The last-place Minnesota Twins, who have haunted the first-place Cleveland Indians for most of the season, will try to win still another one on Wednesday in the third game of their four-game series.
Minnesota has won the first two games of the series while outscoring the Indians 22-11 and outhitting them 33-19.
“Our offense is clicking, and I don’t know that this is a fluke. This is what our offense is capable of doing,” Twins pitcher Kyle Gibson said.
The Indians’ inability to beat the Twins is perplexing. Cleveland leads Minnesota by 19 games in the American League Central standings. However, the Indians are just 4-7 against the Twins and 26-8 against the other three teams in the division.
“They’ve played us tough,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
One of the Indians’ biggest problems in this series has been their inability to control Twins rookie Max Kepler. In the first two games, Kepler is 5-for-8 with four home runs, eight RBIs, six runs scored and three walks.
“He’s locked in. It’s really fun to watch a young kid when he starts to figure things out,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said.
The Indians’ once comfortable lead in the AL Central is quickly shrinking. Second-place Detroit has won seven games in a row and the Indians have lost six of their last 10 and are 11-14 since July 1. Cleveland’s lead in the division, which was as high at 7 1/2 games on July 20, is down to three games.
Making matters worse for the Indians is they had to place All-Star pitcher Danny Salazar on the disabled list Tuesday with inflammation in his right elbow, which was revealed Tuesday when he underwent an MRI.
“Structurally, everything is fine, but there is some inflammation in there,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He’ll rest for the next five to seven days, then we’ll get him cranked up again. We’re confident he’ll be ready to pitch on the day he is due to come off the disabled list.”
In his last start, Monday against Minnesota, Salazar gave up six runs in two innings.
“I think he’s been reluctant to let it loose because he’s worried he’ll feel something in the elbow,” Francona said. “But Danny is learning you are not always going to feel 100 percent.”
To replace Salazar in the rotation, the Indians will recall right-hander Mike Clevinger from Triple-A Columbus. In 17 starts at Columbus, Clevinger is 11-1. He will start Thursday’s game against Minnesota.
The Indians on Tuesday also activated outfielder Brandon Guyer, whom they acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay on Monday. Guyer assumes the roster spot created when Salazar was placed on the disabled list.
In Wednesday’s pitching matchup, the Twins will start Tyler Duffey (5-8, 6.12 ERA) against Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer (7-4, 3.64). Duffey has faced Cleveland twice this season and is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA. During his career against the Indians, he is 2-0 with a 2.10 ERA.
Bauer will be making his 10th career appearance against the Twins and his third this season. He is 1-4 with a 5.01 ERA in his nine career starts against the Twins. In his two starts against Minnesota this year, he is 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA.