If the Cleveland Indians want to gain ground in the AL Central, they’ll need to avoid slip-ups against teams like the Minnesota Twins, who they conclude a two-game series with on Wednesday at the Metrodome.
Cleveland (22-23) had won five of its past six games before falling 6-5 in 10 innings to the Twins (20-25) on Tuesday. The Indians had won six straight— all at home—over Minnesota and had been beating up on teams with poor records.
Cleveland swept a three-game series from Kansas City, then took two of three from Pittsburgh before Tuesday’s loss dropped it back below .500.
The Twins have now won three straight at home over Cleveland while the Indians have lost four consecutive road games.
“We have a base to work with and we don’t want to give Morneau anything good to hit,” Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. “He’s a free-swinger. (Guillermo) Mota got ahead, but he didn’t execute. He gave him a pitch to hit.”
Minnesota closer Joe Nathan struck out five batters over two innings, the first time he’s struck out five in a game since June 29, 2000, when he was a starter for San Francisco.
“He was filthy,” Twins right fielder Michael Cuddyer said. “I didn’t think any one of their batters, at any point, knew what was coming.”
To regain their dominance against the Twins and stop the road losing streak, the Indians will send ace C.C Sabathia (3-1, 1.95 ERA) to the mound on Wednesday.
Sabathia beat Seattle 2-0 on May 7 for Cleveland’s last road victory, and since returning from the disabled list at the start of the month, the left-hander has pitched well.
He’s allowed only four earned runs in his last four starts and threw a complete game against the Pirates on Friday, allowing three hits and one run in a 4-1 victory.
Sabathia is 6-4 with a 3.85 ERA in 17 starts against Minnesota, and has won his last two decisions against the Twins. He is 5-4 in Minnesota and his 12 starts at the Metrodome are the most he’s made in any visiting stadium.
Minnesota’s victory on Tuesday was its third in the last four games, and the Twins desperately need Brad Radke (4-5, 7.20) to turn his season around when he starts on Wednesday. After being a model of consistency for so long, Radke has struggled this year, allowing double-digit hits and at least six runs in four of his nine starts.
He gave up 10 hits and three earned runs in six innings of a 5-3 loss to Detroit last Thursday, and his ERA is the fourth-worst in the majors.
Teammate Carlos Silva has the worst ERA in the majors at 8.44, and the Twins have three pitchers ranked in the bottom 20.
Radke is 10-16 with a 4.86 ERA in 34 starts against the Indians. The 16 losses are his most against any team he’s faced.