The Cleveland Indians will welcome the Minnesota Twins to town for the first time this season as the two teams play three games this weekend from Progressive Field.
The Indians (36-31) will finally get an extended homestand after spending much of the last two weeks playing on the road (minus a silly two-game home series with the Milwaukee Brewers earlier in the month). The Tribe is coming off of a 4-3 roadtrip through Detroit and Chicago, winning their series with the Tigers before splitting with the White Sox. After a record-setting May offensively, the bats have cooled down quite a bit in June, as the team has scored the fourth-fewest runs in the American League (43) in their 12 games this month.
The Twins (29-36) have been in a bit of a spiral since taking three of four from Cleveland to open the month of June. They hosted the White Sox in a four-game set and split the series before dropping two of three with the Los Angeles Angels. They kicked off their brief six-game road trip with three games in Detroit, winning the opener 6-4 before losing 5-2 and 3-1 decisions on Wednesday and Thursday. The Twins come into the series in third place in the AL Central, a game and a half behind Detroit for second place and six full games in back of Cleveland for the top spot. They will have to overcome a 12-19 road record on the year during their three games at Progressive Field.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
Gibson, 30, has spent his entire career with the Twins organization and has his fair share of encounters with the Indians over the years. It has not translated into wins, however, as he is just 2-6 against them in 14 career starts. His winless drought on the mound this season has extended all year long after winning his first start of the season. He has made 12 straight starts without posting a win, including his no-decision against the Indians on June 3 when he allowed two runs on two hits with two walks and seven strikeouts in five and two-thirds innings. In his one start since, he made a quality start but got little support from his teammates on June 9 against the Los Angeles Angels, taking the loss despite allowing two runs (on a pair of solo homers) in seven innings while throwing a season-high 118 pitches.
Kluber was in control once again in his last start on June 10, when he limited the Tigers to just two runs on five hits with no walks over eight innings of work. It earned him his tenth win of the season, keeping him atop the AL leaderboard, and gave him wins in three straight games and five straight decisions. He has faced the Twins once this season, earning a win in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on April 17 after allowing just one run on five hits in six and two-thirds innings. Kluber has made 14 straight quality starts to open his 2018 season and his Cy Young defense.
Romero, a 23-year-old rookie right-hander, jumped into the Twins rotation from the minors on May 2. He won his first two MLB starts before a five-game winless run, one that he ended in his last start on June 10 against the Angels. He worked five innings in that outing, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits with two walks, two hit batters, and five strikeouts. Saturday will mark his first career appearance against Cleveland.
The 31-year-old Carrasco has fixed whatever was ailing him on the mound in back-to-back difficult starts to end May and open June. He allowed just one run on eight hits in seven innings, striking out ten, in a 3-1 win over Milwaukee on June 6, then fired seven shutout innings of two-hit baseball with eleven strikeouts in his eighth win of the year, defeating Chicago by a 4-0 final on June 11. After giving up eleven runs in a nine and one-third inning span in those two tougher outings, he has given up just one run on ten hits with two walks and 21 strikeouts in his last 14 to trim more than half a run off of his season ERA (putting him back below four). It will be his third start of the season against the Twins and 20th career game against them.
The 28-year-old Odorizzi had been one of the Twins’ better starters this season, until the Tribe walloped him for eight runs (seven earned) on seven hits with two walks, two hit batters, two homers, and three strikeouts in just three and two-thirds innings on May 31 in a surprising no-decision as the Twins would get him off the hook by rallying back with eight runs. He has had a tough time with Cleveland in a pair of starts against them this season, allowing eleven earned runs on 13 hits in eight and two-thirds innings. He has not won since May 8 against St. Louis, with five no-decisions and one loss since.
Plutko, 26, will make career start number five for the Indians and just his second against a team not from Chicago. The White Sox got to him early on Tuesday, as he gave up five runs for the second straight start against Chicago and lasted just four and two-thirds innings in his shortest big league start to date. He was coming off of a nine-inning no-hitter for the Columbus Clippers in his previous outing, one during which he came just two outs away from a perfect game. Home runs and command issues have been the biggest problems for Plutko, who has given up eight free passes and seven blasts in just 23 innings with the Tribe this season.
TV: Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio (all); Fox Sports North (all); MLB Network (out-of-market, 6/16)
Radio (all): Cleveland Indians Radio Network (CLE); WCCO 830, Treasure Island Baseball Network (MIN)
TRANSACTIONS and INJURY NOTES
Yonder Alonso (1B) – placed on Family Medical Emergency List (6/15)
Cody Anderson (P) – 60-day disabled list (2/25) – recovery from April 2017 UCL surgery
Melky Cabrera (OF) – designated for assignment (6/14)
Nick Goody (RP) – transferred to 60-day disabled list (5/31) – right elbow inflammation (since 5/3)
Brandon Guyer (OF) – activated from 10-day disabled list (6/14)
Francisco Mejia (C/OF) – optioned to Triple-A Columbus (6/12)
Ryan Merritt (P) – 60-day disabled list (3/26) – left knee sprain; resumed rehab assignment
Andrew Miller (RP) – 10-day disabled list (5/26) – right knee inflammation
Tyler Naquin (OF) – activated from 10-day disabled list (6/15)
Adam Plutko (SP) – recalled from Triple-A Columbus (6/12)
Danny Salazar (P) – 60-day disabled list (3/26) – right shoulder rotator cuff tendonitis; shut down
Matt Belisle (RP) – signed to a Major League contract (6/12)
Byron Buxton (OF) – 10-day disabled list (5/30) – left great toe fracture
Jason Castro (C) – 60-day disabled list (5/5) – recovery from May 2018 right meniscus surgery
Jake Cave (OF) – optioned to Triple-A Rochester (6/14)
Joe Mauer (1B) – activated from 10-day disabled list (6/15)
Taylor Motter (IF) – recalled from Triple-A Rochester (6/15)
Gregorio Petit (SS) – designated for assignment (6/12); outrighted to Triple-A Rochester (6/14)
Michael Pineda (SP) – 60-day disabled list (2/17) – recovery from July 2017 Tommy John surgery
Jorge Polanco (UTL) – restricted list (3/18)
Miguel Sano (3B) – optioned to Triple-A Rochester (6/14)
Ervin Santana (SP) – 60-day disabled list (3/29) – right third finger surgery
TWINS STATS AND NOTES
Eduardo Escobar has been on a tear after a rough month of May, when he slashed .241/.305/.425 with 26 strikeouts in 28 games. In 13 games in June, he has hit at a .380 clip with a .404 on-base percentage and an .840 slugging with seven doubles, two triples, four homers, and 16 RBI. He was named the American League’s Player of the Week on Monday. He is the team leader in doubles on the season with 26 and is second in homers (12) and RBI (42).
The Twins made a surprise move on Thursday, optioning Sano to their Class-A affiliate in Fort Myers, Florida. He missed more than three weeks in May while battling a hamstring issue, but has struggled at the plate all season long, hitting just .203 with a .270 on-base percentage and a .405 slugging mark with nine doubles, seven homers, and 27 RBI. In 148 at bats this season, he has struck out 66 times.
Eddie Rosario has proven to be a significant threat in the Twins lineup, and he always seems to amp it up a notch when taking on the Tribe. In six games this season, he is hitting .385 against them with four homers and eight RBI. During his four-year career, he has put up a .342/.373/.604 slash with eight doubles, three triples, 13 homers, and 31 RBI (the hits and RBI are the most he has contributed against any one team that he has faced). In the last month, he has hit .345. He is hitting .310 this season in 64 games with 18 doubles, 14 homers, and 43 RBI while leading the club in the last two stats.
TRIBE BY THE NUMBERS
Kluber has done some incredible things during his Tribe career and he is in the midst of another impressive feat. Since May 8, the right-hander has faced 168 batters over a span of 43 1/3 innings. He has not walked a single one of them.
Naquin returns to the roster and the lineup on Friday and will look to pick up where he left off. He had extended his hitting streak to eight straight games with a plate appearance before he was hurt on May 11 against the Kansas City Royals. In 30 games this season, Naquin is hitting .333 with a .367 on-base percentage and .453 slugging mark with three doubles, two homers, and eleven RBI.
Chisenhall has returned to the lineup and put up good numbers through his first eight games back, hitting .357 with a pair of doubles and three RBI. In 15 games this season in limited action around injuries, he has hit .311 with a .380 OBP.
Michael Brantley is hitting .314 over the last 30 days in 25 games of action with three doubles, six homers, and 13 RBI. On the year, he has put himself in contention for an All-Star trip with a .322 batting average with 13 doubles, eleven homers, and 40 RBI.
Jose Ramirez is the team leader in homers with 20 and is tops with 46 RBI. He has put up a healthy .292/.384/.611 slash at the plate in his 66 games this season.
ENJOYING THE COMFORTS OF HOME
The Indians will continue their nine-game homestand with a three-game series with the Chicago White Sox beginning Monday night. They will take Thursday off before welcoming in the Miguel Cabrera-less Detroit Tigers next weekend.
The Twins will take Monday off before hosting the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers for three games apiece at Target Field.
Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images