Sure, the Indians are only 5-7 so far and currently in last place in the AL Central, but everyone expects them to win the division. Heck, according to the PECOTA projections, they’re the only team in the division who’s supposed to end-up with even just a winning record. Think about it—the Indians came extremely close to winning the World Series last year (extra innings in Game 7!), and have returned this year with virtually the same team, just swapping out Mike Napoli for Edwin Encarnacion. Of course they would be expected to do well again in 2016.
Does that mean having to face the Indians four times this week spells only doom and gloom for the Twins?
There are reasons to be hopeful about this series. First of all, even though the Indians almost won it all in 2016, they actually had a pretty rough time against the Twins, who beat them in nearly half (nine out of nineteen) of their match-ups. That fact is especially remarkable when you momentarily forget to block out of your memory the fact the Twins only won 59 times total last year.
Some of this week’s pitching match-ups look good for the Twins too. Take the Indians starter Monday night, Danny Salazar. Remember that game last year when Max Kepler hit three home runs? That was against the Indians, and two of those home runs were off Salazar. Brian Dozier, in his 26 at-bat career against the guy, also had two home runs and has a batting average of .462.
Joe Mauer has traditionally done well against Tuesday night’s starter, Josh Tomlin. Wednesday’s starter, Trevor Bauer, has struggled so far this year, giving up no fewer than four runs in each of his first two outings.
The Twins will probably have a tough time on Thursday when they have to face Indians ace Corey Kluber. Luckily, however, he’s matching up against Ervin Santana, who has literally been one of the best pitchers in baseball so far this year.
If the Indians come in and sweep the Twins this week, the Twins will be 7-9 and very likely back in last place in the division. If the Twins can at least split the series, though, they’ll be 9-7—still above .500 and looking pretty good. Whether the Twins can do that depends largely on if the pitching can keep up their stellar performance, or if the more-challenging Indians line-up will bring them back to reality.
Game 1: Monday, 4/17, 7:10 pm CT — Kyle Gibson RHP vs. Danny Salazar RHP
Game 2: Tuesday, 4/18. 7:10 pm CT — Phil Hughes RHP vs. Josh Tomlin RHP
Game 3: Wednesday, 4/19. 7:10 pm CT — Adalberto Mejia LHP vs. Trevor Bauer RHP
Game 4: Tuesday, 4/20. 12:10 pm CT — Ervin Santana RHP vs. Corey Kluber RHP
- The Indians lineup has especially been struggling against lefties this year, which is great because, erm, the Twins are sending three righties to the mound in this series.
- In their last six games, the Indians went 10-for-62 (.161) with runners in scoring position.
- The ultra-annoying Francisco Lindor is 8-for-10 in his career against Kyle Gibson, who starts Monday night.
- Don’t expect to see Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis around—he’s on the DL.