Indians, Twins open four-game series (Jun 16, 2017)
MINNEAPOLIS -- As the Cleveland Indians were running away with the American League Central last season on their way to the World Series, they dominated within their division to win the Central by eight games.
Minnesota, despite finishing at the bottom of the division, actually had the most success against Cleveland of anyone in the Central. The Indians won 10 of the 19 games between the two teams and the teams had an even run-differential at 92 runs apiece.
This season, the Twins are the ones on top in the division and Cleveland is two games behind as the two teams begin a four-game series in Minnesota on Friday. The Indians have won four of the six games between the teams this season but the Twins are out to prove they are challenges to Cleveland again.
"One hundred percent," Minnesota catcher Chris Gimenez said of getting up for a June series against the Indians. "We'd all be lying if we haven't been scoreboard watching since we got off to a 4-0 start."
Gimenez was part of the Indians' squad that advanced to the World Series last year, but he signed with the Twins in the offseason as new Minnesota chief baseball officer Derek Falvey brought the backup catcher along with him from Cleveland.
Thursday, Gimenez kept the Twins two games clear of the Indians with his first multi-homer game in the majors. Gimenez and Minnesota beat Seattle 6-2 to split the four-game series.
Next up is another matchup with Cleveland, which includes a Saturday doubleheader to make up for a rainout earlier this season.
"I think, last year especially, Cleveland was kind of the bully on the block," Gimenez said. "We want to let people know that we're ready to kind of take the bully on and punch him in the mouth. This is a good opportunity to do that.
"Not that the season is over if it doesn't happen that way but anytime you have the chance to play the guys right behind you, and potentially create some separation there, is a good thing."
The Indians would like to make a move on Minnesota. They haven't been able to close ground after a 1-4 road trip was followed by a 3-3 homestand against the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers.
"We've been inconsistent in a lot of areas," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. "There's a lot of baseball left to be played, but we need to get going."
More production from designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion would go a long way to helping the Indians. Encarnacion had three hits, including his 13th homer of the season in Thursday's 12-5 win against Los Angeles.
After hitting five home runs in his first 37 games, Encarnacion has hit eight homers in his last 24 games and is batting .341 (29-for-85) in that stretch, with four doubles and 16 RBIs.
"He's taking a lot of good swings," Francona said. "It's nice to get him going. We've got a lot of baseball coming up and him being hot is going to help."
Minnesota will start left-hander Nik Turley (0-0, 9.00 ERA) on Friday as Cleveland counters with right-hander Carlos Carrasco (6-3, 3.36). Turley will be making his second major league start after giving up four runs in four innings against the San Francisco Giants last week.
Carrasco has ridden the ups and downs along with his team a bit the past four starts. Carrasco has given up nine runs in 10 2/3 innings in his past two road starts, while alternating strong home outings in that span. He's coming off a home win against Chicago in which he allowed two runs in 5 1/3 innings.
In his career, Carrasco is 2-6 with a 4.74 ERA against the Twins.
"Momentum, it's always a little bit tough to predict where it's going to go," Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said after Thursday's win. "It will be fun to play the Indians. Obviously as the defending American League champions, it's still relatively early, but to play them four times in three games, summertime and good weather, and hopefully some good baseball."