Twins must reverse recent trends against Indians in home series

While Corey Kluber (7-12, 3.46 ERA) this season has hardly resembled the pitcher who won a 2014 Cy Young honor, he has enjoyed success against the Twins of late.

Jim Mone/AP

The Twins begin their three-game series with the visiting Cleveland Indians tonight in desperate need of a series win. The Twins (57-57) are three games back in the American League wild-card race, staring up in the standings at the Yankees (62-51), Angels (60-54), Rays (58-56) and Orioles (57-56).

And, the schedule only intensifies throughout the rest of August for Minnesota. After this weekend’s series against the Indians, Minnesota travels to New York, Baltimore and Tampa Bay in succession. Hence, the urgency Minnesota must play with.

The Indians (53-60) are in last place in the AL Central, but they haven’t played like it against the Twins.

The Indians, who are 29-26 on the road this season, tormented Twins pitching last weekend, erupting for 34 runs while hitting .407 as a team. Cleveland has produced at least 13 hits in each of its last five games against Minnesota — equalling one of the Indians’ longest such streaks against any one opponent since 1914.

INDIANS’ MOST CONSECUTIVE GAMES WITH 13+ HITS VS. ONE FOE

OPPONENT NUMBER OF GAMES YEAR
Washington Senators 7 1935
St. Louis Browns 6 1924
Boston Red Sox 5 1962
Minnesota Twins 5 1995-96
Minnesota Twins 5 2015

If recent history is any indication, however, the Twins stand a great chance of starting the series right tonight. This season, Cleveland has struggled mightily in the first games of series. The Indians have a winning percentage below .300 in series openers this season, though they’re well above .500 thereafter. No team since 1900 has featured such a drastic difference.

LARGEST WIN PCT. IMPROVEMENT AFTER 1ST GM. OF SERIES, SINCE 1900

TEAM 1ST GM WIN PCT.
THEREAFTER DIFFERENCE
2015 Indians .297 (11-26) .553 (42-34) .256
1907 Reds .260 (13-37) .515 (53-50) .255
1912 Athletics .422 (19-26) .664 (71-36) .242
1924 White Sox .262 (11-31)   .495 (55-56) .233
1958 Giants .365 (19-33) .598 (61-41) .233

Tonight’s series-opening pitching matchup could also be intriguing. Trevor May (8-7, 4.09 ERA) will take the bump for the Twins, after a brief-but-largely-successful run working out of the bullpen. While May will likely be on a strict pitch count tonight, Cleveland counterpart Corey Kluber likely expects to work deep into the game.

While Kluber (7-12, 3.46 ERA) this season has hardly resembled the pitcher who won a 2014 Cy Young honor, he has enjoyed great success against the Twins of late. In fact, Kluber is attempting to become the first pitcher since Pedro Martinez to record 7 or more strikeouts in six straight starts against Minnesota.

MOST CONSECUTIVE STARTS W/ 7+ STRIKEOUTS VS. TWINS, SINCE ’95

PLAYER/TEAM STREAK YEARS
Pedro Martinez, Boston 6 1999-2003
Javier Vazquez, Chi. White Sox 5 2007-08
Chris Sale, Chi. White Sox 5 2013-2015
Doug Fister, Detroit 5 2012-active
Corey Kluber, Cleveland 5 2014-active

The Twins should counter with a pair of hitters who are especially eager to clash with Cleveland tonight. Torii Hunter, for one, has had his way with Cleveland in 2015. The veteran outfielder has produced four doubles and four homers in seven games against the Indians this season. That equates to a slugging percentage (1.000) that currently matches the highest single-season mark versus any opponent in his accomplished career.

Additionally, Minnesota’s Brian Dozier should be feeling confident these days, as he continues an All-Star campaign. Dozier’s next contest will mark the 500th of his career. He’s already just the third second baseman to ever combine for 70 home runs and 50 stolen bases by this juncture of their career.

SECOND BASEMEN W/ 70+ HR & 50+ SB THRU 500 GMS., ALL-TIME

PLAYER HR SB
Alfonso Soriano, 1999-2003 97 121
Ian Kinsler, 2006-09 81 89
Brian Dozier, 2012-15 (499 games) 71 53

The rest of the month should indicate whether the Twins are truly playoff contenders. And it starts tonight, as the Twins try to improve their so-so record (24-24) against AL Central adversaries.

Statistics courtesy of STATS LLC.

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