MINNEAPOLIS — Entering this week’s series in Minnesota, Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona said his team hadn’t matched hitting and pitching.
The Twins, meanwhile, hadn’t dealt with much adversity in a surprise start to their season.
As the teams meet Wednesday for the third game of the four-game series, they are looking more like the clubs that were on the opposite ends of the spectrum last season.
Cleveland, off its trip to the World Series, has won the first two games of the series by a 14-5 margin, receiving big offensive performances to complement steady pitching.
Minnesota, which lost 103 games last season, has seen its pitching slip in the two games and the defense make the type of mistakes it had avoided all season.
“I’m disappointed a little bit, to be honest with you,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “You come home and are playing teams in your division. Had opportunities to win that Chicago series, but that’s history now. Cleveland’s come out, they won a good ballgame (Monday) night that was well-played and then (Tuesday) they just kind of overmatched us.”
The Indians got a steady performance from starting pitcher Josh Tomlin on Tuesday and then kept adding on runs against Minnesota starter Phil Hughes and three relievers in an 11-4 victory.
Cleveland will send Trevor Bauer (0-2, 8.44 ERA) to the mound on Wednesday against Twins left-handed rookie Adalberto Mejia (0-1, 4.05).
“We play one game and then move on,” Francona said. “Your goal when you show up is to be at least one run better, and then you move on. The next day’s pitcher has a lot to say about your momentum and things like that. So, we don’t get too carried away when we win a couple, just like I hope we don’t get too down when we lose a couple.”
The Indians had lost seven of nine games entering the series, but designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion helped them change that trend.
In his first season with the Indians, Encarnacion had struggled, but he is 2-for-8 in the series, and he hit his second homer of the year on Tuesday. He has four RBIs in the two games after entering the series with one all season, coming on an Opening Day home run.
“Hopefully, sometimes when guys take one swing, things click,” Francona said. “Sometimes they work their way into it. But he’s been swinging better the last three games, a little more aggressive. When he gets hot, like I said before the game, I think our ballclub will have another gear and that will be really good for us.”
Encarnacion said he never worried about the slow start or put more pressure on himself.
“I think that I’m swinging at more strikes and looking for balls that are in the strike zone to hit,” Encarnacion said. “That’s how I know that I’m fixing it, when I get more walks because I’m taking less swings at bad pitches.”
Mejia will try to counter the Indians’ offense. After lasting just 1 2/3 innings in his first start this season — the first start of his major league career — Mejia gave up just one run in five innings against the Chicago White Sox in his last outing on Friday.
He said he talked to veteran teammates Ervin Santana and Hector Santiago about how to approach the game.
“They told me to focus much on the game, more strikes,” Mejia said. “My focus for (Wednesday) is throw strikes, more strikes.”
Meanwhile, Molitor wants to see how his team handles its first hiccup of the season.
“My gut would say we’re probably better,” Molitor said. “We have some people that know how to handle that fairly well. We’ve been through it enough that we should have a little experience in that regard. We still have some chances here.
“We’ve got Cleveland a couple more and Detroit has been tough on us. We’re going to see some good pitching. The next five days are lined up pretty good, so it will be a good challenge for us. We’ll get a little feel on the bounce-back of this club in the short term.”
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