Scoreboard watching: The Twins’ chase for clinching the wild card

No one is popping the champagne yet, but perhaps the Minnesota Twins can put it on ice.

Minnesota is more than clinging to the second wild card in the American League; the Twins have a firm grip.

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With just six games remaining in the regular season, Minnesota’s path is very clear. One Twins win OR a loss by the Rays, Rangers or Royals would eliminate those teams from playoff consideration. Simple enough.

By the way, Tampa Bay plays at the Yankees, Texas hosts Houston and Kansas City is at home against Detroit.

Two wins for Minnesota OR two losses for the Angels, and Los Angeles is eliminated — and the Twins clinch.

How quickly can the Twins accomplish this? Let’s take a look at the upcoming Twins-Indians and Angels-White Sox series.

Yes, Cleveland might be baseball’s best team (98 wins; just two behind the Los Angeles Dodgers), but did you know the Indians are just 6-10 against Minnesota at home since 2016? The Twins have held Cleveland to 1.8 runs per game and a .203 batting average in six games at Progressive Field this season, of which Minnesota won five. In addition, hot-hitting Joe Mauer is a lifetime .327 hitter at Progressive Field.

Here’s a breakdown of each three-game series (note: Chicago beat Los Angeles on Monday, 4-2):

 

Tuesday

Twins-Indians, 6:10 p.m.

Bartolo Colon vs. Josh Tomlin

Colon has been better in his time with the Twins than he was with Atlanta, although he was pretty bad with the Braves (8.14 ERA). In 13 starts for Minnesota (the same amount he had with Atlanta), the 44-year-old Colon sports a 5.33 ERA. He has not been good in September, however, allowing 18 runs in 17 2/3 innings. He does, though, own the third-most wins in Progressive Field history (36).

Tomlin has a 4.98 ERA but hasn’t lost in his past nine straight starts. His last defeat? Against the Twins on June 25. At home, Tomlin has a 5.35 ERA and 1.391 WHIP while allowing 13 home runs in 69 innings.

Angels-White Sox, 7:10 p.m.

Parker Bridwell vs. Chris Volstad

Picked up off waivers, Bridwell has been a pleasant surprise for Los Angeles with a 3.86 ERA and 1.248 WHIP in 19 games (18 starts). He had, however, struggled in the second half, with an ERA of 4.89 in his last 10 starts.

Volstad will be making his first start for Chicago after four games out of the bullpen in which he allowed two runs (one earned) in 8 1/3 innings. In fact, this will be his first major-league start since he made 21 starts for the crosstown Cubs in 2012. Volstad has pitched in 18 2/3 innings in the majors since (none in 2016). He was 3-10 with a 5.57 ERA and 1.559 WHIP for Triple-A Charlotte this season.

 

Wednesday

Twins-Indians, 6:10 p.m.

Adalberto Mejia vs. Danny Salazar

In his first full season in the majors, Mejia has a 4.48 ERA and 1.548 WHIP. But away from Target Field, Mejia is sporting a 2.45 ERA in seven starts. He’s faced the Indians twice this season, allowing two runs in 9 2/3 innings.

Santana has a ton of talent, but is also an enigma with his up-and-down performances. His ERA is 4.48 and WHIP 1.383, but he whiffs 12.4 per nine innings. Bad news for the Twins, though, as he’s been much better at home this season (3.10 ERA in nine games) and has held Minnesota to two runs in 13 innings (with 17 strikeouts) in two starts.

Angels-White Sox, 7:10 p.m.

Garrett Richards vs. Reynaldo Lopez

Richards is making just his sixth start of the season, but he’s been pretty spectacular in his first five, posting a 1.50 ERA, 0.750 WHIP and 9.0 K/9. His highest pitch count so far has been 85, in his last start when he went six innings and allowed no runs on one hit.

The 23-year-old Lopez, who was acquired from Washington in the Adam Eaton trade, is making his eighth start since being recalled. He has a 4.54 ERA and 1.368 WHIP and has won his last three starts. In Triple-A, Lopez had a 3.79 ERA, 1.240 HWIP and 9.7 K/9 in 22 starts.

 

Thursday

Twins-Indians, 11:10 a.m.

Ervin Santana vs. Carlos Carrasco

Minnesota will be sending out its ace, will a playoff spot be on the line? Santana is 16-8 with a 3.36 ERA and 1.134 WHIP. On the road, he’s 10-3 with a 2.84 ERA and 1.061 WHIP. In three starts against Cleveland this season, Santana has allowed just one run in 19 innings.

Carrasco has been a solid No. 2 to ace Corey Kluber, with a 17-6 record, 3.43 ERA, 1.106 WHIP and 10.0 K/9. However, his ERA at home this year is 4.38 in 14 starts. Carrasco has faced Minnesota twice this year and has allowed two runs in 11 1/3 innings.

Angels-White Sox, 7:10 p.m.

TBD vs. Dylan Covey

The Angels aren’t listing a starter for this game — perhaps waiting to see if it matters or not. Bud Norris would be in line to start. The team’s former closer wouldn’t be counted on to pitch more than a couple of innings if he does get the nod. Lefty Tyler Skaggs (2-6, 4.48) could work on three days’ rest.

Covey has gotten pounded in his rookie season, sporting a 7.83 ERA and 1.725 WHIP. He’s nearly walked (32) as many has he’s struck out (36).

If the Angels (or anyone else) is still alive after Thursday, here’s how the playoff contenders finish up the season:

– Angels host Mariners

– Rangers host Athletics (series begins Thursday)

– Rays host Orioles

– Royals host Diamondbacks

– Twins host Tigers