The Cleveland Indians may have broken the spirit of the Minnesota Twins last weekend, when the Tribe swept the young club and knocked them out of first place. The Twins will look to return the favor and gain some ground back in the American League Central Division beginning Friday night, when Minnesota and Cleveland begin their three-game series from Progressive Field.
The Indians (39-32) have gotten hot and stayed hot, beginning with their four-game sweep of the Twins (36-34) during the successful start to their eight-game road trip. They won seven games on the road to pull two and a half games in front of the Twins in the division. Including their victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the final game of their homestand two Thursdays ago, the Indians have outscored their opponents, 68-23, in their last nine games. The hot stretch includes a season-high tying six game winning streak.
The Twins are 10-11 in June, but have been outscored by the opposition by 26 runs in the month. The run differential has been a problem for the Twins, as they were one game over .500 in April with four more runs scored than their opponents and were two games over in May, but were outscored by 27 runs. They have been far better on the road (20-9) than at home (16-25) this season, which could help them some this weekend. They have dropped six of their last nine after tagging the Seattle Mariners for 20 runs in a 20-7 win on June 13.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
Friday, 6/23, 7:10 PM ET – LHP Adalberto Mejia (1-3, 5.53 ERA) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (6-5, 5.54)
Mejia celebrated his 24th birthday on Tuesday. In his last start, he faced the Tribe for the first time in his career and was hit with his second straight loss after allowing two runs on five hits with three walks and three strikeouts before rains came and ended his outing early after four and two-thirds innings. He had allowed nine runs on nine hits in his previous start against Seattle. This will be the third different time this season that Mejia has pitched against an opponent in consecutive starts (Chicago White Sox – April 8 and 14; Seattle – June 7 and 12).
Bauer had not fared all that well against the Twins until this season, when he has pitched well against the club in three starts. He has earned wins in all three of his outings against them this season, posting a 3.26 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP in 19 1/3 innings. He was previously 1-5 in his first eleven starts against Minnesota in his career. In his last start, conveniently against the Twins, he allowed just two runs on four hits with two walks and eight strikeouts in seven-plus innings.
Saturday, 6/24, 4:10 PM ET – RHP Kyle Gibson (4-5, 6.56) vs. RHP Corey Kluber (6-2, 3.58)
Gibson has historically had a tough time when facing the Indians. He has allowed a .319 average in his previous eleven starts against them. The right-hander has faced the Tribe twice this season and taken the loss in both starts, allowing six runs on 17 hits (including three home runs) and five walks over eleven and one-third innings of work. Indians hitters are batting .347 against him this season with a .418 on-base percentage. His last start this season came against Cleveland and was a quality one in defeat, ending a four-game winning streak on the mound.
Kluber has been a dominant force on the mound since returning from the disabled list earlier in the month. He has made four straight quality starts with 39 strikeouts and just four walks in 28 innings of work. He has posted a 3-0 record in his four June outings with a 1.61 ERA and a 0.71 WHIP. It will surprisingly be Kluber’s first start against the Twins this season. He has earned two wins against Minnesota in each of the last four years and is 8-5 in his career overall against the Twins with a 3.51 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP.
Sunday, 6/25, 1:10 PM ET – RHP Ervin Santana (9-4, 2.97) vs. RHP Josh Tomlin (4-8, 6.07)
Santana is struggling with an inflated home run rate in June so far, allowing seven in his four starts in the month so far. Two came in his last outing against the White Sox, when he allowed a season-high ten hits. Three times in the month, Santana has allowed five runs or more in a start, with the lone exception being a complete-game four-hit shutout of the San Francisco Giants on June 9. It will be his third start against the Indians this season and his first since throwing seven two-hit scoreless innings against them on May 12. He has allowed just one run on six hits with eight walks in 13 innings against Cleveland this season, but is 6-11 in his career with a 4.00 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP against the Tribe.
Progressive Field could serve as a launching pad on Sunday, as Tomlin takes the mound for Cleveland. He allowed three long balls to the Baltimore Orioles in his last start on Tuesday as part of five runs surrendered on eight hits in just four and two-thirds innings of work in a no-decision. He is 5-5 against the Twins in his career, but has a 5.13 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP in those 16 appearances. It will be his third start of the year against Minnesota, after earning a win and a loss with a 2.57 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP in those previous outings.
TV (all games) – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; Fox Sports North
Radio (all games) – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; TIBN, Go 96.3 (Minnesota)
Cody Allen (CL) – activated from paternity list (6/23)
Abraham Almonte (OF) – 10-day disabled list (5/16) – right biceps strain; on rehab assignment
Cody Anderson (SP) – 60-day disabled list (4/2) – right elbow surgery
Michael Brantley (LF) – 10-day disabled list (6/16) – ankle sprain
Mike Clevinger (SP) – recalled from Triple-A Columbus (6/22)
Brandon Guyer (OF) – 10-day disabled list (5/14) – left wrist sprain; beginning rehab assignment
Adam Plutko (P) – optioned to Triple-A Columbus (6/23)
Danny Salazar (P) – 10-day disabled list (6/4) – right shoulder soreness
Ehire Adrianza (SS) – 10-day disabled list (6/23) – abdominal issues
Dillon Gee (P) – signed to a minor league contract (6/22); contract selected from Triple-A Rochester (6/23)
Justin Haley (P) – 10-day disabled list (5/29) – right shoulder soreness
Trevor Hildenberger (P) – contract selected from Triple-A Rochester (6/23)
Phil Hughes (SP) – 10-day disabled list (5/22) – right biceps inflammation
Trevor May (P) – 60-day disabled list (3/22) – recovery from March 2017 Tommy John surgery
Mason Melotakis (P) – designated for assignment (6/23)
Ryan O’Rourke (RP) – 60-day disabled list (3/30) – recovery from May 2017 Tommy John surgery
Glen Perkins (RP) – 60-day disabled list (4/2) – left posterior shoulder strain
Hector Santiago (SP) – 10-day disabled list (6/7) – left shoulder soreness
Nik Turley (SP) – optioned to Triple-A Rochester (6/23)
Adam Wilk (P) – released (6/22)
Alex Wimmers (P) – designated for assignment (6/23)
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
Bauer will certainly be leery of several bats in the Twins lineup who have performed well against him in his career.
Joe Mauer owns a .324 average against Bauer in 39 total plate appearances with seven doubles, a homer, and six RBI. Eddie Rosario is 10-for-25 (.400) with a double, a homer, and six RBI, although he has struck out six times in those 25 trips. Kennys Vargas has eight hits in 18 at bats (.444 average) with three doubles and a homer to go with six RBI. In his last plate appearance against Bauer last Sunday, he was hit by a pitch.
Bauer has had some success against some of the Twins. Jason Castro has just a walk in eight plate appearances. Robbie Grossman has a double and three walks in nine trips. Byron Buxton has a single and a walk with three strikeouts in nine plate appearances. Eduardo Escobar has two doubles and two walks with five strikeouts in 15 plate appearances. Miguel Sano has a single, a double, three walks, and 11 strikeouts in 26 trips to the batter’s box. Brian Dozier has hit .125 (4-for-32) with a double and two RBI.
Kluber has contained current Twins players in his career, holding the club to a .198 average in their combined 203 trips to the plate against him. Mauer has been the best of the bunch, hitting .298 off of him with 14 career hits, including four doubles, a triple, two homers, and four RBI. Dozier also has two homers and four RBI off of Kluber, but has been nowhere near as effective against him as Mauer. He has hit .150 with just six hits in 47 plate appearances, 12 of which have ended in strikeouts. Sano is just 1-for-16 lifetime against Kluber with a double and nine strikeouts.
Vargas and Max Kepler have each homered against him.
Mauer owns a .379 average against Tomlin in his career. In 31 plate appearances, he has eleven hits, but just one for extra bases (a double). Sano is 5-for-15 with a double and two homers off of Tomlin. Rosario is 4-for-13 (.308) with a solo homer and Dozier is 8-for-32 (.250) with a double and a solo homer of his own.
Vargas has had little luck against Tomlin, hitting a pair of doubles and striking out four times in seven plate appearances. Buxton is 0-for-5 with a strikeout.
INDIANS IN DETAIL
Jose Ramirez brings a ten-game hitting streak into the contests with the Twins this weekend. He has been on fire at the plate in that stretch, hitting .522 with a .560 on-base percentage and a 1.022 slugging mark. In 50 trips to the plate, he has registered 24 hits – including ten doubles, two triples, and three homers. Those two triples have now made him the AL’s leader with four.
He was 2-for-3 against Mejia with a single, a double, and a strikeout last weekend. He has also been successful against the other two Twins starters in his series, posting a 6-for-17 (.353) mark at the plate with two doubles against Gibson and a 9-for-19 (.474) average with a double, a triple, and seven RBI against Santana.
Lonnie Chisenhall and Austin Jackson each homered off of Mejia on Saturday.
Gibson may be a welcomed sight for several Indians on Saturday afternoon. The eleven players on the roster to face him previously have combined for a .363/.435/.594 slash.
Jason Kipnis is 9-for-18 against him in his career with two doubles and a solo homer. Yan Gomes is also 9-for-18 off of him with two doubles, two homers, and four RBI. Edwin Encarnacion is 5-for-14 (.357) against him with a double, three homers, and eight RBI. Carlos Santana has hit just .185 off of Gibson, but three of his five hits have left the yard while driving in seven runs. Francisco Lindor is a .563 hitter (9-for-16) off of Gibson with a double and two RBI.
Santana has been effective at limiting the Indians ability to get on base some. Current Indians have combined to hit .209 against him during his 13-year career.
After Ramirez’s .474 mark, the next best has been Encarnacion, hitting .286 with a .459 on-base percentage with a double and three homers accounting for his eight hits. He, like Ramirez, has driven in seven. Santana has two doubles, a homer, and two RBI off of the Twins right-hander, while Gomes has a solo homer to his credit.
The Twins will head to Boston for a tough four-game series with the Red Sox before continuing their road trip next weekend in Kansas City.
The Indians will continue their seven-game homestand as the Texas Rangers come to town, hungry for a victory against Cleveland after the Tribe spoiled their season-opening series in Arlington by sweeping the club in April.
Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images