Twins-Indians Preview

The Cleveland Indians recently stood atop the AL Central as one

the season’s pleasant surprises.

Poor performances from the starting rotation have quickly

changed that, and Joe Mauer and the AL-worst Minnesota Twins would

like to continue capitalizing.

Justin Masterson will try to rebound from his worst outing of

the year and help the Indians re-establish their dominance of the

Twins in Sunday’s series finale at Progressive Field.

Cleveland (28-24) led the Central by 3 1-2 games as recently as

May 24, when Masterson (2-4, 5.14 ERA) outpitched reigning AL MVP

and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander in a 2-1 win over Detroit.

The Indians have dropped six of eight since, due in large part

to a rotation that has compiled a 9.52 ERA and a .343 opponent

batting average in that stretch, which has dropped Cleveland 1 1-2

games behind the Chicago White Sox.

Derek Lowe gave the Indians a strong outing in Friday’s series

opener, throwing 6 2-3 innings of a 7-1 victory over Minnesota

(19-33), but Cleveland’s rotation backslid again Saturday as Josh

Tomlin gave up five runs and 10 hits in six innings of a 7-4


Masterson’s last performance was even worse.

The right-hander allowed seven runs in the first two innings

Tuesday against Kansas City. He settled down and limiting the

Royals to one run in the next five frames, but the damage was done

and he got charged with an 8-2 loss.

“I’m glad he settled down, because it could’ve gotten ugly,”

manager Manny Acta told the Indians’ official website. “But he

pitched pretty well at the end. Unfortunately, it was too late for

us. He started the season shaky and then he put a few good starts

in order.”

Masterson went 1-0 with a 2.12 ERA in five starts against the

Twins last year, and Mauer is 2 for 14 against him over the last

two seasons.

Mauer had three hits – including a homer – and three RBIs in

Saturday’s win, breaking out of an 0-for-10 slump over his previous

three contests. He’s hitting .355 in his last 23 games at

Progressive Field.

The Twins will give the ball to Scott Diamond (3-1, 2.27), who

is 1-1 with a 4.08 ERA in his last three starts after throwing 14

scoreless innings over his first two following his recall from

Triple-A Rochester.

Diamond didn’t get a decision Monday, allowing three runs and

nine hits in 6 1-3 innings of Minnesota’s 5-4 win over Oakland.

The left-hander went 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in two starts against

the Indians last year, allowing two hits including a double in

three at-bats to Michael Brantley.

Brantley is currently riding an 11-game hitting streak, during

which he’s batting .357 with 10 RBIs. The longest hitting streak of

his career lasted 19 games from Aug. 30-Sept. 19, 2010.