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Cleveland Indians vs. Minnesota Twins series preview

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One team is in first place in the AL Central. The other is the Cleveland Indians. This is a strange thing to type.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Los Angeles Angels Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the middle of June, and the Cleveland Indians find themselves looking up at the Minnesota Twins who hold a 2.0 game lead in the AL Central. You didn’t see this coming. I didn’t see this coming. Hell, I’m sure no one saw this coming. But it’s where we find ourselves as we head into this new weekend series. The Cleveland Indians just finished a series in which they won 1 out of 3 against the Los Angeles Dodgers (despite outscoring their opponent 21-18). Following this 4-game set, the Indians will head to Baltimore to face the Orioles before heading back home to play the Twins again. The Twins, on the other hand, just dropped a 3-game series to the Seattle Mariners (they did, however, manage to score twenty runs in game 2). After hosting the Tribe this weekend, they’ll be visited by the ghost of Christmas past Chicago White Sox before heading to Progressive Field.

Pitching matchups

Friday, 8:10 p.m. ET: Carlos Carrasco (RHP) vs. Nik Turley (LHP)

Starter with an ERA over 5? Check. Starter with a grand total of 4.0 MLB innings? Check. Starter who throws with his left hand? Double check. The Minnesota Twins (and everyone else) know how to beat the Indians, and they are employing their “throw every lefty in the farm system” strategy in game one with Nik Turley. Turley, age 27, will make just his second appearance at the MLB level after being signed in the offseason out of independent baseball. Yes, the Twins aren’t even throwing prospects at the Indians anymore. In his one start on June 11 against the San Francisco Giants, Turley lasted just four innings and gave up 4 earned runs on 8 hits while walking no one and striking out 4. I’d give you a rundown on his pitches, but he’s thrown fewer than 100 pitches at the MLB level for PITCHf/x to track. He relies on a low-mid 90s fastball and high 70s curveball.

Carlos Carrasco continues to pitch like an ace for the Cleveland Indians. While his ERA may have ballooned a bit thanks to a rough outing against the Royals, he bounced back nicely in his following start, going 5.1 innings against the Chicago White Sox on June 11, allowing just 2 runs on 7 hits while walking 1 and striking out 4. On the season, Cookie has walked 19 and struck out 72 in 75.0 innings of work (good for an ERA+ of 141).

Saturday, 2:10 p.m. ET: Mike Clevinger (RHP)/Ryan Merritt (LHP) vs. Adalberto Mejia (LHP)

Game 1 of this day/night double header will be started by one of either Mike Clevinger or Ryan Merritt. It still isn’t clear who will pitch in which game, but both have been recalled from AAA Columbus to make starts on Saturday. Unfortunately for the Indians, the Twins are sending yet another young left handed starter to the mound in the form of Adalberto Mejia. Mejia, age 24, has pitched poorly for the Twins, but you and I both know that these facts and figures mean nothing. Who cares that, in 36.0 innings so far this season, Mejia has allowed 23 earned runs while walking 19 and striking out 33 (good for an ERA+ of 77)? Those numbers might as well be eleventy-six and Keleven because Adalberto throws with his left hand, and that’s good enough for the Twins. His most recent start only lasted 3.2 innings (27.2 in Cleveland innings) and he gave up 8 earned runs (0.2 in Cleveland runs) on 9 hits (hits?) while walking 2 (sure, I’ll buy this one) and striking out 4 (in the first inning, followed by 12 more). He uses a fastball (93mph), slider (84mph), and a sinker/change combo.

We’ll feature Mike Clevinger first because his name appears first alphabetically. Clevinger has already played a bit for Cleveland this season, slotting into the rotation when Corey Kluber hit the DL. So far, he’s done really well in his limited playing time. In 33.0 innings, he’s allowed just 15 earned runs while walking 17 and striking out 38. His last major league start occurred on June 6 against the Colorado Rockies. I can’t really blame Clevinger for being lit up by #Rocktober at Coors Field, but it wasn’t pretty. Clevinger gave up 5 earned runs in just 4.0 innings of work while walking 3 and striking out 6.

Saturday, 8:10 p.m. ET: Mike Clevinger (RHP)/Ryan Merritt (LHP) vs. Adam Wilk (LHP)

Baseball Reference says that Adam Wilk is a major league baseball player and has thrown 37.0 career innings. But I’m not convinced that the Twins didn’t have a local radio contest for fans to come and start a game against the Cleveland Indians, stipulating that the only condition be that you throw left handed. Yes, the Cleveland Indians will face yet another no-name lefty. Oh joy. Generic MLB: The Show minor league pitcher Adam Wilk, age 29, has thrown just 7.0 major league innings so far this season, all in relief. His most recent appearance came on May 21 when he pitched 3.2 innings against the Kansas City Royals and allowed 1 earned run on 5 hits and walked 3 and struck out 2. Oh, and he was sent in May from the New York Mets to the Twins. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Thad Levine and Rob Antony got on the phone with Sandy Alderson and offered to send him a year’s supply of Caribou Coffee in exchange for any left handed pitcher in the Mets’ system. His fastball barely touches 90 on a good day, so expect a perfect game.

The last time that Ryan Merritt pitched for the Cleveland Indians, they punched their ticket to the 2016 World Series. A repeat of that game (4.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K) would be marvelous. Merritt has not pitched for the major league club in 2017, but he has thrown 72.2 innings for the Columbus Clippers. In that time frame, Merritt has allowed 32 earned runs while walking 22 and striking out 56.

Sunday, 2:10 p.m. ET: Trevor Bauer (RHP) vs. Kyle Gibson (RHP!!!)

Quick, it’s a right handed pitcher! Don’t tell the Twins! Kyle Gibson throws with his right hand and has not done it very effectively so far in 2017. In 54.1 innings pitched, he’s allowed 41 earned runs while walking 26 and striking out 39 (good for an ERA+ of 65). His most recent start was gruesome; against the Seattle Mariners on June 13, Gibson allowed 6 earned runs over 6.0 innings on 12 hits while walking none and striking out 4. He still earned the win, however, because the Twins scored 20 runs in that game. Gibson will rely primarily on his 92mph sinker as well as utilizing a 4-seam fastball (92mph), slider (84mph), curve (80mph) and change (84mph).

Love him or hate him, you can’t deny that Trevor Bauer is an interesting guy who has the potential to be a star. So far in 2017, however, Bauer has struggled to consistently pitch well for the Cleveland Indians. In 67.2 innings, he has allowed 44 earned runs while walking 28 and striking out 81 (good for an ERA+ of 81). He has shown flashes of dominance; in his last start on June 13, he went toe to toe with Clayton Kershaw for 5.2 innings, allowing just 2 earned runs on 6 hits while walking 3 and striking out 5.

Storylines

Which young starters will prevail?

The Cleveland Indians will send two starters to the mound who have a combined total of 87.0 major league innings’ worth of experience against the Twins who will counter with three pitchers who have a combined total of 79.1 innings’ experience. Each team will be facing pitchers that they know very little about, so it will be a race to see which offense can adapt and adjust quicker to an unfamiliar hurler. The pitchers for the Indians are better, but the Twins have not struggled offensively as badly as the Indians have when facing left-handed starters.

Can Edwin Encarnacion continue to jump start the offense?

Edwin has played in all but one game this season and, despite a slow start, has started to really take off. In his most recent 82 plate appearances, he has a slash of .320/.378/.613. Since he is typically batting in the cleanup spot, it’ll be important for him to continue to be hot, especially if the rest of the team begins to struggle against left handed pitching (as we have see in the past).

Who will head into next week atop the AL Central?

The Cleveland Indians currently sit two games behind the Minnesota Twins. By the end of the weekend, they could be anywhere from 2.0 games up to 6.0 games back. This isn’t a must win series, but it’s as close as you can get to one in the month of June. If the Indians want to begin to right the ship, they’ll need to do it this weekend against the division leader.

Minnesota Twins roster

FanGraphs

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Twins?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    4
    (30 votes)
  • 40%
    3
    (60 votes)
  • 28%
    2
    (42 votes)
  • 10%
    1
    (16 votes)
  • 1%
    0
    (2 votes)
150 votes total Vote Now