Series Preview #43: Minnesota Twins (56-70) at Cleveland Indians (69-58)

The Cleveland Indians are still very much in the mix for the postseason.

A three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim helped to trim the gap for the Indians (69-58) to five games in the American League Central and to just two and a half games in the AL Wild Card picture behind the Oakland A’s.

The Twins (56-70) have struggled this season mightily, but did a big favor to the Indians’ postseason hopes during the week, taking two of three from the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. The return to the win column came after they dropped six of seven in the previous week.

Ubaldo Jimenez (9-7, 4.00 ERA) will be on the mound for the Indians for Friday’s 7:05 PM ET first pitch. Jimenez allowed just one hit and struck out eight against Oakland in five and two-thirds innings in his last start, but was plagued with a high pitch count due to wildness and five walks. Sam Deduno (7-7, 3.82) will counter for Ron Gardenhire’s Twins. He is 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA this season against Cleveland.

Zach McAllister (6-7, 3.59) will take the ball for Cleveland in Saturday’s 7:05 PM start. McAllister has won back-to-back starts for the first time since April 30th and May 7th, but has never won three straight starts in his career. Liam Hendriks (0-1, 3.94) will make his fourth start of the season. The right-handed Australian is 1-0 in three starts in his career against the Indians, but has a 5.29 ERA thanks to three home runs and ten runs allowed.

Scott Kazmir (7-6, 4.39) and Mike Pelfrey (5-10, 5.19) will oppose each other in Sunday’s 1:05 PM ET finale. Kazmir has allowed five earned runs in each of his last two starts since blanking Miami on two hits in six innings. Pelfrey ended a string of seven consecutive winless starts with his victory over Detroit on Tuesday. He won the only appearance of his career at Progressive Field earlier this season.

Fox Sports affiliates will carry all three games of the series on both Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Fox Sports North. Radio broadcasts will be available on the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and 96.3 K-TWIN in Minneapolis.

The Twins come to Cleveland after upsetting the Detroit Tigers on their home field during the week.

Minnesota chased Detroit’s Rick Porcello early with five runs in the first five innings and Pelfrey earned the win, as the Twins defeated the Tigers 6-3 on Tuesday. Justin Morneau was 4-for-5 at the plate with a home run and four runs batted in. Pedro Florimon added a solo shot of his own. Glen Perkins saved his 29th game of the season.

After knocking out Anibal Sanchez in the seventh to break a scoreless tie, the Twins’ Kevin Correia (8-10) allowed four runs in the bottom of the seventh as the Tigers went on to win 7-1 on Wednesday. Morneau added another two hits in the ball game. Miguel Cabrera drove in three for the Tigers and Torii Hunter added a pair. Jose Veras earned his 20th save of the year. Drew Smyly improved to 5-0.

An RBI-double by Chris Herrmann broke a six all tie in the top of the eighth and the Twins held on to take the series, winning 7-6 over the Tigers on Thursday. Ryan Doumit had three RBI and Herrmann had three hits on the game. Minnesota scored six runs and had ten hits off of Detroit’s Justin Verlander. Bruce Rondon allowed the eventual winning run. Perkins earned his 30th save.

The Twins will play the series without the services of All-Star catcher Joe Mauer, who is on the 7-day concussion disabled list. He has a career batting mark of .339 against Cleveland, including a .333 line this season with two home runs, four doubles, and nine runs driven in.

Josh Willingham has five hits in seven career at bats against McAllister (.714), with three home runs and six runs batted in. He has just one hit in eleven career at bats (.091) against Kazmir.

Morneau has a .375 batting average against McAllister, with a home run and two RBI.

The Twins are the second-worst hitting team in the AL with a .242 batting average. Their on-base percentage, however, ranks them tenth amongst the 15 teams. They have the second-highest number of strikeouts this season in the AL.

Minnesota has struck out the fewest batters in all of baseball, 77 fewer than the Houston Astros. Four of the five AL Central teams are at the top of the ERA statistic since the All-Star break; the Twins are not amongst them. Their starters have a combined 5.11 ERA on the season, the worst in all of baseball.

Cleveland earned their first sweep in Anaheim since 1999 during the week when they won three straight against the Angels, who played all three games without superstar Mike Trout.

A four-run fourth inning for the Indians off of Jered Weaver helped lead Cleveland to a 5-2 victory over Los Angeles on Monday. An RBI-single by Carlos Santana was followed by a sacrifice fly by Jason Giambi before Lonnie Chisenhall drove in a pair with a home run to right field. Chisenhall had two hits on the game. Nick Swisher hit a solo home run in the ninth. McAllister pitched into the seventh inning and allowed one run on five hits.

The long ball was the key to victory for Cleveland in a 14-inning affair on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, as a three-run 14th gave the Indians a 4-1 victory. Danny Salazar allowed one run on three hits and struck out seven in five and one-third innings. Santana had the lone damage off of the Angels’ C.J. Wilson, a solo blast to center field. Drew Stubbs broke the tie after 3 AM with a two-run home run and Jason Kipnis drove in another to pad the lead. The Indians’ bullpen pitched eight and two-thirds innings of scoreless relief.

Justin Masterson (14-9) allowed a run on five hits and issued five walks, but his efforts helped to lead the Indians to a 3-1 victory in the finale on Wednesday. Swisher hit a two-run home run in the third off of Jerome Williams, his second such shot this season. Mike Aviles scored on a wild pitch in the ninth to give the Indians an insurance run. Chris Perez saved his 20th game of the year.

Swisher’s bat has heated up in the last week. He has hit safely in seven straight games (.333), including three multi-hit games. He has four home runs in his last ten games played, including three in the last five days.

Asdrubal Cabrera may have come out of a lengthy slump in the last half of the road trip. He has six hits in his last 16 at bats (.375) and has driven in a pair. He has hits in each of his last four games.

Kipnis was 0-for-14 at the plate against Los Angeles after ending the six-game hitting streak he started at the beginning of the road trip.

The Indians have 15 shutouts this season, best in the AL and trailing only the Los Angeles Dodgers (17) for MLB dominance.

Cleveland has been issued an MLB-worst 13 intentional walks.

The Indians will leave town for Atlanta after the completion of the series to begin a tough stretch of baseball against the National League East leading Braves before flying to Detroit for a weekend series against the Tigers. Minnesota will return home for three with the Kansas City Royals.

Photo: Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

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