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Minnesota Twins (67-63) @ Cleveland Indians (72-57)
The Twins come off their four-game sweep of Baltimore heading into Cleveland to face the first-place Indians. The Indians just finished a 6-3 road trip, winning two of three from Tampa, Detroit, and Kansas City. Recently the Indians have struggled a bit at home, going 7-14 since the All-Star Break at Jacobs Field, losing six of their last eight. Still the Indians remain comfortably over .500 at home with a 38-26 mark. The Twins, with their six-game road winning streak, have approached the neighborhood of .500 again, with a 32-33 mark away from home. The real difference betwixt these two teams is in their success against their own division. The Indians boast a 31-20 mark, while the Twins are struggling with a 21-26 record against the AL Central. Those records pretty much represent the difference in the standings coming into this series.
The struggles of the Twins offense have been well documented and discussed. But, in reading some of the Indians blogs, I began to feel like they were stealing all of our complaints. Read this entry and you have to admit, if the word Cleveland Indians were replaced by Minnesota Twins and some names switched around, then it certainly wouldn’t have looked out of place on any Twins blog as recently as a couple of weeks ago. The Indians offense has also been struggling of late, and it has lead to a few members of the team taking some heat from the fans (Casey Blake has an OPS of .622 in August, his only sub-.700 month of this season). The offensive struggles have lead to some new blood in the lineup, and some of the youngsters have stepped up and contributed immediately. I understand the temptation to switch up the roster when it seems like your team is struggling to score runs, but Cleveland had better be careful or they might do something that they will regret (I know the entry is from almost a month ago, but I couldn’t resist). Manager Eric Wedge has let his frustration be known, threatening to shake up the lineup and bench those players that don’t produce. Some people think it’s a little late in the game for Wedge to start playing the fiery motivator role, and so are a little skeptical of these reports.
In the first game of the series Carlos Silva will pitch against Paul Byrd. The Twins will be facing Paul Byrd for the fourth time. Hopefully the fourth time is the charm, because Byrd is 3-0 against the Twins this year with a 3.52 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. Of course, the Indians have scored 29 runs in those three games, so it would help if the Twins limited the tribe’s offense a little more effectively. Silva is the exact opposite of Byrd, as he has gone 0-3 against Cleveland with an ERA of 5.00.
Boof Bonser will pitch against Jake Westbrook who has been hot of late. In his last five starts he has allowed only 6 earned runs in 36 innings for an ERA of 1.50. That is the lowest ERA of any starter in their 5 previous starts that the Twins have faced this season. This doesn’t bode well for the Twins offensively; five other times the opposing starting pitcher has had an ERA below 2.00 in their last five starts and the Twins have been shut out twice and only managed 4 runs in 35 innings while going 1-4.
Interesting (to me) Trivia note: Of the 17 opposing starters not to allow a run against the Twins, which one had the highest ERA over their previous five starts?
In the finale, Johan Santana will pitch against Carsten Charles Sabathia. Like Byrd, the Twins will be facing Sabathia for the fourth time. However, they have managed to take one of the previous three games against C. C. who has posted a 1.66 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP to go with his 2-1 record against the Twins. This will be the fifth time Santana has pitched against the Tribe, he has posted a 3.67 ERA in his four starts but doesn’t have any wins to show for it. Meanwhile Cleveland has handed Johan 3 of his 9 losses this season.
I don’t know what it is about the AL Central, but with Palehose 7’s documenting the White Sox search for pie, and the Indians apparent exuberance for pie, you have to wonder at what point the Twins will start having clubhouse bake-offs (my money is on Punto, the man apparently makes a mean slushee, and it’s only a small step from there).