MINNEAPOLIS — The Cleveland Indians came to Minnesota this weekend with their sights set on taking over the American League Central lead.
After three games, Cleveland is feeling good with a lead and will look for more cushion on Sunday. The Twins are preaching perspective and hoping to even things up before the Indians leave town.
Cleveland swept Saturday’s doubleheader and has won the first three games of the four-game weekend series. The Indians are 7-2 against Minnesota this season and seized a one-game lead in the division heading into Sunday. It’s the first time the Twins haven’t at least had a share of the Central lead since May 10.
“Just continue to push,” Cleveland outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall said after hitting two homers in Saturday’s second game. “We knew what we needed to do when we came in here. They were in first place and we had to beat them. They’re the team to beat right now. So I think we’ve done OK, so far, just continue that tomorrow.”
In two days, the Indians have become the team to beat. They’ve outscored Minnesota 23-6 in the three games.
“Very frustrating,” Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said. “You have a lot of momentum coming in here, a lot of excitement for the weekend. We’ve still got a game tomorrow, but I don’t know. It didn’t bode so well for us today, on all accounts. Pitching, defense, swinging the bats.”
The biggest difference between the two teams in the series has been pitching. Cleveland had standout Carlos Carrasco start the first game and pieced together Saturday’s doubleheader with Mike Clevinger’s return to the rotation, Ryan Merritt making his season debut and the team’s typically stout bullpen doing its job.
The Twins’ starters for the first three games entered the weekend with a combined 12 total major league starts. Left-hander Adam Wilk took the loss in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader before being designated for assignment. Adalberto Mejia took his usual turn in the rotation but had another tough outing before a one-hour, 15-minute delay cut his start short.
The results have left Minnesota manager Paul Molitor preaching perspective heading into Sunday.
“It’s not even summer yet,” Molitor said. “I think it comes next Wednesday or something, you know? So you’ve got to keep your perspective. A day like today, it hurts a little bit because you’re out here and you’re working and you come out on the short end for two games, but I think we’ll respond.”
Molitor will turn to veteran right-hander Kyle Gibson (4-4, 6.79 ERA) for Sunday’s start. Gibson earned a win in his last start despite allowing six runs in six innings to the Seattle Mariners. Gibson is 2-4 with a 6.26 ERA in 10 career starts against the Indians.
Cleveland beat Gibson on April 17, scoring three runs in Gibson’s 5 1/3 innings.
“These guys are swinging well,” Molitor said of the Indians. “They’re probably playing with house money tomorrow a little bit, so I’m sure they’ll be loose.”
Right-hander Trevor Bauer (5-5, 5.85) starts for Cleveland on Sunday. Bauer is 3-5 with a 5.05 ERA in his career against Minnesota. Bauer has beaten the Twins twice this season, surrendering five runs in 12 1/3 innings.
Minnesota will have to solve Bauer and also find a way to limit Jose Ramirez. Ramirez homered from both sides of the plate in Cleveland’s win in Saturday’s first game and he has multiple hits in each of the three games.
Ramirez is 8-for-14 with two home runs, four doubles, four RBIs and four runs scored in the series. He has multiple hits in each of his last five games.
“He’s kind of playing with a vengeance, you can tell,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He’s gotten about as hot as you can get.”
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