Twins-Indians Preview

Based on the way these teams played over the weekend, it’s hard

to believe the Cleveland Indians are in first place and the

Minnesota Twins are last in the AL Central.

With the clubs seemingly headed in opposite directions, the

short-handed Twins will try to defeat the Indians for the eighth

straight meeting Monday night in the opener of a three-game set at

Progressive Field.

Minnesota (21-37) has won the division the last two seasons

while Cleveland (33-24) has lost more than 90 games each of those

years. The roles have been reversed this season, with the Indians

on top of the Central and the Twins saddled with the majors’ worst

record.

Both teams, however, reverted to the past in four-game series

over the weekend. Minnesota swept a series in Kansas City while

Cleveland was swept at home by Texas.

The Twins – already missing Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel and Jim Thome

– played without Justin Morneau and Denard Span for the final two

games of their series, winning 7-2 on Saturday and 6-0 on Sunday.

Alexi Casilla helped pick up the slack by going 6 for 8 in those

two games.

“We say all along people have to step up when other people are

down,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “It’s not easy to do. But we’ve

moved a few people around. That’s what has to happen. When people

are hurt, others have to step up.”

It’s unclear whether Morneau or Span will return Monday. Morneau

is dealing with a sore left wrist and Span is nursing a stiff

neck.

The Indians were shut out in the final two games of their

series. Manager Manny Acta moved Orlando Cabrera into the second

spot and put Asdrubal Cabrera at No. 3, shifting slumping

outfielder Shin-Soo Choo down three spots to sixth in Sunday’s 2-0

loss.

“There’s only so many combinations of lineups you can do when

you have only a couple of guys swinging the bat well,” Acta said.

“You can’t hit (Michael) Brantley and Asdrubal in every spot.”

Choo is 8 for 41 (.195) with 14 strikeouts over his last 11

games, and said before Sunday’s defeat that his arrest May 2 on

suspicion of drunken driving is affecting his play.

He’s a career .215 hitter against the Twins, who swept a

two-game home set April 23-24 from the Indians and went 6-3 in

Cleveland last season.

Josh Tomlin (7-2, 3.27 ERA) will try to become the AL’s first

eight-game winner Monday in his first career start against

Minnesota. Tomlin – atop the majors with a 7.91 run support average

– pitched in Cleveland’s last victory, getting credit for

Wednesday’s 13-9 win at Toronto despite yielding a season-high six

runs over six innings.

The right-hander is 9-1 with a 3.10 ERA in 11 career home

starts, including 4-0 with a 2.53 ERA in five in 2011.

He’ll be opposed by Scott Baker (2-4, 3.86), who is 0-2 with a

5.08 ERA over his last five outings. Baker allowed four runs over

six innings in Wednesday’s 4-2 loss at Detroit.

The veteran right-hander went 0-2 with a 7.63 ERA in three

starts against Cleveland last season, but Choo is just 3 for 20

(.150) against him and Asdrubal Cabrera is 4 for 19 (.211).