The Cleveland Indians have gotten back on track largely due to their rotation, though Scott Kazmir hasn’t provided much help lately.
That doesn’t bode well for the left-hander against a Minnesota Twins team that has been hot offensively.
The Indians look to continue their turnaround with a seventh win in nine games as they open a three-game home series Friday night versus the Twins, winners of three in a row.
Following a season-worst eight-game losing streak, Cleveland (36-35) has won three straight series. The Indians’ rotation, which had a 7.59 ERA during the skid, has keyed the resurgence with a 2.34 ERA over the last eight games.
Nine-game winner Justin Masterson provided the latest quality start, giving up two runs over 6 1-3 innings in a 6-3 home victory over Kansas City on Wednesday.
“Masterson is our ace, no question about it,” said outfielder Michael Brantley, who hit a pair of solo homers. “When our ace throws, we’ve got to win those games.”
The Indians, though, haven’t been winning lately with Kazmir (3-4, 5.89 ERA) on the mound. He’s 0-2 with a 7.98 ERA in his last three starts, all Cleveland losses.
He gave up five runs and three homers in 2 2-3 innings before leaving without a decision in a 7-6 loss to Washington on Saturday.
Kazmir will attempt to bounce back with his second victory against the Twins (33-36) this season. He yielded two runs over six innings in a 7-3 home win May 4.
This time, however, Kazmir faces a Minnesota team that has batted .324 with nine homers while winning four of five.
The Twins matched a season high with four home runs to cap their first three-game sweep with an 8-4 win over the Chicago White Sox on Thursday.
“It always helps a lot when you’ve got everybody hitting in the lineup,” said second baseman Brian Dozier, who homered for the third time in four games. “Hopefully that won’t let up, and we can continue the hot bats and the pitching and defense.”
Joe Mauer (7 for 15) and Ryan Doumit (7 for 12) may also be heating up after big series against the White Sox.
After winning six of nine on their homestand, the Twins hope to keep it going for right-hander Samuel Deduno (3-1, 3.26) as they open a five-game road trip.
Since giving up six runs and nine hits over 5 1-3 innings in a 6-0 loss at Detroit in his season debut May 24, Deduno is 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in four starts.
He’s 2-0 with a 3.50 ERA in three career starts against the Indians.
Brantley is 2 for 13 when facing Minnesota this season, while teammate Jason Kipnis — hitting .419 over his last nine games — is 5 for 13 with a homer, two triples and six RBIs in three games against the Twins.
The Indians, who took two of three from the visiting Twins from May 3-5, aren’t expected to have first baseman Nick Swisher back until Saturday due to a shoulder injury.