Series Preview #4: Cleveland Indians (3-5) at Minnesota Twins (3-6)
Bob Toth | On 17, Apr 2015
It took a little longer than hoped, but the Cleveland Indians got off the schneid and finally notched their first home win, just in time to hit the road. The club travels to Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Twins this weekend as the Indians face their third AL Central foe in the first two weeks of the baseball season.
The Indians split their two-game series with the Chicago White Sox earlier in the week. The Tribe got a scare on Tuesday night, as starter Carlos Carrasco exited the game after just two batters after being hit by a line drive. Cleveland could not get to Sox starter Jose Quintana, who was shaky at best on the mound, and Chicago held on to a 4-1 victory. Behind another strong start from Trevor Bauer, the Indians claimed the short set finale on Wednesday afternoon, holding on for a 4-2 win to break the team’s four game losing streak.
The Twins found a way to cool off the blazing hot Kansas City Royals this week, which may not be good news for the Indians if they continue that trend against Cleveland this weekend. Kansas City spoiled the Minnesota home opener in the first game, winning their seventh straight game to open the year in a 12-3 trouncing of the Twins on Monday. A fourth inning two-run homer by Oswaldo Arcia ended that streak on Wednesday, as Minnesota pulled out the 3-2 victory after a Tuesday off day. Joe Mauer had three RBI and the Twins got a pair of two-run home runs as they took the rubber match Thursday afternoon, 8-5.
Friday, 4/17, 8:10 PM ET – RHP Corey Kluber (0-1, 2.63 ERA) vs. RHP Mike Pelfrey (0-0, 7.20)
Saturday, 4/18, 2:10 PM ET – RHP Danny Salazar (1st start of 2015) vs. RHP Phil Hughes (0-2, 5.25)
Sunday, 4/19, 2:10 PM ET – LHP T.J. House (0-1, 40.50) vs. RHP Trevor May (0-1, 8.44)
Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Fox Sports North will air all three games of the series. The affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network, Treasure Island Baseball Network, and Go 96.3 in Minneapolis will provide radio calls for the set.
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS (as of 4 PM Friday, 4/17)
TEAM W-L PCT GB STREAK
Detroit 9-1 .900 – W3
Kansas City 7-2 .778 1.5 L2
Cleveland 3-5 .375 5.0 W1
Chicago 3-6 .333 5.5 L2
Minnesota 3-6 .333 5.5 W2
The Twins franchise has the unlucky title of being the Indians’ most often defeated opponent. Cleveland has notched 1,110 wins in the history of the two franchises, which dates back to the Twins’ time as the Washington Senators all the way back to 1901. The Twins hold a 40-game advantage on their home field, leading that series 539-499. Since relocating to Minnesota, the Indians hold a 401-375 edge over the Twins.
Last season, the Indians won eleven of the 19 games between the two clubs, outscoring the Twins by a tally of 90-63. The Indians were 5-4 at Target Field a year ago. Kluber owns the last victory against Minnesota by an Indians pitcher, a 7-2 final on September 21st. Current relief teammate Anthony Swarzak was the losing pitcher in the contest.
Michael Brantley (LF) – day-to-day – lower back stiffness
Carlos Carrasco (SP) – day-to-day – facial contusion
Gavin Floyd (SP) – 60-day disabled list (April 5) – right elbow surgery in March
Yan Gomes (C) – 15-day disabled list (April 12) – right MCL sprain
Nick Swisher (DH) – 15-day disabled list (April 2) – recovery from double knee surgery in August
Josh Tomlin (P) – 60-day disabled list (April 10) – right shoulder surgery
Zach Walters (UTIL) – 15-day disabled list (March 27) – right oblique strain
Ricky Nolasco (SP) – 15-day disabled list (April 11) – right elbow inflammation
Kluber has had mixed success against the Twins in his career. He has a 4-2 record, but has a 4.01 ERA in ten starts and has allowed opposing Minnesota batters to hit .274. Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas each have four hits in eleven career ABs against the Tribe ace. On the other side, Torii Hunter is 3-for-18 and Oswaldo Arcia has struck out in eleven of his 16 career at bats. Arcia has been much, much better against Salazar, hitting .600 against him.
Brian Dozier has owned Salazar, hitting at a .636 clip with three doubles and a home run scattered amongst his seven hits. He also has hit House well, batting .400 in ten at bats. Kluber has had his number though, as he is just 3-for-22 in his career against him.
Trevor Plouffe has hit .360 against Kluber with a team-high two home runs and seven RBI. Meanwhile, he is 1-for-11 against Salazar with a home run and 2-for-9 against House.
Pelfrey has kept most Indians hitters in check throughout his career. Five of the more frequently playing left-handed hitters in the Tribe lineup (Michael Bourn, Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis, and David Murphy) have combined to hit 7-for-46 (.152) with three RBI against Friday night’s starter. Brandon Moss, however, has fared much better, getting five hits and a pair of RBI in ten at bats.
Hughes has baffled Carlos Santana, limiting the Indians first baseman to just one single in 13 plate appearances and six strikeouts. Kipnis has a single in six trips with a pair of Ks.
May has not seen good results in his limited glimpses of the Indians, giving up a .303 batting average to players currently on the roster. Jose Ramirez has three hits in six at bats and Murphy has a pair of doubles in four trips against him.
CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS
The Indians scored more runs against the Twins (90) than any other opponent they faced last season. They hit a combined 16 home runs and drove in 85 while batting .271. Despite the run production, they stole just nine bases against Minnesota, the lowest total they had against any of their four division rivals.
The Twins had a hard time driving in runs and not striking out against Cleveland pitching last year. They had just 59 RBI against the Indians, the lowest production they had against any AL Central opponent. They struck out 180 times against them, more than any other team that they faced by 29 and 24 more times than they did in all 20 of their Inter-league matchups combined.
THE FRYING DUTCHMAN
One of the longtime television broadcasters for the Twins has a strong tie back to the city of Cleveland.
Bert Blyleven is in his 20th full season calling Twins games as the color analyst for Fox Sports North. The Hall of Famer pitched 23 years in the Majors, including eleven with the Twins over two separate stints with the club. He debuted in 1970 as a 19-year-old after being taken in the third round of the 1969 draft. After parts of seven seasons with the clubs, including a 20-win season and his first All-Star trip in 1973, he was dealt to Texas. He spent parts of two seasons with the Rangers before being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he spent 1978 to 1980 and was a part of the Pittsburgh World Series championship club of 1979.
Blyleven joined the Indians for the 1981 season after being acquired with catcher Manny Sanguillen for Gary Alexander, Victor Cruz, Bob Owchinko, and Rafael Vasquez. He struggled with injuries throughout his Cleveland career, appearing in 20 games in 1981, just four in 1982, and 24 in 1983 before his best season with the club in 1984, when he went 19-7 with a 2.87 ERA.
At the beginning of August in the 1985 season, after a 9-11 start to the year and a trip to the All-Star Game, he was traded back to Minnesota for four players – Jay Bell, Curt Wardle, Jim Weaver, and Rich Yett. He finished the year strong back with the organization that started his career and he became a healthy and regular contributor to their starting rotation, including going 3-1 in the 1987 postseason on the way to his second championship ring.
Following the 1988 season, he was traded with a prospect to the California Angels for three players, one of whom was future Indians first baseman Paul Sorrento. He was in Anaheim for four years, but missed the 1991 season due to injury. Following an 8-12 record in 1992, he became a free agent and signed on with the Twins again, but did not make their club out of Spring Training.
The Indians start to head back home towards Cleveland, but will first make a pit stop in the Windy City to take on the White Sox in three straight beginning Monday night. The Twins will hit the road immediately after the series for their second road trip of the month, playing three more against the Royals, this time from Kauffman Stadium.
Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak