Series Preview #40: Cleveland Indians (62-61) at Minnesota Twins (55-68)
Bob Toth | On 19, Aug 2014
In dire need of an extended winning streak to remain relevant in the playoff picture, the Cleveland Indians head to the Land of 10,000 Lakes for a three-game series with the Minnesota Twins this week.
The Indians (62-61) pushed back over the .500 mark again this past weekend with three more strong starting pitching performances to make up for a general lack of offensive punch. With two wins over the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles, the club kept within six and a half games of the AL Central leading Kansas City Royals and four and a half in back in the AL Wild Card.
Cleveland won a 2-1 final on Friday night in eleven innings on a walk-off home run from Mike Aviles. The Tribe backed another solid effort from Carlos Carrasco on Saturday with a pair of home runs in a 6-0 win. The Indians bullpen allowed four runs on Sunday, with two charged to starter Danny Salazar, in a 4-1 loss in the season finale between the two teams on Sunday.
The Twins (55-68) had an opportunity to play spoilers over the weekend against the Kansas City Royals. The Royals had other plans, taking three of four from the Twins at Target Field. KC held off Minnesota on Friday despite a two run rally in the ninth, winning 6-5. The Twins were victors on Saturday, 4-1, thanks to a three-run seventh. The Royals erupted for seven runs in the second and never looked back Sunday in a 12-6 win. They held off another Twins charge in the ninth in a 6-4 win on Monday.
Kyle Gibson will be the first to the mound for the Twins on Tuesday night as they host Trevor Bauer and the Tribe at 8:10 PM ET. Gibson (11-9, 3.96 ERA) will make his first start at home in over a month, where his ERA is more than a run lower than on the road. Bauer (4-7, 4.18) threw a career high eight innings in his last start, striking out nine and allowing two runs in a tough no-decision.
Ricky Nolasco (5-8, 5.99) will open game two of the three game set at 8:10 PM ET on Wednesday. He allowed five runs on seven hits in six innings in his first start in five weeks after he landed on the DL with an elbow strain. T.J. House (1-3, 4.13) will oppose for Cleveland. House, who was originally slated to start on Sunday, will receive several extra days of rest.
Phil Hughes and Corey Kluber will meet on Thursday afternoon in a matchup of 13-game winners. Hughes (13-8, 3.76) has been a very underrated free agent signing by the Twins, as he leads all of baseball with 9.33 strikeouts per every one walk. Kluber (13-6, 2.41), since his last loss on June 30th, is 6-0 with a 1.31 ERA and .176 batting average against in eight starts. He will start with an extra day of rest. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 PM ET.
All three games of the series will air on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio. Fox Sports North will carry each of the first two games. Radio broadcasts will be available via the affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and on 96.3 K-TWIN and the Treasure Island Baseball Network in the Twins broadcast area.
In 2,080 contests, the Indians hold a 1,104 to 966 advantage over the Twins/Senators franchise. Since the Twins took root in Minnesota, they hold a 205-178 record at home against the Indians.
In their lone trip to the Twin Cities this season, the Indians dropped two of three after the All-Star break to the Twins despite outscoring them 12-9. Of the five wins earned by Cleveland pitchers this season against Minnesota, three are by players no longer on the club (Josh Outman (Triple-A Columbus), John Axford (Pittsburgh), and Justin Masterson (St. Louis)).
Tuesday afternoon, the Indians announced that they had signed Scott Atchison to a contract extension. The reliever, who was arbitration eligible, will earn $900,000 for 2015 with a $1 million club option for 2016 with a $100,000 buyout.
Right fielder David Murphy (right abdominal strain) and first baseman/DH Nick Swisher (right knee soreness) are on the 15-day disabled list and designated hitter Jason Giambi (left knee inflammation) remains on the 60-day DL.
Outfielder Tyler Holt was optioned on Sunday to Triple-A Columbus to make room for Salazar on the roster. He returned to the club on Tuesday when the team announced that outfielder Ryan Raburn was placed on the 15-day DL with right wrist soreness.
For the Twins, pitcher Anthony Swarzak is considered day-to-day with a right ankle sprain, but is not expected to land on the disabled list. Starter Mike Pelfrey is on the 60-day disabled list but could return in September after undergoing right elbow surgery in June.
BY THE NUMBERS
Indians pitching ranks amongst the AL leaders in the month of August. The team is 9-6. Their hits allowed (116), batting average against (.220), and earned runs (40) are second in the AL and their team ERA (2.57), WHIP (1.08), runs allowed (46) and strikeouts (137) are third. They are fourth in fewest walks (35) and home runs (eight) allowed.
In the club’s last trip through the rotation, the starting staff is just 1-1 in five games but has a 1.36 ERA. The five have struck out 32 batters in 33 innings while issuing just five runs, five walks, and 20 hits (good for a 0.76 WHIP).
Lonnie Chisenhall leads the club with a .302 batting average on the road. Carlos Santana, baseball’s walk leader with 86, has hit 68 points higher on the road than at home and has hit 13 of his 21 homers away from Progressive Field.
Michael Brantley’s six-game hitting streak ended over the weekend. He was just 1-for-11 in the series, but did hit a two-run home run in Saturday’s win. He is fourth in the AL and fifth overall with his .319 batting average on the season and is seventh in the AL with his 80 RBI, a career-high.
All-Star Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki is hitting .400 in the last week, .313 in his last ten, and .306 on the season. He is hitting .280 against the Indians this season and has drawn six walks to go with his seven hits.
Rookie first baseman/designated hitter Kennys Vargas is hitting .313 with three home runs and 15 RBI since joining the Twins on August 1st. He had played no higher than Single-A entering this season and has not played a game at the Triple-A level.
First baseman Joe Mauer saw his 16-game hitting streak snapped during the Twins’ series with the Royals. He has still hit safely in 18 of his last 19 games dating back to June 19th. The former AL MVP has six hits in 13 at bats (.462) against Cleveland this season and has hit .342 over his eleven-year MLB career against the Tribe.
Before playing the best years of his 22-year Major League career, Graig Nettles got his start in both the Twins and Indians organizations.
The left-handed hitting third baseman was a fourth round draft pick by Minnesota in the 1965 amateur draft and cracked the big leagues in three games in 1967. He appeared in 22 games for the club in 1968 before playing in 96 games in 1969. Minnesota, with future Hall of Famer and 1969 AL MVP Harmon Killebrew playing third, found Nettles expendable and he was dealt that offseason to Cleveland in a six-player swap that sent him, along with Dean Chance, Bob Miller, and Ted Uhlaender, to the Indians in exchange for Luis Tiant and Stan Williams.
“Puff” became the Indians’ regular third baseman and missed just 21 games over three seasons with the Tribe from 1970 to 1972. His power blossomed in Cleveland, where he hit 71 home runs and batted .250 while with the Indians.
Following the 1972 season, he was dealt with Jerry Moses to the New York Yankees for four players. John Ellis spent three seasons in Cleveland playing catcher and first base. Jerry Kenney played just five games with Cleveland. Charlie Spikes hit 20+ home runs in his first two seasons before his numbers plummeted in his final three years in Cleveland. Outfielder Rusty Torres hit .199 in 230 games in an Indians uniform.
Nettles would secure the third base position for the Yankees for eleven seasons, becoming a two-time Gold Glove award winner and making the AL All-Star team five times. He hit as many as 37 home runs in 1977. He would later spend three seasons in San Diego, making the NL All-Star team at the age of 40 in 1985, before a season in Atlanta and one final year at the age of 44 with Montreal.
Nettles will turn 70 on Wednesday.
The Indians will return home for a brief three-game series with the Houston Astros over the weekend, marking the first time the two clubs have met this season and the last new opponent for Cleveland in the 2014 regular season. The Twins will continue their homestand with four games in three days against the Detroit Tigers over the weekend, including a day-night doubleheader on Saturday.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images