Twins-Indians Preview

A near-perfect road trip late last month gave the Minnesota
Twins’ division title hopes a key boost. Their current trek could
end up being even more rewarding.

Before starting a pivotal AL Central showdown, Minnesota will
try to earn its fourth series victory in five tries Sunday against
the Cleveland Indians.

The Twins (62-49) were tied for second with Detroit and 3 1/2
games back of Chicago in the Central on July 20, but got within a
game of the White Sox after going a combined 6-1 at Baltimore and
Kansas City.

Minnesota trimmed a half-game off that deficit while sweeping
Seattle at home but lost twice to Tampa Bay to begin its current
10-game trip. The Twins recovered to win the final two games of
that four-game set and bounced back from a series-opening loss to
the Indians with a 7-2 victory Saturday night.

The Twins are 1 1/2 games behind the White Sox and head to
Chicago for a three-game set starting Tuesday.

Joe Mauer went 4 for 5 and drove in a run Saturday, giving him a
.553 average and 16 RBIs over his last 10 games, and Jason Kubel
homered during his fifth two-hit performance in seven games. Trevor
Plouffe broke an 0-for-18 slump by hitting his first major league
homer as he came off the bench to replace Alexi Casilla, who left
with an injured ankle.

“(Casilla will) get an MRI in the morning,” said manager Ron
Gardenhire, whose team is also playing without former AL MVP Justin
Morneau. “He got it X-rayed. That showed a bone spur. Now, we’ve
got to see if there’s a fracture.”

Casilla had been starting at second base in place of Orlando
Hudson, who will come off the disabled list Sunday. However, Hudson
hasn’t played since July 23 because of a strained right oblique and
is not guaranteed to be in the lineup.

“We’re activating Hudson for sure,” Gardenhire said. “The other
move (to get Hudson on the roster), we’ll see.”

Hudson has hit .481 with six RBIs in his last six games versus
Cleveland and he homered earlier this season against David Huff
(2-10, 5.97), who starts for the Indians.

Huff will be opposed by Brian Duensing (4-1, 2.10 ERA), who is
1-0 with a 3.18 ERA since joining Minnesota’s rotation July 23. He
gave up three runs and four hits over six innings in Tuesday’s 6-4
loss at Tampa Bay.

This will be Duensing’s first start versus the Indians, but he’s
thrown one hitless inning of relief in each of his three
appearances against them this season.

Huff hasn’t had nearly the same kind of success this year versus
the Twins, losing both of his starts against them while posting a
6.55 ERA. He’s 2-4 with a 6.06 ERA in six career matchups.

The left-hander was recalled from Triple-A Columbus on Tuesday
and lost at Boston, giving up three runs and seven hits over 5 1-3
innings in a 3-1 defeat.

“A lot of pitches (104) for 5 1-3 innings, but I’ll take this
outing out of him and going forward,” manager Manny Acta told the
team’s official website after Huff lost his fourth straight start
for Cleveland.

The Indians (47-64) have lost six of eight at home.