The Cleveland Indians will look to ride the positive vibes of an 8-2 homestand as they hit the road for their penultimate road trip of the season, making their first stop on the two-city tour in Minneapolis as they face off with the Twins.
The Indians (81-58) have already reached their win total from all of 2015 with plenty of September left on the schedule. With a magic number of 18, the team is gearing up for their first American League Central Crown since 2007 and is control of its destiny. They head into the three-game series with the Twins this weekend with a six-game lead over the second place Detroit Tigers in the division and a 36-17 record on the season in games against AL Central opponents.
The Twins (52-88) dropped two of three against the third place Kansas City Royals this week, winning the finale on Wednesday to avoid the sweep. They had Thursday off. They will look to get back on the right track against the Indians after being a thorn in their side for most of the season. Minnesota lost three straight during their last trip to Cleveland to see their season advantage over the Indians slip away entirely, as each club has eight wins in the 16 contests. The Twins have outscored the Tribe by six runs, 85-79.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
Friday, 9/9, 8:10 PM ET – RHP Danny Salazar (11-6, 3.78 ERA) vs. RHP Tyler Duffey (8-10, 6.24)
Salazar is 3-3 in his career in nine starts against the Twins with a 4.63 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. Those numbers have inflated this year, as he is 0-1 in two starts with nine runs allowed on nine hits (three homers) with six walks in six and two-thirds innings (ERA of 12.15 and WHIP of 2.25). He is coming off of several improved starts after a rough patch, striking out 21 batters and walking four in his last eleven innings. He allowed one run on six hits his last time out against Miami and two runs on five hits the start before in Texas. Duffey has faced the Tribe three times this season, earning a pair of wins. He allowed five runs on eight hits in six innings his last time out, earning the win to push his career record to 3-0 against Cleveland with a 3.13 ERA. He has allowed eleven runs in his last two starts (six and two-thirds innings), both losses.
Saturday, 9/10, 7:10 PM ET – RHP Mike Clevinger (2-2, 5.30) vs. LHP Hector Santiago (11-8, 4.91)
“The Flow” will appear in his sixth MLB park this season as he makes his second start of the year against the Twins. He allowed two runs on seven hits with four walks and three strikeouts in four and one-third innings in a no-decision in his only outing against them. Santiago earned his first win with the Twins since being acquired from the Los Angeles Angels at the trade deadline his last time out. Ending a four-game losing skid after a perfect 6-0 mark in July, Santiago worked six innings, allowing three runs on four hits with three walks and six strikeouts in an 11-3 win over his former Chicago White Sox team. Santiago has faced the Indians twice since joining the Twins and three times total this season. He was shelled for five earned runs on seven hits in an inning and a third in June in a loss, allowed four runs on five hits in five innings in a loss in his first August start, and then blanked Cleveland on three hits and four walks in six innings of a no-decision on August 29.
Sunday, 9/11, 2:10 PM ET – RHP Corey Kluber (15-9, 3.16) vs. RHP Jose Berrios (2-5, 9.21)
Kluber will look to bounce back from a rough go on Tuesday against the Astros, when he allowed four runs in a game for the first time since his last loss on July 3. Despite allowing four runs to Houston, he is 7-1 with a 2.23 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP in his last eleven starts. He is 3-2 in eight career starts at Target Field with a 3.99 ERA and one complete game. He is 7-5 overall in 17 career starts against them with a 3.73 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. Berrios, the 22-year-old rookie right-hander, made his MLB debut against the Indians on April 27, taking a loss while allowing five earned runs on six hits with two walks and five strikeouts in four innings. He was much better upon his return from the minors on August 1, when he threw a quality six innings against them, allowing three runs on five hits with no walks and five strikeouts.
TV (all games) – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; Fox Sports North
Radio (all games) – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; Go 96.3, Treasure Island Baseball Network (Minneapolis/St. Paul)
Shawn Armstrong (RP) – recalled from Triple-A Columbus (September 6)
Michael Brantley (LF) – 60-day disabled list (May 10) – recovery from right biceps surgery; out for season
Kyle Crockett (RP) – recalled from Triple-A Columbus (September 5)
Yan Gomes (C) – 60-day disabled list (July 17) – separated right shoulder; on rehab assignment
Phil Hughes (SP) – 60-day disabled list (June 10) – recovery from July 2016 rib surgery; out for season
Trevor May (P) – 15-day disabled list (August 7) – lower back strain
Tommy Milone (SP) – 15-day disabled list (August 12) – left biceps tendinitis
Glen Perkins (RP) – 60-day disabled list (April 11) – recovery from June 2016 left shoulder surgery; out for season
Trevor Plouffe (IF) – out indefinitely (September 6) – left oblique and left intercostal strains
Danny Santana (UTL) – 60-day disabled list (August 29) – left shoulder AC joint sprain; out for season
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
DON’T LET DOZIER BEAT YOU
With 39 homers on the season, second baseman Brian Dozier is just two shy of the current MLB leader, Mark Trumbo.
His unbelievable tear at the plate includes 25 homers since the All-Star break, the most in baseball and six more than the next closest player. He has hit seven homers in the last seven days.
He has made up for a quiet batting average in the first half by hitting .323 since the break with a .367 on-base percentage and a .755 slugging mark. In addition to the 25 homers, he is also tied for sixth with 16 doubles, just one behind the league leaders.
On the year, Dozier is hitting .278 with a .348 OBP and .576 slugging with 32 doubles, five triples, 39 homers, and 92 RBI. While just a .244 hitter lifetime against the Indians, he is hitting .297 against them this season with three doubles, a triple, six homers, and 17 RBI.
His 17 career homers against Cleveland are tied for the most he has hit against one team.
KEPLER SLOWING DOWN SOME
Max Kepler may have made his Rookie of the Year candidacy against the Indians, but he has slowed down some at the plate since the All-Star break, hitting .249 with seven doubles, two triples, eight homers, and 26 RBI. In the last month, however, he is hitting just .208 with five doubles and one homer while driving in ten runs.
More than one-third of his career homers have come against the Indians this season alone, as he has six homers and a double to his credit with 12 RBI while hitting .256.
BUXTON BOUNCES BACK STRONG
Center field prospect Byron Buxton has spent some time in the minors this season, getting recalled from Triple-A Rochester when the rosters expanded at the beginning of the month. In his first seven games back, he is hitting .462 with a .481 OBP and 1.077 slugging mark with four singles, four doubles, four homers, and ten RBI. He leads the team for the month in runs scored and doubles and is second in homers and RBI.
In 70 games on the year, Buxton is hitting .224 with 17 doubles, four triples, five homers, and 26 RBI while stealing nine bases in ten attempts.
LINDOR KEEPS PUSHING AVERAGE HIGHER
The impressive second season for Francisco Lindor continued as he had his league-leading 23rd three-hit game or more of the year. He became the first Indians player to reach such heights since Hal Trosky had 24 three+ hit games in 1936.
Lindor is hitting .322 for the season (fourth-best in the league) with a .368 OBP. He is hitting .481 over the last seven games, .414 over the last 15, .378 over the last 30, and .318 for his career.
HIT THE TARGET
In six games at Target Field so far this season, some Indians have put up strong numbers.
Carlos Santana has hit .407 with three doubles and three RBI. Tyler Naquin hit .375 and Jose Ramirez hit .368. Mike Napoli led the team with three homers at the road park, while Lindor and Jason Kipnis each drove in five runs.
For the first time since 2002, the Cleveland Indians have a pair of hitters with 30 home runs on the roster.
Santana hit home run #30 on Thursday in the 10-7 win over Houston. Napoli did similar earlier in the week, depositing his 30th souvenir in the series opener on Monday before adding the 31st of his season on Wednesday night.
The 30 homers for Santana easily exceed his previous career high of 27, set in 2011 and tied in 2014. Napoli’s previous career best for homers was 30 in 2011. His 92 RBI have also matched a career-high, set in 2013 with Boston.
The last Indians player with 30 or more homers in a season was Grady Sizemore in 2008 (33). The last set of 30-homer teammates in Cleveland were left-handed Jim Thome (52) and right-handed Ellis Burks (32) in 2002.
Last season, Santana led the entire Indians team in homers with 19.
GOMES CONTINUES REHAB ASSIGNMENT
Catcher Gomes hit his first minor league rehab homer of the season in helping the Columbus Clippers defeat the Gwinnett Braves by a 6-4 final on Thursday night. He has transferred his rehab assignment to Canal Park in Akron, where the Double-A RubberDucks are returning home for two to three games against the Altoona Curve in the Eastern League Western Division Series. The Clippers have headed to Georgia for the conclusion of their series with the Triple-A Braves, tied at one game apiece.
Gomes is 5-for-14 on his rehab assignment with a double, a homer, five runs scored, and three runs batted in.
The Indians will pack up from Minnesota after their ball game on Sunday and head to the Windy City, where they will play the Chicago White Sox in four straight during the week. They then return home for their final homestand of the regular season, hosting Detroit, Kansas City, and Chicago for three each.
The Twins will hit the road for four at Comerica Park in Detroit before heading to Citi Field in New York to take on the Mets for three.
Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images