- Game One: Jeanmar Gomez vs. Liam Hendricks
As the Twins continue to hunt for answers for a starting rotation bereft of talent, a man with a 67 ERA+ will make his 12th start. He’s only 23, but Hendriks hasn’t shown much excellence in the major leagues though he did dominate both the Triple-A International League and the Double-A Eastern League while getting a good number of strikeouts. He doesn’t walk many guys with a BB/9 of 2.6, so at least we know he’s not afraid to throw it over the plate. But when you pitch to contact (as so many Twins pitchers have tried to do the last decade or so) you need to induce weak contact. Hendricks has had 27% of his batted balls go for a line drive, which largely explains his 6.11 ERA. He’s a control pitcher and was one of the Twins’ top rated prospects before the season. There’s no reason the Indians shouldn’t be able to get to him. Most of them are above-average, hitters at least.
This will be Gomez’s second start since returning to the Indians, and his last time out he handled himself quite well considering who he was facing. Over 5 ⅔ innings he kept the Rangers to three runs on four hits and made good on the early lead his teammates gave him. The Jeanmar that dominated the league in April and May was a ruse, we all know that, but he has to be better than the guy that opponents posted a .991 OPS against in June. His proper place is probably somewhere around long relief or Triple-A, but it’s not like he’s facing Murderer’s Row here. In four career starts against the Twins he has a 3.90 ERA with the Twins owning a .690 OPS against him. It’s his best numbers against a division rival, so with a little run support Jeanmar could be in good shape.
- Game Two: Zach McAllister vs. Cole De Vries
Yet another rookie for the Twins, Cole De Vries is also another stereotypical Twins pitcher. From Nick Blackburn to Kevin Slowey to Scott Baker, all these guys are pretty much the same. Try to hit that outside corner with your fastball that tickles 90, and limit the damage. This will be his 16th start in the majors and over his previous 81 ⅔ innings he’s allowed 85 hits and 40 earned runs with 16 homers. His 4.41 ERA is right there with his 4.45 SIERA. De Vries just might not be very good. After all, there’s a reason the Twins are 56-81, and it’s not because of Scott Diamond. This is his first start against the Indians, let’s make it memorable. No no-hitter. There, jinxed.
In his next few starts Zach McAllister has a chance to cement a place in the Indians starting rotations of the future. Flashing 95 on the speed gun is a good start, but consistency and ability to control the game is key for him. He’ll never be a big power pitcher but that doens’t mean he can’t be the Tribe’s number three guy in the rotation. Texas did kind of beat the crap out of him last time out, scoring seven on 11 hits and he has the distinction of being Jurickson Profar’s first victim in the major leagues. He faced the Twins on August 6 and didn’t make it out of the second inning as Minnesota scored 10 in that frame. He’s got bounce back though if you want to be a real player in this league. September is his chance to make his place for 2013, he just needs to avoid Josh Willingham and Joe Mauer. Easy as pie.
- Game Three: Justin Masterson vs.Esmerling Vasquez
If you’ve ever wondered what a replacement-level pitcher looks like, that man is Esmerling Vasquez. In the last two years FanGraphs has given him 0.0 and 0.1 WAR, respectively. If nothing else Esmerling will serve as a good teaching moment for those of you just delving into advanced metrics. He’s not that great, taking a loss in his first career start on Sunday, 5 ⅔ innings against the Royals where he gave up seven hits and five runs. The Indians seem to have gotten out of the doldrums. Wouldn’t it be cool to have another winning streak? Or at least a winning week?
Though he only lasted six innings against the Tigers on Tuesday, Justin Masterson showed ace form as he has in flashes this season. Whether that will carry over to a worse Twins lineup (shush, I know Mauer is still good) is what we will look for. He’s only 2-6 against Minnesota in his career; Justin’s held them to a .690 OPS, and this is perhaps the worst iteration of the Twins he’s faced. He’s the best pitcher the Indians have going right now, so considering who’s taking the mound opposite him you have to expect the win.
- Game Four: Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Samuel Deduno
The Twins trot out yet another rookie, but Samuel Deduno ain’t that bad in his first campaign. With a 112 ERA+ he’s the only guy on the staff besides Scott Diamond having a decent season. The problem is, he’s walking 5.9 batters per nine innings and striking them out at a similar clip. That’s just not tenable. Other than a mistake to Gordon Beckham that ended up over the fence for his last time out Deduno was strong against the White Sox for six innings of two run ball. He did damage against the Tribe back on July 28th, seven innings of one run ball despite five walks (remember how bad Cleveland was then?) but got knocked around a bit August 7th by the same Indians, four runs on five hits and five walks in four innings. Seems like the Tribe is learning him, we’ll see.
The Indians have TBD listed here, but the rotation brings up Ubaldo Jimenez and there’s no reason not to pitch him. If he can’t beat the Twins, what’s the point? His stat line is misleading from his last outing, when he threw 7 1/3 frames of four run ball against the Tigers. He’d given up only two runs going into the 8th, it was just a tired bullpen and perhaps some misplaced faith in the hurler by Manny Acta. He’s done alright against the Twins, they’ve got a .689 OPS against him and he walks only about three per nine innings against them. Good for him at least. As Ubaldo’s last start showed, he can be great, you just need to have a very short leash on him. Joe Mauer is 1-for-8 against him and Josh Willingham is 3-for-15 with two doubles. We’ll see what we get though, we all know past performance is never a guarantee of future results with this guy.
Look, let’s just focus on the here and now. The Tribe is pretty much out of it for even the most deluded (though you never know…) but let’s not end up in last place here. The Twins have been playing spoiler all year, and when you’re in last every game has that feel. Plus they don’t have Jim Thome so there won’t be that extra punch in the head.