Twins’ big bats, bullpen key vs. Indians
First, they need to hold off the resurgent Cleveland Indians, who’ve again chipped away at the Twins’ division lead, which stands at 3.5 games heading into another three-game series at Progressive Field.
The Twins’ offense isn’t what it was back in August thanks to a rash of last-season injuries, but they should have a pair of big bats in the lineup for Friday’s series opener.
Designated hitter Nelson Cruz hit his first home run Thursday since missing two games with a nagging wrist injury last week. Mitch Garver doubled in Thursday’s game after homering in back-to-back games.
Both sluggers are hitting home runs at an impressive pace this season.
Cruz is averaging just 12.92 plate appearances per home run this season, third in the majors amongst players with at least 25 home runs.
Garver, meanwhile, leads the majors at just 10.8 plate appearances per home runs after hitting his 30th of the season Tuesday.
The story of the season series, however, has been pitching.
The Indians have a 3.65 ERA in 16 games against the Twins this season. In the AL only the Boston Red Sox (2.64 ERA) have been better against Minnesota.
Minnesota’s bullpen has helped even the odds since the trade deadline. Twins relievers have a 3.85 ERA since Aug. 1, the second-lowest mark in the AL over that span.
There’s a good chance they won’t be called upon for a while Friday.
Twins starter Jake Odorizzi has been at his best against the Indians this season. The veteran right-hander is 2-0 with a 1.61 ERA in four games against Cleveland with a 1.075 WHIP and an 11.7 K/9.
He helped the Twins to a 5-3 win over the Indians last Saturday, allowing four hits and two earned runs with 10 strikeouts — one off his season high — in 5 1/3 innings.
Odorizzi has reached double-digit strikeouts twice this season, fanning 11 batters in his first meeting with Cleveland back on March 30.
He squares off against red-hot Indians rookie Aaron Civale, whose 1.93 ERA is the fourth-lowest in MLB since his June 22 debut.
Statistics via Sportradar