Series Preview #10: Minnesota Twins (16-13) at Cleveland Indians (10-17)
Bob Toth | On 08, May 2015
Sometimes, watching the Cleveland Indians this season has been like taking a shot to the midsection.
Their struggles remind me of the song lyric “Two out of three ain’t bad”, from musician/actor Meat Loaf’s song by the same title, because the team just cannot seem to win a three-game series for the life of them. The Indians will look to break the frightening trends of losing both series openers and series altogether this weekend as they host the quietly impressive Minnesota Twins in a three-game series.
Cleveland (10-17) continued its season long slump and in many ways was its own worst enemy once again. For the eighth time in nine series, the Indians dropped the opener on Tuesday, falling 5-3 as Royals’ response runs to each of the Indians’ scores made the difference. Cleveland claimed the middle game, 10-3, on Wednesday as they made an early lead stick to pace Carlos Carrasco to his team-high fourth win of the year. The confusing case of Corey Kluber continued on Thursday, as each of the first four hitters reached base and scored and, despite him settling in, the Indians could not climb all the way back in a 7-4 defeat.
The Twins (16-13) come to Cleveland just 4-8 on the road this year, but on some sort of hot streak, having won seven of their last eight games. They may welcome the chance to get out of town at the moment after recent criticism of the number of their players on the field for the national anthem.
In game news, Minnesota handled the Oakland Athletics during the week in a four-game series, taking home three wins at home to improve to 12-5 on their home field this season. They won an 8-7 final on Monday with a pair of four-run innings. Oakland stole a 2-1 win on Tuesday, stranding the Twins’ tying run at third with one out in the eighth. The Twins thrashed the A’s on Wednesday, 13-0, backed by five RBI from Eduardo Escobar. They edged out a 6-5 victory in the finale on Thursday as Escobar delivered a two-run single in the fifth to break a four all tie.
Friday, 5/8, 7:10 PM ET – RHP Mike Pelfrey (2-0, 2.63 ERA) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (2-0, 3.38)
Saturday, 5/9, 4:10 PM ET – RHP Phil Hughes (1-4, 5.02) vs. LHP Bruce Chen (1st start)
Sunday, 5/10, 1:10 PM ET – RHP Trevor May (2-2, 4.15) vs. RHP Danny Salazar (3-1, 3.81)
All three games will air in the Cleveland market on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and the affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network. Twins calls of the series can be found on Fox Sports North as well as GO 96.3 and the Treasure Island Baseball Network over the airwaves.
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
TEAM W-L PCT GB STREAK
Kansas City 18-10 .643 – W1
Detroit 17-9 .654 0.5 W1
Minnesota 16-13 .552 2.5 W2
Chicago 10-15 .400 6.5 L1
Cleveland 10-17 .370 7.5 L1
Cleveland owns a head-to-head record of 1,111-971 against the Twins/Senators franchise dating back to 1901. This includes a 611-430 record while playing at home. Since relocating to the land of ten thousand lakes, the Twins are 377-402 against the Indians.
The Twins won two of three in Minneapolis when the two clubs met in April, outscoring the Indians 12-8 in the three games.
ON THE MOVE and ON THE MEND
Mike Aviles (UTL) – Family Medical Leave list (May 8)
Bruce Chen (SP) – contract to be purchased from Triple-A Columbus on May 9
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
T.J. House (SP) – 15-day disabled list (May 1) – left shoulder inflammation
Carlos Marmol (RP) – will sign a minor league contract with the organization
Josh Tomlin (P) – 60-day disabled list (April 10) – right shoulder surgery
Zach Walters (UTL) – recalled from Triple-A Columbus (May 8)
Oswaldo Arcia (LF) – 15-day disabled list (May 4) – right hip flexor strain
Casey Fien (P) – 15-day disabled list (April 30) – right shoulder strain
Eduardo Nunez (3B) – 15-day disabled list (April 30) – left oblique strain
Ervin Santana (SP) – suspended 80 games (April 3) for testing positive for performance enhancing substance
Tim Stauffer (RP) – 15-day disabled list (April 30) – right intercostal strain
LEADERS AMONG MEN
Brandon Moss is Cleveland’s team leader in home runs and runs batted in, with five and 21 respectively. His RBI output ranks eighth in the American League. Michael Brantley is the team’s qualified batting average leader with a .341 mark, good for sixth-best in the AL. His .407 on-base percentage falls in the exact same slot on the leader board. Carlos Santana is the AL leader in walks with 25 and trails Washington’s Bryce Harper by one for the MLB lead. Despite having just a .242 batting average, he ranks ninth in the league with a .402 on-base percentage.
Brantley, Ryan Raburn, and Minnesota’s Brian Dozier are tied for the fifth-most doubles in the AL with eight. Moss and the Twins’ Joe Mauer are right behind them with seven apiece. Dozier has scored 21 times, fifth most in the league.
Torii Hunter had his season-high tying seven-game hitting streak come to an end on Thursday. Trevor Plouffe, who leads the team in RBI and homers with five this season, has hit three of them in his last nine games.
Closer Glen Perkins is fourth in the MLB with ten saves for the Twins this season.
ON THE MOUND
Bauer is 0-2 in four career starts against the Twins with a 5.47 ERA. Control and strikeouts have not been an issue in those matchups, but he has allowed five home runs in 24 2/3 innings to them. Hunter and Kennys Vargas own a pair of the blasts. Dozier is just 1-for-11 off of him with a double and Plouffe is just 1-for-10. Escobar is hitless in five at bats against him with three strikeouts.
The 37-year-old Chen will make his Indians debut after a long career against them. In five starts at Columbus, he was 2-1 with two complete games and a 1.74 ERA. In 12 career games at Progressive Field, he is 4-2 with a 2.87 ERA as the opponent. He is 5-8 with a 5.63 ERA in 27 career games against the Twins. Plouffe has nine hits off of him and a .346 lifetime average. Seven of those hits are for extra bases, including three home runs. The Indians will need to make a roster move to add him to the 25-man and 40-man rosters on Saturday.
Salazar is 2-1 in his career against the Twins with a 3.67 ERA in five starts. Dozier’s eyes light up at the sight of him on the mound – he has hit .583 with three doubles and a homer in 14 career plate appearances against him. Plouffe, on the other hand, cringes, with a home run in 11 at bats, but five strikeouts.
The first of three straight right-handers the Indians will face in the series, Pelfrey is 1-1 in five career starts against the Indians with both decisions coming at Progressive Field. Indians hitters on the roster have hit .220 off of him with 19 strikeouts and 16 walks. Moss is 5-for-11 with a pair of RBI, but Brantley is just 2-for-13, Santana 2-for-10, and Jason Kipnis 1-for-13.
Saturday starter, Hughes, has given up 46 hits in 37 2/3 innings this season, fifth-most in baseball. He is 1-1 in his career pitching in Cleveland with a 3.94 ERA and is 4-2 overall with a 3.14 mark. Catcher Roberto Perez is 5-for-7 off of him in his career, including a three-hit game earlier this season. Santana is just 2-for-15 against him with six strikeouts.
May won his only career game at Progressive Field last season, despite walking four batters in five innings. He is 2-1 against the Indians in his career, including a win earlier this season when he allowed one run on four hits in six innings. Jose Ramirez is 3-for-8 against him. Lonnie Chisenhall is hitless in six at bats, but has driven in a run off of him.
MINOR MOVES PAYING OFF
The roster adjustments made by manager Terry Francona have paid off so far for the Tribe.
Kipnis is hitting .311 in his eleven games at the top of the lineup. He has 14 hits in those games leading off, walked one more time than he had struck out, scored eight times, drove in eight runs, and hit his first three homers of the season.
Santana was on base five times – a single, homer, and three walks – in the series against the Royals and scored five times. He had scored just 14 times in his previous 24 games on the year.
Longtime Indians catcher Luke Sewell spent time with the Twins franchise when it was still located in Washington, D.C., as the Senators.
Sewell debuted in 1921 with Cleveland, halfway through the season at the age of 20. He was the backup backstop for the club for several seasons until working into a regular role behind the plate for many years. He was league average defensively, several times leading the league in errors and passed balls, but he was solid with his arm, leading the AL four different times in runners caught stealing. Several of those seasons he threw out half of the runners who attempted to steal against him or better.
After the 1932 season, he was traded to the Senators. He spent two years in the nation’s capital before being traded to the St. Louis Browns, who flipped him to the Chicago White Sox for cash. He became an All-Star for the only time in his career in Chicago, earning the honors in 1937. He returned to Cleveland in 1939 after he was purchased and released by the Brooklyn Dodgers. He would spend a total of 20 seasons in the Majors as a player.
Following his playing days, he became the manager of the Browns and the Cincinnati Reds and even briefly returned to the field in 1942 for six games. He led the Browns to their only World Series in 1944. His brothers Joe, a Hall of Famer, and Tommy also played professionally, as did a cousin Rip. Luke died on May 14th, 1987.
The Indians continue their homestand on Tuesday with a rare visit from the St. Louis Cardinals. Each of the three games in the series will be atypcial starting times – the first two games will be 6:10 PM ET starts and Thursday’s game will start at 12:10 PM ET. The Twins will take Monday off before heading to Detroit to continue their six-game road trip before heading back home for the weekend.
Photo: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel