The American League Central-leading Minnesota Twins will try to complete a two-game series sweep of the Tigers on Wednesday afternoon in Minneapolis. To do so, they will have to solve the slider of Detroit rookie right-hander Reese Olson.
Olson is just 2-5 with a 4.45 ERA in 13 career games (10 starts) but has handled the Twins easily. In two starts against Minnesota, he is 2-0 with a 0.79 ERA, having allowed just one run and six hits over 11 1/3 innings with four walks and 17 strikeouts.
Olson started a 3-0 victory over the Twins in Detroit on Thursday, when he allowed two hits and three walks over six innings while striking out eight.
"I don't know what happens when he faces other teams, but I mean, he's one (heck) of a pitcher when he faces us," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said.
Olson, who had a career-high nine strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings during a 3-2 victory home over the Twins on June 24, has baffled Minnesota hitters with a slider that he threw 30 times in last week's outing.
"He just spun the (heck) out of it," Baldelli said. "The higher the spin, the harder it is to pick up. He was using his fastball effectively when he needed to. It was just extremely hard to pick up. I remember the same thing the last time we faced him. It was just a really tough pitch."
Right-hander Kenta Maeda (3-7, 3.97 ERA) will start for Minnesota. Maeda, who is 3-3 with a 3.14 ERA in 10 career starts against the Tigers, took the loss in the Thursday contest despite allowing just one run, a solo homer by Riley Greene, and three hits over six innings. He fanned four and walked one.
He earned a win at Detroit on June 23 after striking out eight in five scoreless innings.
Maeda has made nine starts since missing two months with a right triceps strain, going 3-3 with a 2.36 ERA since returning.
Minnesota won the series opener 5-3 on Tuesday behind a 450-foot grand slam by Matt Wallner to cap a five-run sixth inning. The homer to right-center off reliever Will Vest was Wallner's ninth of the season and his first major league grand slam.
After some prodding in the dugout, Wallner, who grew up in the nearby city of Forest Lake, Minn., followed up his big hit with his first-ever curtain call.
"That one was fun," Wallner said. "First one is always a good one to get. Just wanted to grind that (at-bat) out and was able to come through for us. That was a lot of fun."
It was the longest grand slam hit by a Twin during the Statcast era (since 2015).
"I think he got all of it," Baldelli said. "You never know with him. It was a great moment and sweet to see the crowd acknowledge him and have him experience that, too."
Wallner's grand slam took some of the spotlight away from Detroit's Miguel Cabrera.
The two-time MVP is playing the final series of his career in Minneapolis and was honored by the Twins during a brief pregame ceremony. Cabrera gave the Tigers an early 2-0 lead with the 509th home run of his career, a 438-foot, second-inning blast into the second deck in left-center.
The homer moved Cabrera into a tie with Gary Sheffield for 26th place in major league history and also put him within one RBI of Mel Ott (1,868) for 11th place on the all-time list.
"I was aggressive," Cabrera said, according to MLB.com. "I stayed aggressive and got a good pitch to hit. Keep it simple."
—Field Level Media