May 22, 2014

The Minnesota Twins' surge has largely been the product of solid starting pitching, including a bounce-back effort from Kyle Gibson.

The right-hander will be on the mound as the Twins seek their sixth victory in seven games Friday night against the host San Francisco Giants.

Minnesota (23-21) hasn't been two games over .500 this late in a season since winning the AL Central in 2010, and it has experienced that success despite a 4.51 team ERA that ranks near the bottom of the majors.

The rotation has come through recently, though, posting a 2.43 ERA in the last six after Phil Hughes pitched seven innings in Wednesday's 2-0 win over San Diego for a two-game sweep.

The Twins have won four straight series and will be seeking a fourth consecutive road win.

"It's fun," reliever Casey Fien said. "We come to the field and we expect to win. When you have that going, that's all you need. We have that confidence, and we want to build on that."

Winning wasn't a problem earlier this season for Gibson (4-3, 4.20 ERA), who has experienced plenty of ups and downs through his eight starts.

Gibson earned a victory in his first three outings while posting a 0.93 ERA, then went 0-3 with an 8.68 ERA over his next four. He's struggled with his control at times, as his average of 4.0 walks per nine innings ranks among the worst in baseball.

He regrouped with a strong outing last Friday, giving up one run in seven innings of a 5-4 win over Seattle for his first victory since April 17.

"It's always good to be on the winning side of a game," Gibson said. "The defense did a great job behind me and I got a lot of ground balls. Good to see that again."

Gibson has never faced the Giants (29-18), who will hand the ball to Tim Lincecum as he seeks a more polished outing.

After setting season bests with 11 strikeouts and 7 2-3 innings in a 4-2 win over Atlanta on May 12, Lincecum (3-3, 4.74) was inconsistent while allowing three runs in six innings of Saturday's 5-0 loss to Miami.

Though the right-hander wasn't at his best, manager Bruce Bochy felt it was a step in the right direction for Lincecum, who has mainly struggled over the last two-plus seasons.

"It was a quality start - three runs, six innings," Bochy said. "That's not bad. You take your chances with that."

Lincecum struck out 12 in seven scoreless innings of a 2-1 victory in his only career start against the Twins on June 23, 2011.

San Francisco enters this contest after Thursday's series finale with Colorado was suspended with the score tied 2-all in the sixth inning due to rain and lightning.

The Giants scored both runs in the fourth on an RBI double by Pablo Sandoval and a solo homer from Hunter Pence. Sandoval has batted .370 over his last 12 after hitting .171 through his first 34, and Pence is batting .457 with three homers during a nine-game hitting streak.

Buster Posey was in the lineup and went 1 for 3 after missing the last two with nerve irritation in his lower back.

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