CHICAGO — A year ago, the Minnesota Twins dropped their first nine games, and their season win total plummeted from 83 to 59.
So far, the Twins are doing their best to erase those unpleasant memories.
After getting three wins over the Kansas City Royals, the unbeaten Twins visit the Chicago White Sox for the opener of a three-game series Friday night.
“There you go saying those words again, ‘last year,'” Minnesota second baseman Brian Dozier said. “No, it’s a different feeling. It’s a different atmosphere in here. It’s a different mindset. We’re right where we need to be as far as mentally, which goes a long way in this game.”
The Twins are 3-0 for the first time since 2007 and the 11th time since moving to Minnesota in 1961. Minnesota is going for its fifth 4-0 start and first since 1987.
It is mostly the same group that endured last year’s nightmare.
The exception is catcher Jason Castro, who hit the tiebreaking double in the seventh inning of a 5-3 win over the Royals on Thursday. Castro, who was signed as a free agent mostly for defense, is 3-for-6 so far.
“I don’t want to make too much out of it, but it beats the alternative as we know all too well from just a year ago,” Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said. “To get a couple wins under our belt early, it’s got to make those players feel awfully good about what they’re doing.”
Minnesota has scored 21 runs so far and totaled 14 in the seventh inning while getting 10 scoreless innings from relievers.
“We don’t care who’s standing across from us,” said Twins outfielder Max Kepler, who had two hits, a walk and an RBI on Thursday. “We’re going to go out there and take what’s ours. Everyone’s playing their hearts out, regardless of the situation, and that’s the way we’ve got to keep playing.”
The White Sox needed four days to split two games with the Detroit Tigers. After a rainout Wednesday, Chicago coasted to an 11-2 rout Thursday afternoon.
Geovany Soto homered twice, hitting a three-run shot and a solo shot. Matt Davidson homered and also tripled as Chicago gave manager Rick Renteria his first win with the team. Both players are hitting .667 through the first two games.
“It helps when the team’s scoring runs for you early,” White Sox right-hander James Shields said after allowing one run and two hits in 5 1/3 innings. “It kind of gives you confidence to go out there and make some pitches.”
Phil Hughes will try to keep the Twins undefeated. Hughes will begin his fourth season with Minnesota and looking to rebound from an injury-plagued and disappointing showing of 1-7 with a 5.95 ERA in 12 appearances.
Hughes did not pitch after June 9 due to a broken bone above his left knee, and on June 28, the right-hander underwent season-ending surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome.
Hughes is 5-6 with a 2.98 ERA in 20 appearances against the White Sox.
Derek Holland makes his debut for the White Sox after spending his first eight seasons with the Texas Rangers. Holland missed two months last season with left shoulder inflammation and was 7-9 with a 4.95 ERA in 22 appearances (20 starts).
The White Sox signed Holland to a one-year contract in February in the hopes that the left-hander can avoid further injuries. He was a 16-game winner when Texas reached its second straight World Series in 2011, but in the last three seasons, Holland was limited to 37 starts and 203 innings due to left shoulder injuries.
“Definitely feel good,” Holland said after his last spring training start. “Feel very confident with everything, very happy with how the spring went. I worked on what we needed to work on to get myself ready for the season and stay healthy and I’m very happy with that.”
Holland is 2-3 with a 4.40 ERA in eight career starts against Minnesota.
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