The Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians meet for a crucial four-game series at Target Field starting tonight. With Cleveland making a big splash at the trade deadline, and also since they’re right behind Minnesota in the AL Central, we thought it’d be a good idea to check in with our SB Nation sister site for Cleveland, Let’s Go Tribe.
We reached out to Matt Lyons, the managing editor, with some questions about Cleveland’s actions at the trade deadline and also about the upcoming series, and was kind enough to spend some time answering them.
1. First thing’s first: Cleveland was part of a big trade near the deadline, shipping Trevor Bauer to Cincinnati for Yasiel Puig as part of the trade. How did fans react to it and do they believe that it made Cleveland better overall?
I can’t speak for everyone, but I was over the moon with the trade. Bauer has been inconsistent outside of a great 2018 and it’s hard to not be excited about Yasiel Puig, Franmil Reyes, and Logan Allen all coming over for a year-plus of his services. Reyes has struggled with the transition so far, but Puig has done nothing but crush the ball in his first few games in Cleveland. I feel pretty confident saying that the majority of Indians fans were floored with the deal.
2. Cleveland also added Franmil Reyes in addition to Puig during that trade. How does the outfield look after the trade?
Reyes is almost surely a DH and maybe a 1B going forward. It’s part of the reason the Padres were willing to give him and his tremendous power up for Taylor Trammell -- he’s just not a great defender in the outfield. Outside of that, though, the combination of Puig, Oscar Mercado, and Tyler Naquin is a pretty great defensive outfield. Everyone knows about Puig’s arm, but not many know that Tyler Naquin has a cannon too, and now he’s in left field. And then there’s Mercado with his speed covering the entire field. There won’t be many extra bases taken against the Tribe going forward; it’s a huge leap from where the Indians started this season.
3. Cleveland has made up ground in the American League Central. What has helped them win and cut down the Twins’ lead?
Their run of bad luck finally started slowing down. Considering all the injuries they had, plus José Ramírez sleepwalking for three months, I’m a little surprised they’ve cut the game to as close as they have. The offense has finally started to click, and a run of excellent rookie pitchers have held down the fort well.
4. If there is one thing that will hold Cleveland back from winning a playoff spot, what is that thing?
Corey Kluber being completely ineffective in his return and the rookie pitchers (Zach Plesac & Aaron Civale) turning into pumpkins down the stretch. The Indians bet a lot on those things not coming true by dealing away Bauer -- arguably their ace with Kluber and Carlos Carrasco out -- and they need some other pitchers to step up. I have a feeling it’s going to simply come down to the head-to-head series against the Twins in the end, because the two teams are so close in the standings. I guess you could say José Ramírez going back into his shell and slumping again, but it really feels like he’s back for good now. The offense looks borderline stacked now and is not much of a concern.
5. Being Bauer is with the Reds now and Danny Salazar is back on the IL, it looks like the Twins will face a young rotation this series. What can we expect from them?
You’ll likely be facing Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber, and Adam Plutko, which is going to a mixed bag. Bieber and Clevinger are fantastic and the former is a darkhorse Cy Young candidate; I hope Adam Plutko can hold the Twins to *only* 7 home runs. The Indians sort of lucked into a situation where they could easily bump Clevinger back a day to open the series (rain forced a doubleheader on Wednesday), so now their acting ace will get to play in one of the most important series of the season. The first thing I do every morning and the last thing I do every night is thank the Angels for trading Clevinger for a half season of Vinnie Pestano all those years ago. Clevinger has turned into a stud for the Indians, and he’s a lot of fun to watch. Since coming back from injury, he’s touched the high ‘90s with his fastball and still has a devastating slider and curveball.
6. Is there anyone with the team that will have a big impact on this series?
I mean, Bieber for sure. Did I mention how good he is? He’s so good. It would also be a good time for Framil Reyes to pick it up for the Indians. The city wants to love him so bad, and he wants them to love him -- there’s no better way to do that than help the Indians shrink the lead against Minnesota.
7. Any other questions that should have been asked?
None that I can think other than, “Why is Francisco Lindor the best most funnest awesomest baseball player ever?” The answer would be too long for human hands to type.
Thank you again to Matt for taking the time to answer some questions for us ahead of this series!
Cleveland Indians at Minnesota Twins
Thursday, 7:10p Central: RHP MIke Clevinger (6-2, 3.07 ERA) v RHP Kyle Gibson (11-4, 4.02)
Friday, 7:10p Central: RHP Shane Bieber (11-4, 3.31) v LHP Devin Smeltzer (1-1, 2.28)
Saturday, 6:10p Central: RHP Adam Plutko (4-2, 4.55) v RHP Jake Odorizzi (12-5, 3.61)
Sunday, 1:10p Central: RHP Aaron Civale (1-1, 0.75) v RHP Jose Berrios (10-6, 3.24)
How many games do you think the Twins will win against Cleveland this series?
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