MINNEAPOLIS — The Cleveland Indians seek to extend their winning streak over the Minnesota Twins to six games when the teams meet at Target Field in the second contest of a three-game set.
The American League Central Division-leading Indians (82-58) dropped eight of their first 12 meetings with the last-place Twins (52-89) before their recent tear.
The teams traded leads through five innings in Friday's series opener before the bullpens combined to toss nine shutout innings and Cleveland's left the park with a 5-4 victory.
Cleveland's Mike Napoli went 89 at bats between home runs 29 and 30 but has three in his last five games, including Friday night's 456-foot monster shot to Target Field's upper deck in left.
“I was going through a period where I was just trying to grind my way through at bats,” Napoli said. “But I've been feeling better and better, at-bat-by-at-bat, so I feel like I'm going in the right direction.”
The timing could not be better for the Indians as they fight to maintain a six-game lead over Detroit in the division standings and Napoli knows it.
“That's what you want coming down the stretch,” Napoli said. “I'm in that position to where I can, anytime, change a game so I'm not going up there just trying to hit singles.”
For the Twins, it's Byron Buxton who is heating up. The speedy center fielder hit another home run Friday and is batting .433 with four doubles, five home runs, 12 RBIs and 12 runs scored in eight games since he was recalled from Triple-A Rochester on Sept. 1.
“I just think that he's trying to continue to find ways to be a better hitter,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “But he's getting more results and he's getting an opportunity so we'll just keep running him out there.”
Mike Clevinger will be on the hill for the Indians on Saturday as Cleveland tries for the second time to use a series of relievers to assume the No. 5 starter spot Josh Tomlin was unable to secure. The Indians hope to get more than the 43 pitches they received from Clevinger on Monday.