The Cleveland Indians continue to fall off pace in the AL Central amid a frustrating series against the Minnesota Twins.
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On the bright side, they won’t have to face Francisco Liriano in the finale of the three-game series Sunday when they try to avoid a sweep.
Liriano was scheduled to pitch before the Twins dealt him to Chicago late Saturday night for shortstop Eduardo Escobar and pitching prospect Pedro Hernandez. Liriano, a former All-Star, is 3-10 with a 5.31 ERA in 22 appearances – 17 starts.
The Indians (50-51) certainly welcomed the move as Liriano was 3-2 with a 1.76 ERA in eight appearances – six starts – versus Cleveland at home.
Minnesota (42-58) will send Brian Duensing (1-6, 4.86 ERA) to the mound in Liriano’s place as it tries to complete the three-game sweep. The Twins followed their 11-0 victory Friday with a 12-5 win Saturday.
Josh Willingham hit a two-run homer – his 27th home run of the season – Ben Revere had three hits and two RBIs and Alexi Casilla matched his career high with four RBIs.
“The offense was pretty much up and down the lineup,” manager Ron Gardenhire told the Twins’ official website. “Alexi Casilla had a big game at the bottom of the lineup. Of course, Willingham put one in the seats again. He just continues to amaze you.”
Willingham has four homers in the last four games and is hitting .333 with eight homers, 18 RBIs and 13 runs scored since the All-Star break.
With the loss, the Indians fell 5 1/2 games behind first-place Chicago in the division and are five back of the wild card. Their starting rotation has struggled since the All-Star break, compiling a 6.27 ERA, and Josh Tomlin and Justin Masterson allowed a combined 18 runs in 9 2-3 innings in last two games.
“These two games are not exactly the way you wanted to see things happen,” Masterson said. “But it doesn’t mean we’re done or out of it.”
Cleveland has lost 10 of 13 since the break and in danger of falling two games below .500 for the first time since it was 2-4 on April 13.
Looking to avoid the sweep, the Indians will hand the ball to Ubaldo Jimenez (8-9, 4.97), who had a promising start his last time out.
Thee right-hander gave up seven hits in six scoreless innings of a 3-2 victory over Detroit on Tuesday, although he didn’t factor in the decision. Jimenez had allowed 13 runs over eight innings in his previous two starts.
Jimenez is 2-1 with a 2.11 ERA in three starts against the Twins, though this will be his first time facing them this year.
Duensing, making only his fifth start this year, is 0-4 with a 10.13 ERA over 13 1-3 innings in his previous four. The left-hander is 4-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 13 appearances – five starts – versus the Indians, against whom he’s pitched four scoreless in three relief appearances this year.