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Cleveland Indians at Minnesota Twins series preview

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These two AL Central foes meet for the first time in 2018 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Minnesota Twins v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

After what seems like forever, the Cleveland Indians will play baseball again today. They may have had to travel all the way to Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico to get away from the inclement weather, but both teams have made it safely to the US territory and are ready for a two-game set with each other.

Looking ahead

The Indians will play the Twins twice in Puerto Rico before flying back to the states to face the Baltimore Orioles for a four-game set over the weekend at Camden Yards. After that, they’ll head back to Progressive Field to begin their longest home stand of the year, beginning with the Chicago Cubs. The Twins, on the other hand, will fly to Tampa Bay for the weekend after finishing up in Puerto Rico before heading up to New York to face the Yankees.

Pitching match-ups

Tuesday, April 17 7:10 p.m. ET: Corey Kluber (RHP) v. Jake Odorizzi (RHP)

Corey Kluber is off to his best start ever and it’s not even close. The man is pitching like he’s on a mission and that mission is to decimate every team he faces on the way to a championship. His latest victims were the members of the Detroit Tigers on April 9; during that game, Kluber went 8.0 innings and gave up zero runs on 2 hits while walking 1 and striking out 13.

Jake Odorizzi was one of the Twins’ acquisitions during the offseason when they brought him over from the Tampa Bay Rays. He had pitched well for the Rays for three consecutive seasons dating back to 2015, so the Twins thought maybe he would be one of the difference makers for them this season. He’ll become a free agent in 2020, so he’ll still be part of next year’s squad that will be better than this year’s (at least, that’s the plan). Last season, Odorizzi went 143.1 innings and allowed 66 earned runs while walking 61 and striking out 127 (which translates to an ERA+ of 100). His most recent start came on April 10 against the Houston Astros; in that game, Odorizzi went 6.0 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 5 hits while walking 5 and striking out 4.

Wednesday, April 18 7:10 p.m. ET: Carlos Carrasco (RHP) v. Jose Berrios (RHP)

After not quite looking like the Carlos Carrasco we’ve all come to know and love, Cookie returned to his dominant form during his last outing against the Detroit Tigers. On April 11, Cookie went 9.0 innings and allowed just 1 earned run on 3 hits while walking 2 and striking out 6. His strikeout stuff isn’t quite working yet, but he’s still managing to get results regardless. That being said, it’ll be nice when he resumes striking everyone out.

Wednesday’s start will be special for Jose Berrios as he will have a chance to pitch in front of his friends and family in Puerto Rico about 30 minutes from where he went to high school. The former first round pick is one of the players that the Twins are looking to build around for their inevitable run at the AL Central pennant. 2018 marks Berrios’ third season in the majors and he’s coming of a very successful first full season in 2017. Last year, Berrios pitched in 145.2 innings and allowed just 63 earned runs while walking 48 and striking out 139 (which translates to an ERA+ of 114). This season, he’s had one bad outing and two dominant ones; his last start was one of the dominant ones. On April 12 against the Chicago White Sox, Berrios went 7.0 innings and allowed zero runs on 3 hits while walking none and striking out 11 (the last time he struck out that many batters was on August 30 of last season against...the Chicago White Sox).

Players to watch

  • Joe Mauer - Mauer has been terrorizing the AL Central since 2004 and, if his early numbers in 2018 are any indication, he isn’t going to stop. The 35-year-old is off to a blistering start this year, slashing .412/.545/.529 (which translates to a wRC+ of 209). Sure, his BABIP is an inflated .519, so he’ll eventually fall back to earth, but holy crap is Joe hot right now.
  • Brian Dozier - Another Twin who has been in the AL Central for a while, Dozier has been getting better with age and doesn’t seem to be hitting a decline anytime soon. For example, he made the All-Star team in 2015 and he’s been objectively better in every season following. He’s already back to his baseball destroying ways in 2018 with a slash of .289/.385/.600 (which translates to a wRC+ of 173). He currently leads his team in home runs with 4.
  • Addison Reed - As the Twins work to get the ball to Fernando Rodney to close out games, they will often turn to left hander Addison Reed. After splitting time last season with the Mets and the Red Sox, Reed found his way to the Twins and has got off to an excellent start. In the 6 games he’s appeared in, he’s thrown 8 innings and has allowed just 1 earned run while walking 3 and striking out 9. He has no significant splits when facing either righties or lefties, so manager Paul Molitor can deploy Reed at any point in the late innings and doesn’t have to worry about match-ups.
  • Ryan Pressly - If you need an arm to give you some fire out of the bullpen, Ryan Pressly is your guy if you’re the Twins. His four-seam and his sinker both sit in the mid-90s, and he’s been using both effectively so far this season. In the 6.1 innings he’s pitched so far this season, he’s allowed just 4 hits and no runs while striking out 7. Between him, Reed, and (oddly enough) Fernando Rodney, the Twins have the makings of a solid bullpen.

Storylines

Playing in Puerto Rico

Each team has guys who are from Puerto Rico, so this series will be special for both teams. For the Twins, Eddie Rosario and Jose Berrios will be returning home for this series, while the Indians have Francisco Lindor and Roberto Perez from Puerto Rico. MLB has featured all four players prominently on their social media pages over the past few days, and they all seem really excited and humbled to be able to play in front of their fans in Puerto Rico.

Too much rest?

Both teams have been impacted recently due to inclement weather. The Twins last played on April 12 whereas the Indians played their most recent game on April 13. With players having not been in game action for a number of days on top of traveling to Puerto Rico, it could take a little time for players (pitchers especially) to get back into the swing of things.

Manufacturing Offense

Across all of baseball, Cleveland is second to last in team OPS with a paltry .607 (worst in the AL, second worst in baseball only to the Marlins with a .598). However, they are also second best in baseball in terms of steals with 13 (best in the AL, second best only to the Nationals who have 20). Getting on base and putting pressure on opposing pitchers is a good strategy for Cleveland, and it’s better than trying to hit everything 500 ft.

Minnesota Twins roster

FanGraphs

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Twins?

This poll is closed

  • 57%
    2
    (70 votes)
  • 32%
    1
    (39 votes)
  • 9%
    0
    (12 votes)
121 votes total Vote Now