Series Preview #10: Minnesota Twins (12-12) at Cleveland Indians (12-13)

The Minnesota Twins make their first of three different appearances to Progressive Field this season starting Friday evening with a three-game series against the Cleveland Indians.

The Twins pulled back to even on the season by taking the final game of their series in Detroit against the Tigers. They are in the middle of a difficult road trip between Detroit, Cleveland, and then Boston, before returning home for nine games.

The Indians’ bats are alive and well and have supplied the starting pitching, which has been much improved in recent days, with ample run support as the team resumes its current nine-game home stand. Cleveland and Minnesota will still play 16 more games against one another after the completion of this series.

The Twins salvaged the final game of three at Comerica Park to prevent a sweep by the Tigers.

A three-run home run by the Tigers in the sixth inning spoiled an early Twins lead as Detroit held off Minnesota, 4-3, in the first game of the series on Monday. Mike Pelfrey had limited the Tigers to just one run in the first five innings, but allowed Prince Fielder’s sixth home run of the season in the sixth to decide the game. Josh Willingham hit a solo homer, his fifth of the year, in the first for Minnesota.

Twins starter Vance Worley allowed six earned runs and could not make it out of the fifth as the Tigers won the middle game of the series, 6-1. Justin Verlander struck out eight Twins in seven innings for his third win of the year. Worley gave up three home runs, including another home run by Fielder.

Despite assisting the Tigers in setting an American League record on Wednesday, the Twins won the series finale, 6-2. Detroit pitching recorded their sixth straight game with ten or more strikeouts, but Minnesota ended their five game winning streak. Detroit’s Anibal Sanchez allowed three early earned runs and the Tigers bullpen gave up three more. The Twins’ Scott Diamond allowed a pair of runs on four hits in six innings.

With Wednesday’s win, the Twins (12-12) pulled back to the .500 mark on the season. They are 5-6 on the road as they continue their road trip with a stop in Cleveland.

Outfielder Darin Mastroianni is on the 15-day disabled list with a stress reaction in his left ankle. The Twins are hoping for his return in early May.

Pitchers Tim Wood (right rotator cuff strain) and Cole De Vries (strained right forearm) are throwing and may come off of the disabled list shortly.

Catcher Joe Mauer took his first game off of the season on Wednesday. He had played in each of the team’s first 23 games. He has struggled of late and is in a 3-for-34 slump entering action Friday night. He has a .339 lifetime batting average against the Indians. He drove in a career-best 15 RBI last season.

Justin Morneau is another in a line of first baseman who have salivated at the sight of Cleveland pitchers. He hit a career-best six home runs and 20 RBI last season against the Indians and has hit more home runs and driven in more runs against Cleveland than any other team he has faced in his career.

Willingham made Indians fans regret that the team was unable to sign him to a long-term contract prior to last season. He hit four home runs against Cleveland last season, his first against the Indians in his career, and drove in 19 runs.

The Minnesota bullpen has been a source of strength for the young ball club. The relievers posted a 2.30 ERA in the month of April.

The Indians’ bats remained hot and the pitching contributed their fair share as the Indians swept their short two-game interleague set with the Philadelphia Phillies mid-week.

The Indians bested former Cy Young award winner Roy Halladay as Progressive Field turned into a home run launching pad, as Cleveland defeated Philadelphia by a 14-2 final Tuesday night. Six different Indians combined to hit seven home runs on the night. Halladay was chased in the fourth after giving up eight earned runs. Ryan Raburn had two home runs for the second straight game, becoming the first player since Travis Hafner in July of 2004 to hit four home runs in two consecutive games. Zach McAllister allowed two runs in seven innings for his second win.

Old friend (and another Cy Young winner) Cliff Lee came to town and was given the same rude treatment as Halladay, as the Indians ran away with a 6-0 shutout Wednesday night. Trevor Bauer (1-1) made a spot start for Cleveland and, despite some wildness (six walks), was able to limit the Phillies to just one hit over five innings of work. Lee gave up five runs, four earned, in his first career start against his former team. A four-hit night from Raburn gave him hits in 12 of his last 14 at bats.

The series sweep pushed the Indians (12-13) current winning streak to four games. They have improved to 4-6 at home and trail the Twins by a half-game in the division. They are the only team in the AL Central with a losing record at home. They have outscored their opposition during their last four games, 39-5.

Bauer was demoted following the start to Triple-A Columbus.

Ezequiel Carrera, who was designated for assignment by Philadelphia prior to their series with the Indians, was claimed by the Indians and added to their 25-man roster. Minor league first baseman Mike McDade was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster. Carrera, the former Indians outfielder, batted .077 (1-for-13) in 13 games (two starts) for the Phillies.

Outfielder Michael Bourn, catcher Lou Marson, and pitcher Brett Myers remain on the 15-day disabled list. Bourn is expected to play a couple of games on a rehabilitation assignment before rejoining the club. Myers announced on Twitter that he has been cleared by doctors to start playing catch.

Pitcher Blake Wood, who was claimed on waivers in the offseason from the Royals, is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment in Double-A Akron on Saturday. He has been recovering from reconstructive surgery (Tommy John) on his right elbow since his May 2012 surgery.

Nick Swisher was held out of the lineup against the Phillies to rest a sore left shoulder and is again out of the lineup to open the weekend series with the Twins.

After striking out in three of his first four at bats Sunday night against the Royals and six times in total in the doubleheader, Raburn has hits in 12 of his last 14 at bats (.846). He has contributed a double, four home runs, and nine runs batted in during this span and has scored five runs.

Cabrera is batting .378 over the course of his active ten-game hitting streak. He had his first three multi-hit games of the season in the final three games of the series against Kansas City. Last season against the Twins, he had his worst single-season batting average (.241) of his career against them.

Santana continues to lead all of Major League Baseball with a .395 batting average. He is now also the leader in on-base percentage (.483), slugging percentage (.711), and on-base plus slugging percentage (1.194). Nearly half of his hits (14 of 30) have been for extra bases.

The Indians as a team batted .408 in the series against Philadelphia.

The Twins are the Indians’ third most frequently played organization in their history. Cleveland holds an advantage all-time with 1,086 wins to 955 losses (this includes their time as the Washington Senators through the 1960 season) and 377-361 since the team has been in Minnesota. The next home victory for the Indians will be their 600th overall against the franchise and has already established the most home wins against any one organization in club history.

Minnesota had Cleveland’s number last season though. The Twins were 12-6 against the Indians and had 6-3 marks at both Target Field and Progressive Field. They outscored the Indians by 35 runs on the year.

Pedro Hernandez will lead off the series for Minnesota at 7:05 PM ET on a Friday night Sugardale Dollar Dog night against the Indians’ Justin Masterson. Hernandez (1-0, 2.35) earned his first major league win in his last start after throwing five scoreless innings versus Texas. Masterson (4-2, 3.12) will look to get back into the win column. He gave up a season-worst seven earned runs in his last outing, a loss against Kansas City, despite striking out a season-high nine batters in six and one-third innings of work.

Minnesota’s Kevin Correia will be opposed by Scott Kazmir in Saturday afternoon’s 1:05 PM ET first pitch. Correia (3-1, 2.23) threw eight scoreless innings of his own against Texas in a win on Sunday. Kazmir (0-1, 8.64) was much better in his second start of the season, allowing just two earned runs in five innings against Kansas City. The first 10,000 in attendance will receive a 1974-77 red alternate jersey T-shirt presented by The Plain Dealer.

Pelfrey (2-3, 7.66) will finish out the series for Minnesota Sunday. He has lost two games in a row and has allowed four earned runs or more in four of his five starts on the season. Corey Kluber (2-0, 2.25) will get the ball at 1:05 PM ET for the first pitch for the Indians. He allowed two earned runs in seven innings and struck out six in his first start of the season on Sunday.

All three games will be shown on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and will be broadcast over the air on the Twins Radio Network, the Treasure Island Baseball Network affiliates, and the Cleveland Indians Radio Network. Minnesota television broadcasts will vary – Friday’s game will be televised on Fox Sports North Plus, while Saturday’s and Sunday’s games will be shown on Fox Sports North.

Minnesota will leave town after the game Sunday to start the first of four games in Boston on Monday. Cleveland will host the Oakland Athletics for four games beginning Monday night.

The Twins and Indians will next see each other starting June 21st in another three game series in Cleveland.

Photo: Jason Miller / Getty Images

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