The Cleveland Indians couldn’t overcome a rare poor performance offensively in dropping their series finale against the AL Central leaders, but they’re feeling confident moving forward versus the Minnesota Twins.
The surging Indians look to build on a promising start to their longest road swing of the season as they go after a seventh straight victory at Target Field in the opener of a three-game set Monday night.
Cleveland (50-48) was four games behind Kansas City and 7 1-2 back of first-place Detroit at the end of June before its powerful offense helped turn things around this month.
The Indians are averaging 5.1 runs while hitting .279 with a MLB-best 22 home runs in July. Yan Gomes is batting .319 with four homers this month, while Michael Brantley is hitting .377 with three home runs and Chris Dickerson is 10 for 24 with two.
With an 11-5 record this month, the Indians have soared past the struggling Royals and had a chance to get within 3 1-2 of the Tigers by completing a four-game sweep on Sunday. Gomes, however, provided the only run on a seventh-inning homer in a 5-1 loss.
Despite the setback, Cleveland is feeling good about the way it opened the longest trip of the season.
"It was a great series for us," losing pitcher Josh Tomlin said. "Took three games from them, but I came up short."
Now the Indians will try to bounce back with their fifth win in six games while dealing last-place Minnesota (44-53) a season-high fifth straight home defeat.
Brantley has gone 12 for 29 with nine RBIs to help Cleveland take four of the first seven meetings – all at Progressive Field. Mike Aviles also has been a major contributor in the season series, going 8 for 17 with three doubles.
Gomes and Jason Kipnis went a combined 20 for 47 with eight RBIs as the Indians took the last six in Minnesota last season.
The Twins, whose starters have posted an 8.06 ERA over the last four games, are hoping for better results as they give the ball to left-hander Kris Johnson (0-1, 5.40 ERA).
Johnson seeks his first big league victory after allowing five runs and eight hits – two home runs – over four innings in a 6-2 loss at Colorado on July 11 while starting in place of the injured Ricky Nolasco.
In his only home start this season, he didn’t give up a run despite walking six over 4 1-3 innings in a 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 1. Johnson has gone 0-2 with an 8.71 ERA in three career starts dating to his time with Pittsburgh in 2013.
The Twins will try to provide him with some run support after they totaled only six runs while getting swept by Tampa Bay to open this 10-game homestand. They went 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position in Sunday’s 5-3 loss.
"We’ve got a hot Cleveland team coming in here, in our division, the whole package," said manager Ron Gardenhire, whose club has lost seven of eight at home. "So it’s not going to get easier."
Cleveland’s T.J. House (1-2, 4.40) hopes to keep the Twins scuffling. He pitched poorly in a 9-3 home win over the Yankees on July 10, allowing three runs and eight hits over 4 2-3 innings.
The left-hander has a 2.38 ERA in his last two road starts.
Kendrys Morales has been a bright spot for Minnesota with six doubles and seven RBIs during a 10-game hitting streak.