Series Preview #32: Cleveland Indians (50-48) at Minnesota Twins (44-53)

The Cleveland Indians came just one win short of creating the perfect start to the second half of the season by taking three of four from the first place Detroit Tigers to trim two games off of their American League Central Division deficit. They will look to continue to close the gap as they make their first appearance of the season, and their first since clinching the AL Wild Card last season, at Target Field to take on the Minnesota Twins for three games this week.

The Indians (50-48) made a long overdue trip back above the .500 mark in bashing the Bengals in four games over the weekend to hit their high water mark of three games to the plus side before dropping Sunday’s finale. They overcame a three run Tigers advantage with a seven run seventh inning in a 9-3 win on Friday night. They doubled up Detroit with a pair of wins in a double dip on Saturday, winning by 6-2 and 5-2 finals, aided by a ninth inning, two-out, three-run double by Carlos Santana in the late game. They dropped a 5-1 decision on Sunday afternoon to fall short of their first ever four-game road sweep of the Motor City Kitties.

The Twins (44-53) did not start out the second half with the same intensity as the Tribe, as they were swept at home in three straight by the Tampa Bay Rays. They lost 6-2 on Friday night as they were unable to match Evan Longoria’s bases loaded double in the third. Eight innings of scoreless four-hit ball from David Price paced the Rays to a 5-1 win on Saturday. The Twins were just 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position on Sunday, missing out on several opportunities in what would be a 5-3 loss.

PITCHING PROBABLES

Two-thirds of the Indians’ probables for the series will be added to the roster throughout the week.

Left-hander Kris Johnson (0-1, 5.40 ERA) and T.J. House (1-2, 4.40) will square off in the series opener at 8:10 PM ET on Monday night. Johnson hopes to continue the Indians’ struggles against lefties on the year; they have a 13-17 record against them on the season, one of the worst marks in the AL. It will be his third start for the Twins. House returns to the rotation ten days after his last start, getting the recall from short-season Class A Mahoning Valley, where he made one start during the All-Star Break.

Thirty-year-old rookie and former Indians minor league right-hander Yohan Pino (1-2, 4.39) will be recalled from Triple-A Rochester for Tuesday night’s 8:10 PM ET first pitch. He earned his first Major League win in his last outing after allowing one earned run in five innings. Danny Salazar (1-4, 5.53) will be recalled from Columbus with a yet-to-be-announced roster move needed to create room on the roster. He was 3-6 with a 4.02 ERA and two complete games in his ten starts with the Clippers following his demotion earlier in the season. He averaged 4.7 walks per nine innings (including eleven in his last two starts) and just over five and one-third innings per start there.

Kyle Gibson (8-8, 4.19) will wrap up the series beginning at 1:10 PM ET on Wednesday afternoon. He is 1-0 on the season in two starts against Cleveland, allowing just one run on five hits in 12 innings of work with seven walks and four strikeouts. Trevor Bauer (4-4, 3.89) will oppose, coming off of his first Major League road victory on Friday. It will be his first career start versus the Twins.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio will carry all three games of the series. Fox Sports North will carry each of the first two and the MLB Network will air Wednesday’s afternoon matinee. The affiliates of both the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and Minnesota Twins Radio Network will handle the radio calls for all three contests.

ALL-TIME

The Indians have a substantial edge in the all-time series between the two franchises. They have won 1,103 games while losing 964. However, that gap is much smaller since the Twins moved from Washington, D.C. prior to the 1961 season. Since then, Cleveland has a 394-370 edge on Minnesota. The Twins are 203-177 at home in that span.

LAST TIME

The Indians took three of four from the Twins when the two clubs last met in early May. The Twins won a 1-0 final in ten innings on May 5th, then lost 4-2, 4-3 on a walk-off from Mike Aviles in the bottom of the ninth, and 9-4. The Twins took two of three from the Indians in an early April series in Cleveland.

The two clubs will play twelve games in the second half, including nine at Target Field, with three-game series scheduled this week, August 19th through 21st, and September 19th through 21st. The two will meet at Progressive Field for three games from September 9th through 11th.

ROSTER MOVES

Starting pitcher Justin Masterson (right knee inflammation) pitched in a rehab start at Triple-A Columbus on Sunday night. He threw 71 pitches in five innings of work, throwing 47 strikes. He allowed two earned runs on five hits, walked two, and struck out six. It is unknown at this time whether or not he will be able to make his next start at the Major League level on Friday night.

There were hopes that center fielder Michael Bourn (left hamstring strain) would be able to return to the lineup sometime this week, but he did not travel with the club to Detroit to start the second half. He remained in Cleveland to focus on his rehab. The injury, which has the outfielder on the 15-day disabled list, could keep him on the DL until later in July or even early August.

Designated hitter Jason Giambi (left knee inflammation) and outfielder Nyjer Morgan (sprained PCL in his right knee) are on the 60-day DL.

Roster moves will need to be made in order to get House and Salazar back on the MLB roster for Cleveland. The first happened Monday afternoon when the club optioned rookie right-handed reliever Austin Adams back to Triple-A.

For the Twins, they will be without a former All-Star catcher and a pair of starting pitchers for the series.

Joe Mauer is on the 15-day DL with a right oblique strain. He took dry swings on Sunday. There is no timetable for his return.

Pitcher Ricky Nolasco is on the 15-day DL as well with a right elbow strain. He is scheduled to throw from 120 feet on Monday. Mike Pelfrey (right elbow surgery in June) is on the 60-day DL and may miss the remainder of the season, as he is not expected to throw until September.

SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE

The Twins lead the Tigers by percentage points for the best winning percentage against AL Central foes at .5484. They are 17-14 on the season, compared to the Tigers 23-19 record (.5476).

The Indians are 11-5 to start the month of July, outscoring their opposition by an 81-58 advantage.

KIPNIS HONORED

Jason Kipnis earned his third career AL Player of the Week honors with his strong performance against the Tigers over the weekend. He was 5-for-15 in the series with two home runs, three runs scored, four walks, and six runs batted in. The Indians are seven games over even since he returned from the disabled list at the end of May.

REMEMBERING THE 1991 TWINS

The Twins last played in the World Series in 1991. On that roster throughout the season, several former and future Indians were present.

Outfielder Carmelo Castillo spent his first seven seasons in Cleveland before being dealt to the Twins in 1989 for pitcher Keith Atherton. He spent three seasons up north, playing just nine games there in his final Major League season in 1991. He was released by the club in May that year.

Starting pitcher Jack Morris was the Twins’ hero of the World Series that season, winning the MVP award with a 2-0 record in the championship series with a 1.17 ERA in three games. His complete game, ten-inning, seven-hit shutout in Game Seven is one of the more impressive individual postseason efforts of the modern era. He signed with Toronto following the season, returning to the World Series with the Blue Jays in 1992. He signed with the Indians prior to the 1994 season and was 10-6 at the time of the strike.

Catcher Junior Ortiz spent two seasons in Minnesota before signing as a free agent with Cleveland following his World Series win. He was hitless in three at bats in the ALCS and had one hit and one RBI in five at bats of three World Series games. He appeared in 86 games for the Tribe in 1992 and 95 games in 1993 before he was traded to Texas towards the end of Spring Training in 1994.

First baseman Paul Sorrento appeared in 26 games for the Twins in 1991 in his third season in the MLB. He struck out three times and walked once in four postseason plate appearances. He was traded by the Twins prior to the following season to Cleveland for pitchers Curt Leskanic and Oscar Munoz. He spent four quality seasons with the Indians from 1992 to 1995 before signing a free agent contract with Seattle following the Tribe’s 1995 World Series loss.

Scott Leius appeared in 109 games, primarily as the club’s third baseman, that season. He was hitless in four at bats of three games in the ALCS against Toronto, but was 5-for-14 (.357) in seven World Series games with a home run and two runs batted in against Atlanta. He would play 27 games for the Indians in 1996 as a utility infielder.

Relievers Paul Abbott and Larry Casian both pitched for Minnesota during that season but were absent from the playoffs. Abbott later pitched for Cleveland in five games in 1993 and Casian in seven games after being selected off of waivers in 1994. Starter Scott Erickson and reliever Carl Willis both made numerous appearances in that postseason and would later work for the Indians as pitching coaches, Erickson in the minors and Willis as part of Eric Wedge‘s staff.

NEXT UP…

The Indians will put an end to their lengthy post-All-Star Break road trip with a four-game swing through Missouri against the Kansas City Royals, beginning Thursday night. The Twins will conclude their ten-game homestand to open the second half with a four-game series against the Chicago White Sox, starting Thursday evening.

Photo: AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

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