After a 2-4 homestand, it may just be time for the Cleveland Indians to hit the road and put their disappointing series against Chicago and Detroit behind them. They will start a four-game series in Minnesota with the Twins on Monday night to begin a seven-game roadtrip.
The Indians (5-7) will return to Target Field for the first of ten games there this season. A scuffling offense and a starting rotation unable to get the job done consistently have gotten the Tribe off to a poor record after a hot start in Texas, where they swept the first three games of the season before going just 2-6 since against Arizona, Chicago, and Detroit. The team has shown an ability to get runners on base with ease, but when it comes to the big hit, the Indians have been slow in the clutch department, hitting into too many double plays and failing to drive in runs in general.
The Twins (7-5) won just 59 games last season, but nine of those wins came against the Indians as all of the additional time against one another came in handy as the season went on. Minnesota is off to a better start than last season, as the club has matched its April 2016 win total with two weeks left to play in the month. The Twins have not played outside of the American League Central this season, posting a 3-0 record against Kansas City, a 1-2 mark against Detroit, and a 3-3 tally in two series with Chicago. After winning four straight to open the season, they have cooled off and struggled to put up runs against the White Sox, scoring just eight in the series. The results could have been better, however, as their two losses in the series came after allowing just five total runs, but scoring only one in each game.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
Monday, 4/17, 8:10 PM ET – RHP Danny Salazar (0-1, 4.63 ERA) vs. RHP Kyle Gibson (0-1, 8.00)
Salazar matched a career-high with eleven strikeouts in his second start of the season against Chicago last week. The 27-year-old will look to improve to 6-5 in his career in the month of April, one in which he typically puts up some of his more lofty numbers of the season. The 6’6” Gibson has had trouble with length in ball games in the early going. He has worked just nine innings in his first two starts and has allowed eight runs and three home runs in the early going. His struggles against the Indians continued last season as he posted an 8.44 ERA and a 2.06 WHIP in two starts.
Tuesday, 4/18, 8:10 PM ET – RHP Josh Tomlin (0-2, 18.47) vs. RHP Phil Hughes (2-0, 3.86)
Things have not been pretty for Tomlin this season, and his last start was no exception. He failed to make it through the second inning and was charged with seven earned runs against the White Sox. Already struggling with long ball issues, he will face a Twins team that took him deep six times last season in 21 innings. Hughes, the 30-year-old right-hander, has won each of his first two starts to the season. He had mixed results against the Indians in five games (four starts) last season, going 2-2 with a 6.14 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP while making just 12 total appearances in a down year on the mound for the veteran.
Wednesday, 4/19, 8:10 PM ET – RHP Trevor Bauer (0-2, 8.44) vs. LHP Adalberto Mejia (0-1, 4.05)
Bauer will look for his first career win at Target Field against a Twins team which he has had little success against, owning a 1-5 record with a 5.32 ERA in eleven starts. Walks were a big issue for him last season, as he walked as many Twins as he had in the previous two seasons combined. On the plus side, he gave up just one homer to the club after serving up nine the previous two years. The rookie Mejia will make his third career start for the Twins on Wednesday night. He took a no-decision his last time out, working five innings while allowing a run on four hits. The 23-year-old southpaw is 0-1 in three career outings with a 5.00 ERA and a 1.89 WHIP over nine innings.
Thursday, 4/20, 1:10 PM ET – RHP Corey Kluber (1-1, 6.38) vs. RHP Ervin Santana (3-0, 0.41)
Kluber earned his first win of 2017 his last time out on Saturday in a matchup against Detroit. Aided by the rare offensive explosion, he pitched deep into the game but was charged with six earned runs (two of which came around off of the bullpen). He is 8-5 in 18 career starts against Minnesota with a 3.51 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP and is 4-2 at Target Field. Santana does not have great numbers in his career against the Indians, but he is off to one of the better starts in all of baseball. His last time out, he shut out the White Sox on just one hit. In his career, he is 5-11 against Cleveland with a 4.35 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP, but this season, he is boasting a 0.41 ERA and a 0.46 WHIP.
TV (all games) – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; Fox Sports North; ESPN (4/19, out-of-market)
Radio (all games) – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; Go 96.3 and Treasure Island Baseball Network (Twins)
Cody Anderson (SP) – 60-day disabled list (4/2) – right elbow surgery
Jason Kipnis (2B) – 10-day disabled list (4/2) – right shoulder inflammation and left hand bone bruise; on rehab assignment
Ehire Adrianza (SS) – 10-day disabled list (3/30) – right oblique strain
Trevor May (SP) – 60-day disabled list (3/22) – recovery from March 2017 Tommy John surgery
Ryan O’Rourke (RP) – 10-day disabled list (3/30) – left elbow injury
Glen Perkins (RP) – 60-day disabled list (4/2) – left posterior shoulder strain
When the Washington Senators moved to the Twin Cities before the 1961 season, they brought with them their franchise records, making the history between the Indians and Twins appear much longer than it really has been.
Over the combined history, the two franchises have faced each other 2,127 times, third-most in Tribe history. The Indians have been the victor far more often than not, winning 1,127 and losing 990. On the road, they are 507-549.
While the Indians handled most teams in the American League Central with ease last season, the Twins pushed the Tribe to the limits. The two teams nearly split the season series, with the Indians claiming ten wins and the Twins winning nine. Cleveland surged against Minnesota late, overcoming a 4-8 start by winning six of the last seven.
DOZIER BUILDING OFF SUCCESS
Second baseman Brian Dozier surprised plenty with his extreme power production last season. After putting up nearly 60 homers over the 2013-2015 seasons, he clobbered a career-high 42 while driving in 99 runs for the Twins in 2016. After hitting just .246 in the first half, he put up a .291 mark in the second half with an incredible 28 home runs in the span, doubling in the final three months what he did in the first half of the season.
He hit .289 last season against the Tribe in 18 games with four doubles, a triple, six homers, and 18 RBI. He has had plenty of success against Salazar in his career, hitting .462 with a pair of homers and seven RBI. He has been given headaches by Bauer, hitting .115 in his career off of him.
PLAYING THE SPLITS
Edwin Encarnacion has a .353 career average against Hughes with a homer and six RBI in 34 at bats. He has put up good numbers against Santana, hitting .280 in his career with three homers and seven RBI
Austin Jackson has hit .313 against Hughes with two homers and three RBI in his career.
Joe Mauer has a pair of homers in 52 career plate appearances against Kluber with four RBI total. He is a .357 hitter lifetime against Bauer with six RBI and he has a .438 average in 16 at bats against Tomlin with three runs knocked in.
Eddie Rosario is 8-for-18 (.444) with a homer and five RBI off of Tomlin. Miguel Sano has had nothing but trouble with Kluber, going 1-for-16 (.063) with a double, one RBI, and nine strikeouts.
LINDOR LOVING IT
With hits in all three games of the series with Detroit, Francisco Lindor pushed his hitting streak to ten straight games.
It may have been a briefly slow start to the season for Lindor, but he has gotten it going and has been the most consistent bat in the Cleveland lineup over the last two weeks. Through his first dozen games, he has put up a .362/.436/.702 slash. He has provided plenty of punch at the plate as well, hitting four doubles, four homers, and driving in eight runs.
Lindor has stepped into the box eleven times in his career against Gibson and reached first base safely in nine of them, hitting eight singles and drawing a walk while driving in two runs. He has hit .375 against Santana in his career.
Who is the early leader in the clubhouse in RBI in the American League?
It is none other than Jose Ramirez, who is tied with Texas’ Nomar Mazara with 13 through the first 12 games. The little utility man has three doubles, three homers, is hitting .349, and has drawn more walks (six) than he has strikeouts (five).
He is hitting .349 of the campaign with a modest four-game hitting streak and six-game on-base streak. He has a .692 average in 13 at bats against Santana with seven RBI. Seven of his nine hits off of him have been singles.
After the completion of their afternoon contest on Thursday, the Indians will take the short flight over from Minneapolis to Chicago in time for a three-game series with the White Sox beginning Friday night. The Twins will continue their seven-game homestand with more time in the AL Central, this time hosting the Detroit Tigers for a three-game weekend set.
Photo: Leon Halip/Getty Images