CLEVELAND — After a rousing eight-game road trip, the red-hot Cleveland Indians return home Friday night to host the staggering Minnesota Twins in the first game of a three-game series.
Coverage begins Friday at 6:30 p.m. on SportsTime Ohio
The Indians went 7-1 on the trip to Minnesota and Baltimore that ended Thursday with a 6-3 win over the Orioles. The Indians (39-32) are a season-high seven games over .500.
The Twins, who were shut out 9-0 by the White Sox on Thursday, have lost five of their last seven games and eight of their last 12.
During their eight-game trip, the Indians made up 4 1/2 games on the Twins. At the start of the trip, the Indians were in second place in the Central Division, two games behind first-place Minnesota. The Indians then swept a four-game series in Minnesota and won three of four in Baltimore to come home in first place in the division, 2 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Twins.
Indians manager Terry Francona isn’t getting carried away by his team’s hot streak.
“I don’t care about what happened a week ago. I only care about the game today,” Francona said. “We don’t want to get too down or too full of ourselves. We want to stay in the moment.”
Cleveland has several hot hitters at the moment, the hottest being third baseman Jose Ramirez, who had a streak of nine multi-hit games snapped Thursday. During his streak, Ramirez hit .548 (23-for-42), with 10 doubles, one triple, three home runs and seven RBIs. It was the longest such streak by an Indians player in 82 years, the third longest in franchise history.
Cleveland’s offense is flourishing without No. 3 hitter Michael Brantley, who missed the trip and is on the disabled list with a sprained ankle. He will miss the Minnesota series as well.
Veteran Austin Jackson replaced Brantley in the lineup, and in his last five games Jackson has hit .421 (8-for-19) with eight RBIs.
“He’s getting hits, driving the ball into gaps, driving in runs. You can see how much fun he’s having,” Francona said.
The Twins’ offense has begun to sputter. In losing five of their last seven games, the Twins have been outscored 46-21.
Manager Paul Molitor feels like the offense can get a boost through stolen bases. The Twins rank sixth in the league in steals.
“We definitely have guys that know how to run the bases and can be somewhat proficient in that area,” Molitor told the Pioneer Press. “(Byron) Buxton is still learning. (Brian) Dozier has always been good at that. (Eddie) Rosario and (Max) Kepler are some other guys we can put in the running mix from time to time.”
Infielder Ehire Adrianza was placed on the disabled list Thursday with an abdominal injury. The Twins also optioned pitcher Nik Turley to Triple-A Rochester and are expected to add two players before Friday’s game.
The pitching matchup features Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer (6-5, 5.54 ERA) against Minnesota’s Adalberto Mejia (1-3, 5.53).
Bauer’s last start was a 5-2 win on June 18 in Minnesota. Bauer pitched seven innings, giving up two runs on four hits with eight strikeouts and two walks. He is 3-0 with a 3.26 ERA in three starts against the Twins this year. In 14 career starts vs. Minnesota, Bauer is 4-5 with a 4.84 ERA.
Mejia’s last start came against Cleveland, a 6-2 loss on June 17. It was his only career appearance vs. the Indians. Mejia pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits, with three strikeouts and three walks.