Indians-Twins Preview

The Cleveland Indians have finished at or near the bottom of the

AL Central as the Minnesota Twins have won the last two division

titles.

When these rivals meet for the first time this season Saturday

at Target Field, the Indians will be the club on top with the Twins

trying to climb out of the cellar.

Cleveland tries to snap a five-game skid in this matchup as

Minnesota goes for its fifth consecutive home win in the series

after Friday night’s opener was postponed due to inclement

weather.

After tying for last in the Central in 2009 – 21 1/2 games

behind the Twins – the Indians went 69-93 last season and finished

25 back of Minnesota, which won 12 of 18 meetings between the

clubs.

Cleveland (13-6), though, enters this contest in first place in

the division.

“They’ve been the best team in our division the past few years.

The title chase still runs through Minnesota,” Indians manager

Manny Acta said. “It’s still very early. Way too early. I know

everyone would rather be on top right now.

“That’s normal, but it’s way too early. Let’s not forget these

guys were trailing the White Sox by like five games after the

All-Star break, and they won the division relatively easy.”

The Indians were two outs from extending their division lead

Thursday, but closer Chris Perez allowed two ninth-inning runs,

snapping a personal scoreless streak of 26 1-3 innings in a 3-2

loss to second-place Kansas City.

Still, Cleveland is off to its best 19-game start since opening

14-5 in 1999.

“To me it’s about consistent baseball,” Acta said. “You have to

make sure you don’t get into too many lulls. You have to make sure

that if you have a month where you don’t play .500, it’s not

ridiculously bad. That’s what it’s all about.”

The Indians continue their trip with Fausto Carmona (1-2, 4.74

ERA) on the mound. The right-hander, 1-1 with a 1.25 ERA in his

last three starts, allowed five hits in seven innings and earned

his first victory Sunday, 4-2 over Baltimore.

Cleveland did not score while the sinkerballer was in the game

in his first three outings.

The Twins (7-12) return home following a 3-5 trip that ended

with Thursday’s 3-1 win over the Orioles. Jim Thome hit a solo

homer and drove in two, while Michael Cuddyer went deep for the

second straight game.

Minnesota entered the game with a major league-low six homers,

but manager Ron Gardenhire wouldn’t be surprised if Thome’s blast –

his 591st – gets him going.

“That’s one thing he can do is swing the bat,” said Gardenhire,

whose team has scored an MLB-low 57 runs.

The Indians don’t need to be reminded. The 40-year-old slugger,

who hit a franchise-record 334 homers for Cleveland from 1991-2002,

batted .313 with five home runs and nine RBIs against the Indians

last season.

Minnesota could use continued production from Thome and Cuddyer

with Joe Mauer and Tsuyoshi Nishioka on the disabled list and

Justin Morneau and Delmon Young not at full strength.

Morneau (stomach virus) and Young (ribs) weren’t in the lineup

Friday but could return for this game.

While the Twins’ offense tries to get untracked, Brian Duensing

(1-0, 3.60) hopes to shut down the Indians, who are among the AL

leaders with 99 runs.

In his last start, the left-hander helped the Twins snap their

season-high four-game skid with seven strong innings in Sunday’s

4-2 win at Tampa. Minnesota has won each of his three starts.

Duensing is 2-0 with a 4.05 ERA in two starts against

Cleveland.

The Indians have been outscored 26-8 during their losing streak

at Target Field.