An off day couldn’t have come at a better time for a taxed Cleveland Indians pitching staff.
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The Indians may be getting another break from the schedule when the floundering Minnesota Twins enter Progressive Field on Friday night to begin a three-game series.
Cleveland received a fortuitous day of rest following a 16-inning game Wednesday in Houston, where it used its entire bullpen in a 5-3 loss. Nine relievers, including usual starter Cody Anderson, combined for 11 innings after Danny Salazar was lifted after throwing 106 pitches through five.
"I feel like I pitched (Tuesday)," Salazar said. "That was awesome, though. Cody wasn’t even supposed to pitch (Wednesday). He made that sacrifice there and he saved a few arms."
Cleveland (16-15) should be in good shape as it opens a stretch of 14 games in 13 days, provided Josh Tomlin resumes his trend of pitching well off a loss. The right-hander has emerged as the rotation’s unheralded stopper since returning from shoulder surgery in August, compiling a 12-0 record with a 2.82 ERA following an Indians’ defeat.
Tomlin (5-0, 3.72 ERA) allowed four runs over six-plus innings in Sunday’s 5-4 victory over Kansas City to extend his season-opening win streak to five starts. The Indians have won each of his last eight and he’s 12-1 with a 3.26 ERA in 14 outings since Aug. 20.
That run figures to have a good chance of continuing considering the Twins’ multitude of problems, particularly on the road. Minnesota (8-25) is 2-15 as the visitor and lost its seventh straight overall with Wednesday’s 9-2 home defeat to Baltimore.
The Twins aren’t hitting, either, batting .192 and scoring eight runs over the last four losses. They did reach Tomlin for four earned runs in 5 1/3 innings in a 6-5 loss at Target Field on April 27.
Byung Ho Park homered off Tomlin that night but is 0 for 11 with six strikeouts over his last three games. Joe Mauer is in a 4-for-24 slump despite having two hits Wednesday in his second career start batting leadoff. Miguel Sano homered but is 3 for 27 during the seven-game skid.
Phil Hughes surrendered three homers and five runs in four innings in another poor showing by a Twins’ starter. The rotation has produced an 8.69 ERA while receiving just one quality start over the losing streak.
"It’s a snowball effect," Hughes said. "When things aren’t going right, every little thing is magnified. Every guy in here wants to be the one that gets us going in the right direction. You tend to press a little bit and that’s not going to help anything either."
Ricky Nolasco (1-1, 4.70) takes the mound seeking to end a three-start winless stretch in which he’s posted a 7.00 ERA. He permitted seven runs in five innings of Friday’s 10-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
The veteran right-hander was better in a 6-5 win over Cleveland on April 26, striking out a season-high nine while allowing four runs over 7 1/3 innings, but he’s 0-2 with a 5.45 ERA in six games against the Indians.
Jason Kipnis homered off Nolasco last month and matched a career high with five hits in Wednesday’s marathon. Mike Napoli finished 3 for 7 with a solo home run.
Napoli has four homers and 14 RBI in 16 games this season at Progressive Field, where the Indians have won five of six.
Michael Brantley is expected back in the lineup after sitting out the last two games to rest his surgically repaired right shoulder.
Cleveland lost two of three at Minnesota last month and has dropped nine of 12 in the series.