Minnesota Twins vs Cleveland Indians Series Preview
Cleveland: The Indians have played 12 one-run games already this season, dropping seven. They played a stretch, starting with the Minnesota series, where they were involved in 6 straight one-run games, including getting swept by the Philadelphia Phillies in 3 one-run games in Citizen’s Bank Park. They bounced back nicely, winning 6 of 9 games since that series, including a sweep of the Detroit Tigers.
Minnesota has had recent success over the Indians, winning 9 out of the last 12 games played against one another. Twins’ starter in game 1, Ricky Nolasco, had his best game of the year against Cleveland last time they met, striking out nine. All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis and Juan Uribe hit home runs off Nolasco in that game. Later, in the 9th, Mike Napoli spoiled a win for Ricky and earning the third blown save for Kevin Jepsen (who got the win in the bottom of the 9th) by blasting a long homer to left to tie it temporarily.
Kipnis had a career-high five hits (all singles) in Wednesday’s extra-inning game, and Napoli collected three more, including his 7th home run. Twins will face Josh Tomlin in game 1. Tomlin has won his 5 past decisions in his past five games started, though his ERA has risen with each start to a season-high 3.72.
Offense: When these teams met at Target Field a couple weeks ago, they were within a few percentage points in teams’ OBP. Even with all the losing by the Twins since that series, they are still close. The Minnesota Twins are at .304 OBP, while the Indians are a few points higher (.308). The Twins even have the edge in extra base hits 89-88. The difference is that Cleveland has scored 21 more runs in two less games played.
The difference is batting with runners in scoring position (RISP). Cleveland is out-hitting the Twins .260 to .218 with RISP, and have hit 25 of their team total 88 XBH in such situations. By comparison, the Twins have collected just 13 XBH with RISP.
Player to Watch: Mike Napoli. After ending April with a stat line of 4 2B, 4 HR, 11 RBI, .205 AVG, .672 OPS in 78 at bats, Napoli has cranked it up for May. In May alone, in less than half the at bats (35), he’s hitting 4 2B, 3 HR, 11 RBI, .343 AVG, 1.125 OPS. After striking out 33 times in April, so far this month he’s racked up only 10 K’s.
Pitching: Cleveland, despite losing Carlos Carrasco to injury, are still 6th in the American League with a 3.69 ERA. Luckily, Twins will miss Danny Salazar this series, but will have to deal with 2014 AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. Against current Twins, only Trevor Plouffe has decent numbers against Kluber (.308 AVG, 3 HR, 11 RBI in 39 AB), otherwise the team hits .220 versus Kluber, striking out once every three at bats. Kluber has struggled, however, since his breakout 2014 season. Since then, he’s just 11-20.
Player to Watch: Trevor Bauer. Bauer joined the starting rotation just after the previous Minnesota series. He’s won both decisions and his last time out pitched 7 shutout innings (allowing 3 H, 3 BB, w/7 K) against the Astros.
Next: Minnesota Analysis