six hits in six innings of Thursday's 8-3 home loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"I hate to lose, and I've got two losses (in my past two starts)," Hamels told the Phillies' official website. "It's frustrating because you want to battle. We get the lead and we're giving it up. That's the frustrating part. You kind of see a win in one hand, and see it kind of evaporate."

Perhaps a start on the road is what Hamels needs since he's 4-0 with a 2.50 ERA in five outings away from home this season.

He didn't get a decision in his only career start against the Twins, a home loss for the Phillies on June 19, 2010.

The Twins are slated to give the ball to P.J. Walters (2-1, 4.42), who will try to win for the first time in four starts. The right-hander has a 6.46 ERA and a .377 opponent batting average over his last three outings, but has not gotten a decision in that span.

He gave up five runs and eight hits - two homers - in five innings Friday. when Minnesota defeated the Chicago Cubs 8-7 in 10 innings.

Walters has never faced the Phillies.

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