Twins running away with division already

Published Jun. 4, 2019 7:00 p.m. ET

Once evenly matched, the Minnesota Twins and the Cleveland Indians have been headed in opposite directions since meeting on Opening Day earlier this year.

The two teams have split their last 22 meetings dating back to the start of 2018 and matched each other stat for stat.

However, Minnesota has since run away with the division.

The Twins (44-12) have an 11 1/2 game lead in the AL Central heading into Tuesday's series opener, the third-largest division lead at this point in the season since divisional play began in 1969.

Largest division lead on June 4, all-time

Season Team Division W-L Lead
2001 Seattle Mariners AL West 44-12 16 1/2
2017 Houston Astros AL West 41-16 13 1/2
2019 Minnesota Twins AL Central 40-18 11 1/2
1988 Oakland A's AL West 38-15 11
2017 Washington Nationals NL East 35-20 10 1/2

The 2017 Astros went on to win the AL West and the World Series, while the 2001 Mariners set a major-league record with 116 wins, before falling to the New York Yankees in the ALCS.

Minnesota owes some of their success to the long ball. The Twins lead the majors with 109 home runs, while the Indians rank 25th with just 61 homers.

Of those 61 home runs, just a handful have been worth more than one run.

The Indians have hit 48 solo home runs this season, 78.7% of their total, currently the highest such percentage since 1974.

If Twins starter Devin Smeltzer's debut is any indication, they could have a hard time hitting home runs of any sort Tuesday.

Called up last week, the rookie shut out the Milwaukee Brewers in his first career start, allowing just three hits and racking up seven strikeouts in six innings.

He's the first pitcher in Twins history to post such a stat line -- at least seven strikeouts and no earned runs -- in his debut, and the second in franchise history, joining Dixie Walker of the 1909 Washington Senators.

Other notes:

-- The Twins' Jorge Polanco leads all shortstops with a .371 on-base percentage, while the Indians' Francisco Lindor ranks fourth with a .354 OBP.

-- A career .230 hitter heading into this season, Twins outfielder Byron Buxton is hitting .267 through 55 games, and is on pace for a career season.

-- Second year right-hander Shane Bieber, set to start for the Indians, has 203 career strikeouts heading into the 33rd appearance of his MLB career, the most ever by a Cleveland pitcher through his first 32 career starts.

Statistics via Sportradar


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