Though the Minnesota Twins have won four straight, they’ve dropped four starts in a row by Scott Diamond.
Diamond, however, owns a lower career ERA against the Cleveland Indians than any opponent he has faced more than once as he heads into Sunday’s home matchup.
Minnesota (41-53) can match its longest win streak of the year after a pair of 3-2 victories to start this set. The Twins’ Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia pitched into the sixth inning in those games before the bullpen finished up with scoreless relief.
That formula would require Diamond (5-8, 5.32 ERA) to fare better than he has in going 0-2 with a 5.49 ERA over his last four outings. He has failed to record an out past the fifth inning three times in that stretch, although his last start, a 2-0 loss to the New York Yankees on July 12, was cut short after 3 1-3 scoreless innings due to rain.
The left-hander will face Cleveland (51-46) for the first time in 2013. He won all three of his starts versus the Indians last year with a 0.78 ERA, lowering his career ERA against them to 2.54.
Jason Kipnis went 1 for 11 against Diamond last season while Michael Brantley and Asdrubal Cabrera each had two hits in nine at-bats.
Kipnis hit a two-run homer Saturday, and he and Michael Bourn are the only Indians with RBIs in this series.
Cabrera and Nick Swisher are each 1 for 8 in the two games while Carlos Santana is 0 for 6 and 5 for 27 in the season series, which is tied at four wins apiece.
Cleveland has dropped five straight at Minnesota and has missed a chance to gain ground this weekend on first-place Detroit, which has also lost twice since the All-Star break.
“It’s still late July, there’s still time,” Kipnis said. “We’re not losing too much ground, thankfully. But if we want to get where we want to be, we’re going to have to start winning games, and these are games that we need to be winning.”
Cleveland has blown two-run leads in the sixth inning in both contests this weekend. Minnesota tied Friday’s game with two runs in the sixth and scored all of its runs Saturday in that inning.
“Got the guys in that we needed to score that inning, put ourselves ahead and gave our bullpen a chance to win that game,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said about Saturday.
The Indians will try to avoid the sweep behind Justin Masterson (10-7, 3.72), who is 2-7 with a 4.53 ERA in 18 appearances – 15 starts – against Minnesota.
Masterson owns a 4.72 ERA on the road compared to 2.91 at home, although he has a 2.18 ERA in day games and a 4.50 at night. He is 1-4 with a 5.59 ERA in seven appearances – six starts – at Target Field.
The right-hander will pitch on 10 days’ rest. He’s 8-1 with a 2.20 ERA in 16 outings in which he’s had at least six days off between starts.