The Twins' Kenta Maeda enters Monday night's series opener with the Seattle Mariners in Minneapolis with just a 2-5 record and 5.10 ERA, but Minnesota still likes what it sees from veteran right-hander
The 2020 runner-up for the American League Cy Young Award behind Cleveland's Shane Bieber, Maeda missed nearly two months earlier this season with a triceps injury. He is 2-1 with a 2.73 ERA in five starts since his return, allowing 18 hits while striking out 36 in 26 1/3 innings.
The 35-year-old Maeda, who missed the entire 2022 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery, is 0-0 with a 2.61 ERA in two career starts against the Mariners. He picked up a no-decision in his most recent start, a 6-3 win at Seattle on Wednesday, when he allowed two runs on three hits over 6 1/3 innings while striking out nine
"It's the best stuff I've ever seen (Maeda) have," Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. "It's really exciting stuff. To see him bringing that to a new level at this point of the season, at this point in his career -- it was a big day."
Maeda's fastball touched 93.4 mph, but it was his assortment of off-speed pitches that was even more dazzling.
"This is 2020 Kenta," Twins catcher Ryan Jeffers added. "This is, throw anything in any count, good luck, stuff's moving like crazy, fastball's jumpy.
Right-hander Luis Castillo (6-7, 3.04 ERA), who also didn't figure into the decision in that Wednesday contest, will start for Seattle.
Castillo allowed three runs on six hits and two walks in six innings while striking out 11, the most strikeouts he's had in 31 outings with Seattle since the Mariners acquired him from the Cincinnati Reds at last season's trade deadline
The Mariners will be starting a six-game road trip that also includes three games at Arizona. Seattle, 4 1/2 games out of the final AL wild-card spot, comes in off a 4-3 loss to Toronto on Sunday afternoon that snapped a three-game winning streak
"Heck of a series," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "Every game went right down to the final pitch. Our guys really competed their tails off.
Seattle won the opener with the Blue Jays, 3-2, on a Teoscar Hernandez walk-off single and followed that up with a 9-8 victory on Saturday.
The Mariners looked like they were going to complete the sweep when they had runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the ninth on Sunday. But Toronto All-Star closer Jordan Romano struck out Julio Rodriguez and then got Eugenio Suarez to fly out to end the game
"We're playing good baseball," Servais said. "The group is coming together and finding ways to create opportunities. And we have been coming through more ways than not recently, and that needs to continue.
"It'll be an interesting trip, but we're playing really good right now. Can't complain about the effort. Execution has been very good."
Minnesota comes in off a three-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox and is 8-2 since the All-Star break. The Twins, who were 5-for-22 with runners in scoring position and left 16 on base on Sunday, rallied from a 3-0, ninth-inning deficit to pull out a 5-4 victory in 12 innings on Jeffers' walk-off single in the series finale
"We got the job done. That's all that matters," Jeffers said. "It was a dogfight all day. We didn't have much offense until the ninth, but we put the at-bats together when we needed to and we stayed tough. It's a good sweep."
--Field Level Media