Series Preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Minnesota Twins

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After a smashingly good week of baseball, the Cleveland Indians have won six out of their last eight games, won three straight series over three better than average opponents, and have cut the Detroit Tigers lead down to just 3.5 games in the AL Central. After the week they just had it’s hard to really complain. Major League Baseball is a results oriented “what have you done for me lately?” type of business and right now, business is booming.

Riding this wave of success like a surfer into shark infested waters; the Tribe will look to continue their winning ways this weekend when the Minnesota Twins come to town. Yes, those same Twins that routinely finish in the AL Central Basement and are generally devoid of talent once you get past the names Mauer, Morneau, and Willingham. Everybody, please, try to contain your excitement.

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All joking aside, this is a Twins team that does deserve a bit of praise. Key word, a bit. You see, this is the first time in years that the Twins might not finish in the AL Central cellar. Granted, it has less to do with their own accomplishments and more to do with the sad state of the Chicago White Sox and the mess that they have become, but even still, the Twins has proven to have some fight in them. They might not be the Clubber Lang of the baseball world, but they definitely aren’t Spider Rico either. That bum.

The Twins come into play tonight 5.5 games back of the Tigers in the central and sit comfortably between the Royals and the aforementioned White Sox with a record of 33-36. Winners of three straight and 6-4 in their last 10 games, the Twins actually come into tonight’s game riding a decent wave of momentum. Of course those three straight wins came at the hands of the White Sox which makes it hard to get excited about, but hey, wins are wins. Right?

Offensively speaking, the Twins fall somewhere in the middle of the pack. They’re currently 17th in runs scored with 291 and have a team batting average of .247, good enough for 20th overall. They do get on base at a decent clip, though. Their .321 team OBP currently ranks 13th. None of this should really come as any surprise. With Joe Mauer sitting in the middle of the Twins lineup and serving as an OBP machine, the Twins can definitely put runs on the board.

Speaking of Mauer, he’s having another typical Joe Mauer-ish season. His slash line of .330/.412/.492. That folks, to quote my dashingly handsome counterpart Merritt Rohlfing, is some damn fine baseballing. All-star worthy, even. Sure, he may not hit home runs the way you would like your typical three-hole hitter, but home runs are overrated. Ok, so that’s a lie. But, Mauer has hit seven homers so far this season after hitting just 10 in all of 2012. Say what you want about it, but the name of the game is getting on base and Mauer does that better than anyone not name Joey Votto.
Of course, it also helps that Mauer is protected in the lineup by Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham. Both players have reaped the benefits of having Mauer on base ahead of them. Willing currently leads the Twins in home runs with 10 while Morneau has been an RBI machine, knocking in a team high 42 runs. It’s safe to say that Morneau is finally free of the concussion symptoms that had threatened to derail his career even if his power isn’t what it once was, eh.

One problem with the Twins, and there are many, are the parts surrounding their big three. Ryan Doumit has some pop in his bat, but other than that it’s a real poo-poo platter, if you know what I mean. Trevor Plouffe hasn’t been anything resembling the hitter he was last year. Chris Parmelee, Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon? None of these guys are striking fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers. They’ve even relied heavily on Jamey Carroll. It’s no wonder then that this team ranks in the middle in terms of runs and offensive output.

The other major problem has been run prevention. The Twins’ pitching staff has been awful this season and rank near the bottom in most meaningful categories. Even with a top ten team defensively, the Twins have found a way to produce a negative run differential. That my friends falls squarely on the shoulders of their pitching staff. But, what can you honestly expect when your rotation consist of Scott Diamond, Mike Pelfrey, Kevin Correia, Samuel Deduno, and P.J. Walters. Like I said, opposing hitters aren’t exactly shaking in their cleats at the prospect of facing that murderer’s row of pitching.

Throwing all of that aside, it’s probably best to point out that none of that stuff really matters. The Twins somehow, someway, always find a way to give the Indians trouble Even last season when both teams were in a race for last place the Twins found a way to give the Indians hell. Don’t be surprised if the Twins make the next three days more difficult than they should be. The Tribe is the better team on paper, but the Twins are scrappy. The Indians struggle with scrappy.

You’ve been warned.

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