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MIN@CWS: Walters goes the distance for the win

The Phillies know as well as any team what good pitching can do. They rode it to a franchise-record 102 wins last season, but have struggled to replicate that success this season with a depleted lineup. In the past 24 games, the Twins know just as well.

Minnesota enters Wednesday's matchup with Philadelphia at Target Field with a 15-9 record in its past 24 games -- one of the best records in the American League -- as it rides its pitching in an attempt to climb out of the AL Central cellar.

"It always starts with that pitching," said manager Ron Gardenhire. "If our starting pitching gives us an opportunity, like they have been doing, then we can win series. They have to get you deep into the games and stay out of those situations where you get behind too quick, where it takes away from what we can do on the offensive end. It's about pitching and catching the ball, and then we work our way through it offensively."

The Phillies know a thing or two about offensive deficiency as well, but they could at least ride Wednesday's starter, Cole Hamels, through his dominant start to the season. But after the 28-year-old left-hander tied for a league-best eight wins on May 28, he lost his past two starts by allowing eight runs in 12 2/3 innings and blowing rare three-run leads.

"I hate to lose, and I've got two losses [in my past two starts]," Hamels said after allowing three runs in six innings against the Dodgers. "It's frustrating because you want to battle. We get the lead and we're giving it up. That's the frustrating part. You kind of see a win in one hand, and see it kind of evaporate."

While Hamels blew Philadelphia leads his past two times out, the Twins overcame rough outings from P.J. Walters, who starts opposite Hamels on Wednesday.

Walters allowed a combined nine runs in 9 1/3 innings in his past two starts, but the Twins spotted him an early lead June 2 against the Indians and held on, then rallied to win with a walk-off single in the 10th inning on Friday against the Cubs.

Despite Walters' struggles, the Phillies still need Hamels to pitch better.

"Every inning we were hitting home runs and striking guys out when we were pitching and shutting the door," Hamels said after his last start. "We haven't been doing that right now."

Phillies: Polanco potentially returning Wednesday
Placido Polanco could be back in the Phillies' lineup at third base on Wednesday.

Polanco tore cartilage in his left wrist on June 5, and has not played since. He saw hand specialist Randall Culp on Monday in Philadelphia and joined the team in Minnesota to take batting practice before Tuesday's 11-7 loss. Manager Charlie Manuel said he was available in the loss, but Polanco did not appear.

Twins: Twins make progress with Draft picks
Outfielder Byron Buxton and right-hander Tyler Duffey -- first- and fifth-round First-Year Player Draft picks, respectively -- were on hand Tuesday for the Twins' game with the Phillies. Duffey officially signed a deal with Minnesota and Buxton is expected to sign Wednesday, sources told

Buxton, the No. 2 overall selection, underwent a physical and took batting practice before Tuesday's game at Target Field. Buxton used a bat given to him by Joe Mauer and received a personalized Twins jersey with his name and No. 1 on the back.

Worth noting
• Backstops Mauer and Carlos Ruiz each climbed the catcher rankings in All-Star Game voting. Mauer now ranks second among AL catchers, while Ruiz ranks third in the National League.

• Trevor Plouffe's 3-for-5 night extended his torrid start to June. The third baseman fell a triple shy of the cycle in the series opener against Philadelphia to improve his June batting average to .417 (15-for-36). He has four doubles, five homers, 12 RBIs and 10 runs scored in nine games. Comments