Indians and Twins Reignite Rivalry Ahead of Potential Playoff Meeting

This week’s series between the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins from Progressive Field has a brand new meaning as the surprise Twins look to lock up the second American League Wild Card spot and a possible first round matchup with the Indians in the ALDS.

The Indians (98-58) will look to prevent the Twins (82-74) from celebrating on their home field, but it may all be just delaying the inevitable. Minnesota comes into play on Tuesday night with a five-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels for the final playoff spot still available on the junior circuit side of the Major League Baseball landscape. Minnesota is coming off of a sweep of the Detroit Tigers, dropping its magic number to clinch a playoff spot to two games.

Cleveland has been on a tear of epic proportions, running off the competition steadily for more than a month now. The Tribe took a rare loss over the weekend, when the Seattle Mariners hung on to their playoff lives (temporarily) by taking the first of three games from Cleveland, but the Indians got right back on track with a pair of wins to conclude their road schedule with a franchise record 53 wins away from home. It served as yet another record notched by a Cleveland club looking to join the 1954 and 1995 squads as the third 100-game winner in franchise history. The Indians will need to go 2-4 in their final six games to achieve the century mark plateau.

Tomlin - Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Tomlin – Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images


Tuesday, 9/26, 7:10 PM ET – RHP Bartolo Colon (6-14, 6.63 ERA) vs. RHP Josh Tomlin (9-9, 4.98)

Colon will make his return to Cleveland, where his big league baseball career started 21 years ago during the Indians’ run to the postseason that season. If this is the end of the road for the 44-year-old right-hander, it has been a rocky road to wrap up his time on the big league mound mound. In four starts this month, he has taken four straight losses while posting a 9.17 ERA. He lost his only start of the season against the Indians on August 15, lasting five innings while allowing three runs on seven hits with four walks and three strikeouts. The Tribe blasted three home runs off of him.

Tomlin looks to cement his spot in the Tribe’s starting rotation for the ALDS. One of his chief competitors, Mike Clevinger, has been moved into a relief role despite an 11-5 mark on the mound this season. Tomlin, with playoff experience and good results as one of Cleveland’s three primary starters in the postseason last year, will look to parlay that success into a spot on the staff, at least for one round. He has won five straight decisions and looks to become the fifth Indians starter to reach ten wins on the season. He is 1-2 on the year against Minnesota, losing each of his last two starts against them. One of those defeats was of little fault of his own, as he allowed just a run on six hits with seven strikeouts in eight innings of work on May 12.

Wednesday, 9/27, 7:10 PM ET – LHP Adalberto Mejia (4-6, 4.48) vs. RHP Danny Salazar (5-6, 4.48)

The left-hander Mejia looked a bit better in his second start off of the disabled list on Thursday, when he allowed just a run on four hits with a walk and five strikeouts in four and two-thirds innings in a no-decision against Detroit. He has not posted a win in the second half, with his victory drought dating back to July 3, when he won his third consecutive start at the time. He faced the Indians in back-to-back starts in June, giving up just two runs on seven hits in nine and two-thirds innings while splitting the decisions. He did walk eight in the process and gave up a pair of homers in his loss in the first of the two games.

Salazar will make his second straight start and takes the spot of Clevinger in the rotation. Salazar’s postseason role is a complete unknown at this point, if he has a place on the roster at all for the first round. He worked in relief in the World Series last season and a handful of times this year, but his campaign has been marred by injuries and occasional ineffectiveness. The mixed results make it hard to know for sure which Salazar will take the mound and even harder to etch his name onto the playoff roster, as mistakes are magnified in October. He last started on Thursday against the Angels, giving up a run on two hits with two walks and four strikeouts in just two and two-thirds innings.

Thursday, 9/28, 12:10 PM ET – RHP Ervin Santana (16-8, 3.36) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (17-6, 3.43)

Santana’s strong season has continued on into September, where he has posted a 2-1 mark in five starts with a 3.86 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. He will be starting a day earlier than normal so as to slot into a starting role in a potential AL Wild Card matchup against the Yankees, which could also mean good things for the Tribe if the Twins get past the Bombers. Santana has been tough on Cleveland this season, allowing just one run in 19 innings of work against the Indians with 16 strikeouts and eight walks while earning a pair of wins, so if they defeated New York, the Indians could avoid arguably the Twins’ best starter this season until later in the series.

Carrasco will make his final start of the regular season in a postseason tune up as he lines up for a start in either Game 2 or Game 3 of the ALDS, depending on if the Indians want to play to his 11-2 record on the road this season. He has also been impressive in September, with his work in the month overshadowed by just Corey Kluber efforts. In Carrasco’s five starts in the month, he has looked in playoff form, going 4-0 with a 1.83 ERA, a 1.02 WHIP, and one complete game to his credit. He has faced the Twins twice this season, going 2-0 while allowing two runs in eleven and one-third innings of work.


TV (all) – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; Fox Sports North
Radio (all) – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; Go 96.3, Treasure Island Baseball Network (Minneapolis)


Cody Anderson (SP) – out for season – right elbow surgery
Dylan Baker (P) – 60-day disabled list (9/1) – undisclosed
Michael Brantley (LF) – 10-day disabled list (8/9) – right ankle sprain
Boone Logan (RP) – 60-day disabled list (7/20) – left lat muscle
Bradley Zimmer (OF) – expected to miss rest of season (9/11) – surgery on broken fourth metacarpal in left hand

J.T. Chargois (P) – 60-day disabled list (9/5) – right elbow impingement
Phil Hughes (SP) – 60-day disabled list (7/18) – symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome
Max Kepler (OF) – day-to-day (9/23) – left hip
Trevor May (SP) – 60-day disabled list (3/22) – recovery from March 2017 Tommy John surgery
Ryan O’Rourke (RP) – 60-day disabled list (3/30) – recovery from May 2017 Tommy John surgery
Miguel Sano (3B) – 10-day disabled list (8/21) – left shin stress reaction
Hector Santiago (SP) – 60-day disabled list (7/3) – upper thoracic back pain


Team Record Win % GB Streak E#
 LA Dodgers  100-57  .637  –  W2
 Cleveland  98-58  .628  1.5  W2 5
 Houston  96-60  .615  3.5  W1 3
 Washington  95-61  .609  4.5  W3 2
 Boston  91-65  .583  8.5  L1 E


Escobar & Rosario - Dave Reginek/Getty Images
Escobar & Rosario – Dave Reginek/Getty Images


Joe Mauer has very quietly put up a solid year for the Twins. He has hit .308 over the course of the season with a .384 on-base percentage while leading the club with 35 doubles. If he can avoid a rough week to close out the season, he could remain over the .300 mark for the first time since 2013. His season hit total (158) is his highest since 2012 (174) and his doubles match his mark from 2013 (35). He has picked up his production in the second half and especially over the last two months, hitting .336 and .367 respectively in August and September.

Brian Dozier has had another second half surge for Minnesota, giving him the team lead in home runs with 32 and the RBI lead at 87. He was hitting .242 at the break with 13 homers and 41 RBI, but has kicked it up at the plate, batting .286 in the second half with 19 homers and 46 RBI. Barring his absence from some of the Twins’ final six games of the schedule, he should top 150 games played, 100 runs scored, 20-plus homers, and 70-plus RBI for the fourth straight seasons.

Eddie Rosario has played well this season, doubling his previous career high of 13 homers (set in his rookie season in 2015) with 26 blasts this year. He has hit .287 on the season while adding in 31 doubles, two triples, and 75 RBI. His 49 RBI in the second half are most on the team and his 18 doubles equal the total of Mauer for the team lead.

Jorge Polanco put up some big numbers for the Twins in August. In 27 games, he totaled 38 hits and 16 runs. Eighteen of his hits went for extra bases, including a team-leading ten doubles and two triples while adding in six homers and 23 RBI. His .373 average for the month was third-best among qualified hitters in the AL (Avisail Garcia, .423; Tim Beckham, .394). Polanco has stayed steady at the plate in September, slashing .282/.367/.447 with five doubles, three more homers, and 16 RBI while also drawing ten walks.


With the way September has gone for the Indians, it is difficult to isolate just a few player statistics to break down, so the first numbers will be a team effort. The pitching staff, during the club’s current 29-of-31 winning stretch, has posted a team ERA of 1.97.

Jose Ramirez has kept his name mentioned (by those who pay attention to the smaller market Indians) in consideration for the MVP award by ending the season on fire. In 17 September games, he is second on the team with 28 hits and second in runs scored with 16. He is tops on the club with eight doubles and nine homers in September while ranking third with his 19 RBI. His slash line for the month is an absurd .431/.467/1.000. Of course, his production has been strong nearly all season long – in 146 games, he has put up a .317/.370/.583 slash with a MLB-leading 51 doubles, a team-leading six triples, 29 homers, 81 RBI, and team highs in hits (179) and runs scored (101).

Jason Kipnis’ tryout in center field has continued and his bat has woken up at the plate in the process. In five games since returning from the disabled list, he is hitting .333 with five hits and three RBI. Two of those five hits have been doubles.

Austin Jackson’s strong comeback season has come at a perfect time as the Indians’ outfield has been decimated by injuries to Zimmer and Brantley that could keep them out of the postseason, while Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer have been sidelined with an uncertain status for October baseball. Jackson has continued his tear, hitting .328 in 16 September games with 20 hits (five doubles, one homer) and five RBI. He leads the club in second half hitting with a .329 average since the All-Star break.


The Indians will welcome in the Chicago White Sox for three games at Progressive Field beginning Friday night as the two clubs conclude the regular season schedule. The Twins will return home to Target Field to spend three more games with the Tigers to close out their season.

Photo: Dave Reginek/Getty Images

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