Preview: Twins at Indians
CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians, who are in first place in the American League Central Division, are in the midst of a portion of their schedule in which they have an opportunity to lengthen their division lead, or see it evaporate — quickly.
Saturday at Progressive Field the Indians will host the division-rival Minnesota Twins in the second game of a three-game series. Saturday’s game will be the Indians’ ninth game in a 16-game stretch in which they will play only AL Central teams. In the first eight games in that span the Indians are 4-4, including a 6-3 loss to the Twins Friday night.
Overall this season the Indians are 18-12 against AL Central teams, including 11-3 at Progressive Field. The Twins are 15-10 against AL Central teams, and 5-2 against Cleveland.
Both teams made roster moves prior to Friday’s game. The Indians activated outfielder Tyler Naquin off the disabled list and placed first baseman Yonder Alonso on the family medical emergency list. Naquin was in the lineup Friday and played center field. He went 1-for-3 in his first game since being placed on the DL on May 11 with a strained left hamstring.
The Twins on Friday activated first baseman Joe Mauer off the disabled list and recalled infielder Taylor Motter from Triple-A Rochester. Mauer and Motter replace infielder Miguel Sano, who was optioned to Class-A Fort Myers, and outfielder Jake Cave, who was optioned to Rochester.
“It’s really been bothering him that he hasn’t been contributing while we’ve been losing. His biggest goal is to win,” Twins manager Paul Molitor told the Minneapolis Star Tribune regarding Sano. “Some things have knocked him off course from time to time, and it’s time to address them.”
Mauer missed 25 games with a cervical strain/concussion-like symptoms. Motter was claimed off waivers from Seattle on May 28 and hit .167 (7-for-42) at Rochester.
Although the Indians are just 6-7 in June, they are encouraged by the improved work by their bullpen, which was the American League’s worst over the first two months of the season. However, in the month of June, the Indians’ 2.30 bullpen ERA ranks fifth. Two new additions, left-hander Oliver Perez and right-hander Neil Ramirez, have been key contributors in the bullpen’s resurgence.
“We were hoping that with an opportunity to pitch for those guys, good things would happen, and that’s what happened,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “Perez has helped a lot, and Ramirez has some swing and miss stuff. Things are definitely settling down (in the bullpen).”
Carrasco (8-4, 3.90 ERA) is coming off his best start of the season, a 4-0 win over the White Sox on June 11. In that game, Carrasco pitched seven scoreless innings. He gave up two hits and recorded 11 strikeouts with one walk.
Carrasco has started two games against the Twins this season and is 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA. In 19 career appearances (16 starts) against Minnesota, Carrasco is 5-7 with a 3.97 ERA.
The 23-year-old Romero (3-2, 3.92) will be making his ninth major league start and his first against Cleveland. Romero’s last start was a 7-5 win over the Angels on June 10. Romero pitched five innings in that game, giving up three runs (two earned) on five hits, with five strikeouts and two walks.
Romero’s rookie season started well but has been bumpy in recent starts. In his first three starts he was 2-0 with a 0.54 ERA. But in his last five starts he is 1-2 with a 6.20 ERA.