We have finally traversed the Red Wastes of the baseball-less All-Star break. It already feels like ages since we last saw the Cleveland Indians play, but they will finally be doing so today against a division rival.
Despite all the Indians' successes this season, they cannot seem to do well against the Minnesota Twins. The last time these two teams faced each other, the Twins took two games of the series, outscoring the Indians 17-11 in all three games. It was difficult to blame the Indians for losing, though, considering they were going up against power arms such as Tyler Duffey, who held the Indians to just one run off of nine hits on May 15. Ignore the fact that now, two months later, Duffey has a 5.20 ERA. He's really good, you guys.
There is just something inexplicable about the Indians against the Twins this season. Maybe it's karma for how well the Tribe is playing against the Detroit Tigers, or maybe it was just dumb luck in two early series in the season. Whatever it is, let's hope it's over now and the Indians get back to their winning ways, fresh off a four-day vacation.
Friday, 8:10 p.m. ET: Carlos Carrasco (RHP) vs. Ervin Santana (RHP)
I do not mean to be too harsh on the Twins, but their pitching staff is... not good. Ervin Santana is arguably their best pitcher (Ricky Nolasco edges him in FanGraphs WAR by 0.2 wins) with a 4.06 ERA and a 4.09 FIP. Santana has never been a great pitcher, but this is not a great year, even for him. His strikeout rate is at 17.6 percent, the lowest since 2012 when he was with the Los Angeles Angels, and his HR/FB rate is the highest it has been since 2013 (10.2%).
The 33-year-old veteran is coming off his best start of the season, a complete game shutout of the Oakland Athletics in which he allowed just two hits and struck out eight A's batters. That was his first start of the season with over seven strikeouts, and the first time he struck out more than five since April 8. Santana seems to be on an upward trend this season, in general, as he has allowed two or fewer runs in all four of his most recent starts.
The last time Santana faced Cleveland, on May 15, he held them to one run off of five hits in six innings.
Carlos Carrasco was given the first start out of the All-Star break because Corey Kluber is obviously washed up and Cookie is the team's true ace. That, or Kluber just pitched in the All-Star game and the Indians wanted to give him some rest. Either or.
Carrasco carries a 2.47 ERA this season and he has allowed three or more earned runs in only two of his 12 starts this season. He has held opponents to one or fewer in his last four starts. His last outing was just a mess, however. He lasted just 3.2 innings against the New York Yankees in an outing botched by poor defense.
Saturday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Trevor Bauer (RHP) vs. Tyler Duffey (RHP)
Uh oh. The Indians will be forced to face Tyler "The Machine" Duffey again. How will they ever recover after the shellacking he put on them back on May 15? That start was Duffey's only one this season where he lasted at least seven innings and allowed fewer than three runs.
Duffey has the fourth highest HR/FB rate in the American League among pitchers with at least 70 innings pitched this season (18.7%). One of the pitchers ahead of him, curiously enough, is Carlos Carrasco (20.0%).
Duffey looked like a solid pitcher for the Twins in his rookie campaign last season, finishing the year with a 3.10 ERA and a 3.24 FIP in 10 starts, but so far he has not shown that same level of play -- excluding his start against the Indians. His last outing was a six-hit shutout of the Texas Rangers, but he walked four batters in the process.
The Indians will send Trevor Bauer to the mound, who may or may not be the greatest pitcher to have ever lived. His lasting outing against the New York Yankees was a bit of a disappointment (5.2 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO), but the rest of Bauer's season as a starter has been tremendous. When the Indians season is wrapped up later this year (hopefully in November) we will likely look back at his five-inning relief appearance against the Toronto Blue Jays as one of the season's high points. Bauer has done just about everything we could have hoped for this season.
Sunday, 2:10 p.m. ET: Josh Tomlin (RHP) vs. Kyle Gibson (RHP)
Like I said in the first matchup... this Twins staff is just. It's not good.
Kyle Gibson is another example of that, as he sits with a 5.02 ERA and a 4.47 FIP in 10 starts for the Twins this season. His 3.61 walks per nine is the highest on the Twins staff among starters with at least 40 innings pitched while his 6.44 strikeouts per nine is one of the lowest.
The Twins have been surprisingly hot coming into the All-Star break, but Gibson started one of their few poor games in the last 10 contests. He was hit around seven times for four earned runs in a July 8 no-decision against the Texas Rangers.
Gibson has not faced the Indians this season, but Tribe batters have had no issues hitting against him in the past. Francisco Lindor is a career 4-for-4 against him, while Kipnis is 5-for-11 with a home run. Even Carlos Santana, who is just 2-for-15 against Gibson, has two home runs off him.
And speaking of home runs, Josh Tomlin will be on the mound for the Indians in their series finale. Little Cowboy looked unbeatable early in the season, but he has proven human in his last few starts. His most recent one, a 4.2-inning loss to the Tigers, was especially disappointing. He allowed five runs (a season-high) off seven hits.
The Indians will be on the road for a while due to the Republic National Convention taking over Cleveland. After facing Minnesota they travel to take on the Kansas City Royals before wrapping up the road trip against the Baltimore Orioles
To their credit, the Twins offense was ranked dead last in just about everything the last time the Indians faced them. Now they are just in the bottom half. It's technically an improvement.
Their pitching staff, on the other hand, has gotten worse. Or, rather, their defense has gotten worse around their pitching staff. Despite not walking many batters and being 11th in strikeout rate (granted, that's still not great), they have given up 466 runs as a team this season. The next closest in the American League is the Athletics with 435 runs against.
Twins starters have also pitched 482.2 innings this season, 11th in the American League. No matter how good or bad the defense is, their starting pitching isn't helping things.
Minnesota Twins roster
- C: Kurt Suzuki
- 1B: Joe Mauer
- 2B: Brian Dozier
- SS: Eduardo Nunez
- 3B: Miguel Sano
- LF: Robbie Grossman
- CF: Byron Buxton
- RF: Max Kepler
- DH: Kennys Vargas
- C: Juan Centeno
- IF: Eduardo Escobar
- OF: Eddie Rosario
- OF: Danny Santana
Eduardo Nunez was the Twins' sole representative in this year's All-Star game, yet he is only narrowly better than everyone else in the Minnesota lineup. He is slashing .321/.347/489 with 12 home runs, tied for second on the team.
The real story of the Twins season has been Robbie Grossman (long may he reign), who the Indians DFA'd earlier this season. Since being acquired by Minnesota, the 26-year-old outfielder has slashed .289/.421/.465 with six home runs. He has an 18.5 percent walk rate (!!) and has struck out in 23.1 percent of his at-bats. He has to come back to earth eventually, right? Please?
Joe Mauer is having a pretty ho-hum season as far as Joe Mauer seasons go, slashing .271/.372/.381 with seven home runs. He always manages to ruin everything fun for the Indians, though. So if they go into the eighth or ninth inning with a no-hitter going, expect Mauer to kill it like the jerk he is.
- RHP: Ervin Santana
- RHP: Kyle Gibson
- RHP: Ricky Nolasco
- RHP: Tyler Duffey
- LHP: Tommy Milone
- LHP: Fernando Abad
- RHP: Brandon Kintzler
- RHP: Trevor May
- RHP: Ryan Pressly
- RHP: Neil Ramirez
- RHP: Michael Tonkin
- LHP: Taylor Rogers
Please don't make me talk about this pitching staff anymore. They are bad. Real bad.
I have fond memories of Michael Tonkin, only because he pitched really well for me in an online OOTP league a few years ago. He and Tyler Matzek led my Seattle Mariners to a World Series in a league with 31 other players. It was good times. This year in real life he's terrible, though, so it's whatever.
- OF: Tyler Plouffe, 15-day DL (Rib)
- RHP: Phil Hughes, 60-day DL (Thoracic outlet syndrome)
- LHP: Glen Perkins, 60-day DL (Shoulder)
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