Minnesota’s chances at its first postseason berth in five years are fading fast.
The Twins’ second matchup with Corey Kluber in less than a week likely won’t help matters, either, given the way the right-hander has dominated them lately.
They open a three-game series against Kluber and the Cleveland Indians on Friday night at Target Field.
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The Twins (57-57) held a one-game edge for the AL’s top wild-card spot on July 17, but they have since dropped 17 of 24 to fall three games out of a playoff spot. Its starters have a 6.15 ERA in that span, and that group has failed to deliver a quality start in seven of the last nine contests after Ervin Santana surrendered five runs in six innings of Thursday’s 6-5 loss to Texas.
The rotation’s struggles were compounded Thursday when Phil Hughes was placed on the disabled list Thursday with lower back inflammation. Hughes, who was originally scheduled for this outing, will be replaced by Trevor May (8-7, 4.09 ERA) – who will make his first start since July 1.
Kluber (7-12, 3.46 ERA) is 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA and 39 strikeouts over 33 1-3 innings in his last four meetings with Minnesota. The Twins hit .109 against him in two matchups this year after he three-hit them and struck out 10 in Cleveland’s 8-1 home win Sunday.
The Twins were hitless until Joe Mauer’s seventh-inning single.
"The one I hit was probably the best one I saw all day, " said Mauer, whose .226 average in 31 at-bats versus Kluber is his fifth-lowest facing an active pitcher against whom he has at least 30 at-bats.
"You can’t miss a pitch like that with a guy like that. He was nasty. There was a reason why he won the Cy Young last year. He looked a lot like that (Sunday)."
Mauer isn’t the only middle-of-the-order hitter struggling against Kluber. Brian Dozier is batting .107 in 28 at-bats with nine strikeouts, while Torii Hunter, who is hitting .429 with 12 RBIs in seven games against Cleveland, is 3 for 18 with seven strikeouts against the right-hander.
Kluber is 2-6 with a 4.16 ERA in 12 road starts this year but has a 2.74 ERA with 30 strikeouts in 23 innings in his last three at Minnesota.
Cleveland (53-60) had a four-game winning streak snapped in Thursday’s 8-6 loss to the New York Yankees, though Yan Gomes was 3 for 4 and is batting .381 with eight RBIs in his last five games.
May, who is 4-7 with a 4.37 ERA in 15 starts, is 4-0 with a 2.51 ERA in 13 appearances since being moved to relief duty. Manager Paul Molitor said he’d be limited to about 50 pitches and will get another start next week at Baltimore.
"Right now I don’t really want to turn him into a yo-yo man so to speak," Molitor said. "I don’t want him to start two games and go back. We just have to see how it plays out."
May gave up six runs and nine hits over four innings in an 8-2 loss at Cleveland on May 10 to fall to 2-2 in four starts in the series, but he threw two scoreless innings of relief in last week’s series.
"Starting’s just pitching, I guess, but fortunately it’s against a team we just saw," he told MLB’s official website. "I was able to get in against them a couple times so it’s a good way to start."