Series Preview: Minnesota Twins at Cleveland Indians, June 1-3

Last year when the calendar flipped to June, the Twins became a different team. The same squad that went 8-19 in May cruised to a 17-9 June. Can they take the momentum they gained by sweeping the A’s to close out may and turn it into another June surge? We may find out tonight, as the Twins (18-32) begin a three game series at the home of the division rival Cleveland Indians (27-23).

Brian Dozier and the Twins will try to upend Asdrubal Cabrera and the Indians this weekend. Photo by Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

The Matchups:

Friday, June 1, 6:05 p.m. CDT: RHP Carl Pavano vs. RHP Derek Lowe

Saturday, June 2, 6:15 p.m. CDT: RHP P.J. Walters vs. RHP Josh Tomlin

Sunday, June 3, 12:05 p.m. CDT: LHP Scott Diamond vs. RHP Justin Masterson

The Twins have history with Lowe already this season. He exposed the weaknesses in Minnesota’s lineup at Target Field in a 5-0 Indians’ win back on May 15th. The night before, Pavano had earned a no decision in a Twins loss. He went six innings and allowed four runs.

Diamond has started two games in his career against the Indians, both last year, and both were Twins losses. His combined stat line is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in 11.2 innings, 2 strikeouts, and 13 hits allowed. Walters has never faced the Indians. Tomlin is 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts against the Twins. Interestingly, the only team against whom he has a worse career ERA is the Tigers (6.11). The Twins’ best hitter against Masterson might be Denard Span, who has a .984 OPS and a homer in 23 plate appearances. Justin Morneau is close behind, with a .980 OPS and a homer in 19 PAs.

The Head to Head:

The Indians own a 2-0 advantage so far this year, which brings the all time total to 943 wins for the Twins and 1,082 for the Tribe (dating back to 1901). The Twins’ franchise is particularly inept on the road in Cleveland, where they are 417-596 all time.

The Weather:

Bad news: we’re in for a rainy weekend. There’s at least a 40% chance of showers each day of the series, and Friday in particular is likely to be rainy and thundery. Temperatures will hover around 70 in the daytime each day, but it will be cool and windy in the city by Lake Erie.

The Story:

When these two teams last met, the Indians were tops in the AL Central, and the victories over the Twins helped to cement their lead. But since then, the Tribe has hit a rough patch. They were swept by the new division leader, Chicago, last weekend. Then they lost two of three to the Royals, meaning they’ve dropped five of their last six games. Coincidentally, the Athletics had lost five in a row before they met the Twins, and Minnesota managed to kick them while they were down.

The Twins actually have a winning record (8-6) since the Indians left town. Aside from a three game sweep at the hands of Detroit last week, Minnesota is holding its own in AL Central competition. Diamond and Walters are temporarily carrying the pitching staff, though it remains to be seen how long that can last. On offense, Morneau and Josh Willingham seem to be engaging in a little home run derby. After Morneau briefly took the team lead with nine homers, Willingham has socked two in back-to-back games. He now leads the team with 10. Sure, it’s not quite Mantle vs. Maris or McGwire vs. Sosa, but the power surge may provide for some midseason entertainment.

For the Indians, this series is a chance to beat up on a cellar-dweller and claw their way back into first place. For the Twins, it’s another opportunity to try to prove they aren’t the worst team in the AL.

The Bottom Line:

Cleveland will probably win two of three, but look for this to be a closely contested serie

Topics: Carl Pavano, Cleveland Indians, Denard Span, Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins, P.J. Walters, Scott Diamond

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