After failing to capitalize in their second-to-last homestand of the season, the Cleveland Indians will head back out on the road for the next nine games, looking to continue good results away from Progressive Field, beginning with a three-game weekend set with the second place Minnesota Twins.
The Indians (26-18) missed out on a big opportunity to pick up ground in the American League Central during the week as Kansas City beat them up three times in a four-game series, leaving the club with a disappointing 3-4 homestand against the Milwaukee Brewers and the Royals. The loss on Thursday dropped the Indians to third place in the division, a game and a half behind the first place Chicago White Sox.
The Twins (27-18) had their Wednesday game with the St. Louis Cardinals moved to Tuesday as part of a doubleheader, giving the club back-to-back days off in the middle of the week. They split that double dip after taking four of five from the Detroit Tigers over the weekend to pick up some ground on the Indians and hop over them by a half-game in the AL Central standings.
Bieber earned his seventh win of the season his last time out against Milwaukee, but he lasted only five innings to end his streak of eight straight quality starts to open the year. He allowed a run on five hits, walking one and striking out ten in his victory to give him 94 Ks in 57 2/3 innings this season. Bieber has limited the Twins to a .143 average on the year, striking out 23 and issuing three walks against 52 batters. Only one of the seven hits he has allowed to them in two starts fell in for extra bases.
Maeda will make start number nine with the Twins in the series opener. He has faced the Detroit Tigers in each of his last two outings, taking a loss and a no-decision along the way. He allowed three runs on August 30 in six innings and did the same on September 5 on just two hits while striking out 16 batters between the two starts. Maeda faced the Indians twice in August, earning a pair of wins while holding them to a run on six hits while walking two. He limited Indians hitters to a .154 average on the year while striking out 13 and walking just two of the 41 batters that he has faced.
Plesac will make his sixth start of the season on Saturday and his third since coming back from the team’s alternate training site. He is riding a three-game winning streak and five-game quality start streak to begin his year. His last time out, he gave up a hit per inning, but just one run in seven frames to defeat the Kansas City Royals. He held them to a run on four hits with six strikeouts in his first game back in the rotation on September 1. This will be Plesac’s first career start against Minnesota.
The 40-year-old southpaw and former Indians reliever Hill will make his sixth start of the season after missing time on the injured list. He has not won since returning, but he made his best start in that span against the Indians on August 25, when he held the Tribe to a run on four hits in five innings. The Indians were able to swipe a pair of bases off of him, but he picked off one and nearly had a second. He lasted just three and one-third innings on August 31 against the White Sox, but pitched better in his last start on September 6 against Detroit, giving up two runs on six hits in five innings with five strikeouts of the Tigers.
McKenzie will make his fifth start since being inserted into the Indians rotation in August. He made back-to-back starts against the Royals in his last two appearances. After earning his second win of the year on September 2 with six shutout innings of three-hit baseball in defeating KC, he allowed three hits but three runs in five innings on September 8 in a no-decision against them. This will be the first career start for McKenzie against the Twins. Three of his four starts this season have come against AL Central rivals.
The 6’7” Pineda will make his fourth career start against the Indians in the finale. Activated at the beginning of the month from the restricted list, Pineda made his first start back on September 1, allowing two runs on six hits in a quality six innings of work in a no-decision against the White Sox. He followed it up with seven innings in a win against Detroit, giving up two runs on three hits while striking out eight. Pineda is 1-0 against the Indians in his three starts with 21 strikeouts and four walks in 16 innings of work.
TRANSACTIONS and INJURY NOTES
Adam Cimber (RP) – optioned to team’s alternate training site (9/9)
Kyle Nelson (RP) – recalled from team’s alternate training site (9/9)
Jefry Rodriguez (P) – placed on 60-day injured list (9/9) – right shoulder strain
Luis Arraez (2B) – 10-day injured list (9/9) – left knee tendinitis
Alex Avila (C) – 10-day injured list (9/5) – low back tightness
Homer Bailey (SP) – 60-day injured list (7/29) – right biceps tendinitis
Mitch Garver (C) – 10-day injured list (8/20) – low-grade right intercostal strain
Max Kepler (RF) – 10-day injured list (9/4) – left adductor strain
Zack Littell (RP) – 10-day injured list (8/22) – right elbow inflammation
Jake Odorizzi (SP) – 10-day injured list (8/22) – chest contusion
Devin Smeltzer (P) – recalled from team’s alternate training site (9/11)
HEAD TO HEAD
The Twins and Indians have matched up in some tightly contested battles this year. All games have been decided by three runs or less.
The Indians have won each of the last two games to bring the season series to 3-4. They won two of three in the only series between the clubs at Progressive Field this year, with the Indians losing the opener 3-2 before winning 4-2 and 6-3 finals to claim the series.
Cleveland’s first trip to Minnesota did not go so well. Bieber won the opener of the ten-game set with the Twins in a 2-0 shutout, but the Indians lost each of the next three by 3-0, 3-1, and 3-2 tallies.
CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS
The Indians have put up just 16 runs in the first seven games against the Twins this season, with ten of those coming over the last two contests. Cleveland hitters have combined for a .206/.293/.298 slash in seven games with eight doubles, four homers, and 16 RBI. Base runners have swiped five bases in seven opportunities.
Franmil Reyes is the team’s leading hitter coming into the weekend with an average sitting at .306. He is second on the club with eight homers and 25 RBI, trailing the injured Jose Ramirez in both categories.
Tyler Naquin has fared well against Twins pitching, posting a .500 average at the plate (five hits in ten at bats) with three doubles and a pair of RBI. He has been one of the most important batters in the lineup when runners are in scoring position. He has hit .350 in 20 at bats in those situations, hitting four doubles, a triple, two homers, and driving in 15 runs, the third-highest total among all Indians hitters despite missing a chunk of the season on the injured list.
Francisco Lindor is hitting .321 on the year with a .367 on-base percentage against Minnesota. He has a double and leads the team with two homers and five RBI off of Twins pitching. Lindor is second on the club with a .274 average on the season and fourth in on-base percentage at .339. His seven homers are third on the club behind Ramirez and Reyes.
Carlos Santana has had uncharacteristically bad results against the Twins. Despite hitting .240, he has struck out in 12 of his 29 plate appearances against Minnesota and has drawn just four walks. He is second among Tribe regulars with a .358 OBP this season, a mark hurt by a .199 season batting average. He has been productive with runners on base, hitting .283 this season in those situations.
HOW THE TWINS WIN
The Twins have posted their worst offensive numbers of the season against the Indians. In seven games, Minnesota has a combined .226/.279/.396 slash at the plate with ten doubles, nine homers, and 18 RBI. The nine homers came off of three Indians starting pitchers – Carlos Carrasco, Aaron Civale, and Mike Clevinger. Carrasco and Civale are not scheduled to pitch in the series.
Nelson Cruz comes in hot as usual at the plate. He has hit in seven straight games, hitting a pair of solo homers in that span while batting .500 (12-for-24). Cruz has hit just .160 against Tribe pitching this year (4-for-25) with a homer, two RBI, and ten strikeouts in 27 plate appearances. In 42 games this season, he is atop the AL leaderboard with a .342 average with 15 homers and 31 RBI.
Miguel Sano’s bat woke up against the Tribe. He leads the team with three homers and four RBI against Cleveland pitching, hitting .263 with a .789 slugging mark.
Injuries have limited Byron Buxton against the Indians. In four games and three starts, he is just 1-for-9 with five strikeouts.
The Indians will not miss seeing Kepler in the lineup. He leads Twins hitters with a .348 average against the Indians this season with two doubles, two homers, and three RBI.
KEEP ON KEEPING ON
After an off-day Monday, the Indians will make stop two of three on their three-city road trip on Tuesday as they visit Wrigley Field for a two-game series with the first place Cubs. The team will wrap up its road schedule with a four-game set in Detroit, beginning Thursday night.
With the Twins’ quick three-game homestand in the books, they will hit the road for Chicago, playing the White Sox in four straight before matching up with the Cubs for three next weekend in the team’s final road trip of the 2020 season.
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