To be a playoff team, one has to take advantage of teams who are struggling, especially teams within one’s own division. That is the situation the Cleveland Indians face this week, as they play host to the Minnesota Twins for three games at Progressive Field.
The Indians (74-68), after sweeping Chicago in three straight, welcomed the Los Angeles Angels to town on Monday for a makeup game of a June rainout. The game did not go as hoped, as the red-hot Halos blasted four home runs, including two in a six-run fifth inning off of Danny Salazar, on the way to a 12-3 win to improve on their Major League-best record.
Cleveland remained five games in back of Kansas City despite the loss, as the Royals dropped the first of their three-game series in Detroit with the Tigers 9-5 on Monday. With the win, the Tigers pulled within a game of the Royals for first place. The Indians have three road games remaining in Detroit and three games against Kansas City in Cleveland, in addition to the completion of the suspended game. The Tribe is four and a half games in back of Seattle for the second Wild Card spot and five and a half behind Oakland, who has won just eight of their last 27 games.
The Twins (61-82) had Monday off after a four-game sweep at the hands of the Angels. Glen Perkins allowed a tie-breaking sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth to give the Angels a 5-4 win on Thursday. Another sacrifice fly did the Twins in on Friday, as a tenth inning pop dealt them a 7-6 loss. A three-run top of the ninth for the Angels broke a tie and gave reliever Jared Burton back-to-back losses in an 8-5 loss. Minnesota pitching surrendered 19 hits on Sunday in a 14-4 loss.
Trevor Bauer (5-7, 4.10 ERA) will take the mound in the series opener on Tuesday night. He allowed four earned runs in a no-decision versus Detroit his last time out. Rookie right-hander Trevor May (1-4, 9.38) will oppose for the Twins. He earned his first Major League win in his fifth start after earning the loss in each of his first four. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET.
T.J. House (2-3, 3.71) will make the 7:05 PM ET first pitch on Wednesday night for the Tribe. House has put together back-to-back starts of seven innings while allowing an earned run in each appearance. Kyle Gibson (11-10, 4.27) will go for the Twins. He has not won in almost a month, posting an 0-1 record with a 6.14 ERA in his last four appearances, including a no-decision against Cleveland in August when he allowed five earned runs on eight hits in five and one-third innings.
Corey Kluber (14-9, 2.47) will go for win 15 on the season in Thursday’s 12:05 PM ET finale. He threw a complete game five-hitter in his last start, ending a three-game losing skid, his longest of the season. Ricky Nolasco (5-10, 5.87) will be his opposition on the afternoon. He has not won since July 1st, earning losses in four of his last six outings. He allowed four runs on eight hits in his last start against Cleveland on August 20th.
All three games will air on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio. Fox Sports North will carry the first two games in the Twins viewing area. Radio calls will be available on the Cleveland Indians Radio Network, the Twins Radio Network, and the Treasure Island Baseball Network.
Cleveland has a 1,106-967 edge in the all-time series against the Minnesota franchise, which includes their time as the Washington Senators. The Indians have a substantial lead in the series at home, posting a 609-429 record.
The season series is tilted slightly in the Indians’ favor, with seven wins in 13 games this season. The Indians are 4-3 at home this season against the Twins, but have not played them at Progressive Field since May 8th.
The Twins have several players banged up. Closer Perkins has been battling neck stiffness. Rookie Danny Santana has a lower back strain and missed the Twins last game. Outfielder Jordan Schafer has bruised ribs and has missed the past two games. Pitcher Tommy Milone skipped his start on Sunday with minor left shoulder fatigue.
Pitcher Mike Pelfrey is out for the year after undergoing right elbow surgery in June.
BY THE NUMBERS
Michael Brantley extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a hit against the Angels on Monday afternoon. He now has three hitting streaks of eleven games or more this season and five of nine or more. He is hitting .316 on the season and .400 during his streak.
Carlos Santana has hit in eight of his last ten games. He has three home runs and seven RBI in the last week and has walked six times.
The Twins’ rookie Santana saw his seven-game hitting streak end during their series with the Angels. He is hitting .333 over his last ten games and .320 on the season in 84 games. He has hit .394 against Cleveland pitching this season.
Another rookie, Kennys Vargas, has taken advantage of playing time. He has hit home runs in three of his last six games with seven runs batted in. He has nine RBI in his last seven games. His eight-game hitting streak came to an end versus the Angels. He is now hitting .303 on the season with seven home runs and 33 RBI, including 24 in the month of August.
The Twins trail just the Tigers for the most doubles in all of baseball this season. They enter this series with 283 on the year. They have also drawn the second-most walks in baseball with 494.
Twins’ starting pitching has an MLB-worst 5.09 ERA this season.
Luis Tiant debuted with the Cleveland Indians in 1964. In 19 games, including 16 starts, he posted a 10-4 record with a 2.83 ERA with nine complete games and three shutouts.
The Cuban fireballer continued to develop and improve with the Indians, winning eleven games in 1965 and 12 games in the 1966 and 1967 seasons before breaking out in 1968. He was an All-Star for the first time that season, posting a 21-9 record with an unbelievable 1.60 ERA in 34 games, including 32 starts. He threw 19 complete games and had a league-leading nine shutouts. He started the All-Star game, earning the loss on an unearned run in a 1-0 game. He had a streak of 42 scoreless innings during the season.
Everything changed the next season, as he went 9-20 with a 3.71 ERA in 38 games. He was tied for the league lead in both home runs allowed (37) and walks (129) and was dealt to Minnesota in a six-player trade, netting the Indians Dean Chance, Bob Miller, Graig Nettles, and Ted Uhlaender.
Tiant was 7-3 with a 3.40 ERA in his lone season with the Twins and was released just prior to the 1971 season, as it appeared he was unable to overcome arm injuries that were thought to be affecting him over the previous couple of seasons. He signed with the Red Sox and struggled, but he found his old success in 1972, going 15-6 with a 1.91 ERA after reinventing himself as a junk ball and quirky pitcher. In eight seasons in Beantown, he would post just one losing season and three times won 20 games or more. He was selected to the AL All-Star teams in 1974 and 1976. Tiant holds a bizarre record for having the most complete games in a season without registering a shutout, with 23 in 1973.
After a two year stop in New York with the Yankees in 1979 and 1980, he spent nine games with Pittsburgh in 1981 and six games with the California Angels in 1982 at the age of 41. He finished his career with a 229-172 record in 19 seasons, posting a 3.30 ERA and 1.20 WHIP with 187 complete games and 49 shutouts.
Cleveland will head to that state up north to do battle with the rival Detroit Tigers for three games over the weekend. It will be the start of the Indians’ final roadtrip of the season, with additional stops remaining in Houston and Minnesota. The Twins, meanwhile, will wrap up their final multi-city road trip of the season, heading to Chicago for three games with the White Sox.
Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer