MINNEAPOLIS — Rain has been a big problem for the Minnesota Twins in their eighth year in the outdoor Target Field. Cleveland has been a problem for Minnesota, too, but the Indians have had their share of the weather-related headaches at Target Field.
The Wednesday game between the teams never began, and it was officially postponed 30 minutes after the scheduled start time. It was the fourth postponement of the season at Target Field this season and the second involving Minnesota and Cleveland. The two teams were rained out on April 19, as well.
The game will be made up Thursday as part of a split doubleheader. Thursday’s original day game will start at 12:10 p.m. CT, and the makeup will start at 6:10 p.m. CT.
The Indians won the series opener on Tuesday 8-1. Cleveland is 8-0 in Minnesota this season and has outscored the Twins 56-15 in Target Field.
“It doesn’t really make sense, but there’s a lot of things in our game that you spin your head around trying to figure out,” Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said of the Indians’ dominance in Target Field. “I’m well aware that they’ve come in here and dominated us in our own park. We’ve got a couple more chances to get in the win column against them here before we go there and play them there in September.”
The two teams had only one other common day which could have been used as a makeup, Sept. 25. Cleveland manager Terry Francona said pregame that he hoped for a doubleheader instead of returning to Minnesota for one solo game, but the schedule was in the hands of Major League Baseball.
Carlos Carrasco (11-5, 3.83 ERA) will start the first game of doubleheader for the Indians with Ryan Merritt (0-0, 3.60) recalled as the 26th man for the doubleheader to start the second game. Mike Clevinger, originally scheduled to start Thursday, will be skipped in the rotation and be available out of the bullpen, according to MLB.com.
Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson (6-9, 6.02) will matchup with Carrasco in the first game after the two were originally scheduled for Wednesday. Jose Berrios will have his scheduled start moved back, with Minnesota calling up right-hander Aaron Slegers for his major league debut in the nightcap.
Whoever is on the mound for Cleveland lately is getting the job done. After trailing much of the league for the first part of the year in ERA, the Indians now own the AL’s best starting pitching ERA at 3.98. They also lead the league in strikeouts from their starters, and the rotation has a league-high 51 wins.
“I don’t think you get too satisfied in the middle of August,” Francona said. “I think we’re trending in the right direction. But I think with those types of things, you just show up every day and keep plugging away or the trend can go the other way, until you’re done. But it does feel better. When you show up and you feel like you’re going to get a pretty well-pitched game, that helps everybody.”
Carrasco is 3-6 with a 4.43 ERA in his career against the Twins. He beat Minnesota on June 16 when he allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings.
Merritt has faced the Twins twice in his career, producing a 3.60 ERA. The young left-hander also made a spot start in the earlier doubleheader between the two teams because of the first postponement. Merritt gave up three runs (two earned) in four innings on June 17.
Gibson is 2-5 with a 5.75 ERA in 12 career starts against Cleveland. He is 0-2 with a 3.94 ERA in three starts against the Indians this season.
Gibson has yielded 20 earned runs in his past 27 1/3 innings. The team has tried to get Gibson to be more aggressive in the zone and early in the counts, trusting his ground-ball tendencies will be successful.
“We’ve seen him definitely improve down those lines,” Molitor said. “(Cleveland’s) lineup for anybody, the way they’re playing right now, is going to be challenging. But you don’t want to add to their cause, at least minimize times you’re going to give them counts where they can just swing from their heels or free baserunners with base on balls.
“If you don’t pitch from ahead, you’re going have a lot of trouble. The hard part about that is that they can ambush that first pitch, so you’ve got to make a quality pitch to start the sequence, and then hopefully be able to get weak contact from there.”
Slegers, 24, is enjoying a strong season in his first year at the Triple-A level. He is 13-4 with a 3.18 ERA in 21 starts for Rochester, with 97 strikeouts and 27 walks in 130 1/3 innings.
The Twins’ fifth-round draft pick in 2013 out of Indiana University, Slegers is 9-0 with a 2.10 ERA in his past 10 starts.
The Indians have won five games overall and look ready to defend their AL title. Francona was asked why his teams have a tendency to play better in the second half of the season.
“I think some of it goes to our pitchers’ work ethic,” Francona said. “Our pitchers don’t seem to tire as you get into August, September. I think that helps a ton. I’d like to think that our clubhouse, our chemistry, however you want to say it, we don’t bail on each other. We keep plugging away, and I think it’s a good characteristic. It’s helped us a lot.”
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