|Twins come home after extended absence to face Reds|
Two weeks since they last played a game at Target Field, the Minnesota Twins return home Friday hoping a little home cooking will help snap them out of an early-season funk.
The Twins beat the White Sox 4-0 on April 12 but had their next three games with Chicago wiped out by an unseasonable blizzard. They returned to action April 17 when they faced Cleveland in the opener of a two-game series in Puerto Rico and have lost eight of nine since, including their last seven in a row.
They've been outscored 59-25 during the streak -- their longest since Aug. 18-31, 2016.
"You're going to have stretches like this where you're in quite a few ballgames and the ball just can't bounce your way," said Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson, who carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning Thursday before Minnesota fell to the Yankees in New York.
"Snakebitten, unlucky, whatever you want to call it. But nobody in here is playing the victim, nobody in here is trying to make excuses. We just have to be a little bit better."
Phil Hughes goes to the mound for the second time this season as the Twins try to turn things around against the Cincinnati Reds, who own the worst record in baseball this season and have lost 15 of their last 18.
A 7-4 loss to Atlanta on Thursday made Cincinnati the first team to lose 20 games this season, a feat that left first baseman Joey Votto lost for words.
"Yeah, we have to," Votto said. "I mean, we don't have a choice. Because you know, um ... if, you know ... I don't know. We've clearly ... I don't have an answer for that."
His own slow start to the season contributed to some of the Reds' woes, but he has started to heat up. He has reached base in each of his last 11 games and comes to Minnesota lashing .256/.363/.337 for the season.
"I'm just not missing," Votto said when asked about his recent hitting surge. "I think it's just how hitting works out sometimes. I felt like I was trending in that direction, but they just weren't showing up in the games."
The Reds also hope to get a boost from the return of third baseman Eugenio Suarez, who was activated from the disabled list Thursday. He'd been out since April 8 with a broken thumb but recovered faster than expected.
Interim manager Jim Riggleman put Suarez in the lineup Thursday and despite going 0-for-4 he's hoping to build on the .296 average, two home runs and seven RBIs he had before the injury.
"I feel so excited to be back this quick," Suarez said before Thursday's game. "I feel great right now, a little bit nervous. I think that's normal. It will be all right. I feel good. My thumb has no pain at all. That's why I'm here today."
Right-hander Luis Castillo gets the start Friday. He gave up three runs, seven hits and a season-high four walks his last time out and will be a facing a Twins team desperate to get back on track.
"We're officially ---ed off now," Twins general manager Thad Levine said. "I expect that we're going to go home and play in front of the home crowd not wearing ski caps and I expect things are going to turn in short order.
"I think this is going to build up the character of this team. I don't think it will tear up the fabric at all. I'm as excited about this team as I was on opening day. We're going to be there right to the end."
Castillo has never faced Minnesota and Hughes has one career start against the Reds.