The Cleveland Indians are welcoming back a familiar face to help them make their playoff push. The Minnesota Twins, meanwhile, are turning to their best pitcher to try to snap a season-high losing streak.
Cleveland (60-43) acquired Lofton from Texas on Friday in exchange for minor league catcher Max Ramirez. Lofton, a five-time All-Star in nine seasons with Cleveland, is returning for his third stint with the club in his 17-year career.
Lofton joins a Cleveland team that hasn’t made the playoffs since he left as a free agent after the 2001 season. The Indians, though, are one-half game behind Detroit for the AL Central lead and have a four-game cushion in the wild card race. Manager Eric Wedge thinks Lofton could be the piece that helps the team end their postseason drought.
“It’s amazing what he can still do,” Wedge said. “He brings a lot to our lineup and a great deal of experience to our clubhouse.”
Lofton, 40, didn’t disappoint in his season debut with the Indians on Friday, going 3-for-5 with an RBI in Cleveland’s 10-4 win, raising his season batting average to .307.
“It was emotional at first,” Lofton said. “The fans were cheering and I was trying to calm myself down the first time up. I didn’t know what to expect and it was nice to go out there and show the fans I have a little bit left.”
The Twins (51-51) dropped to 0-6 against the Indians this season with their fifth straight loss overall. They haven’t lost six in a row since July 28-Aug. 2, 2005.
“A terrible game from our side,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We didn’t catch the ball or make plays and that’s not good enough. It’s getting embarrassing and that’s what I told them. It’s one thing to get beat and one to get embarrassed. That’s not how it goes around here and we are not going to start now.”
Minnesota hopes to bounce back behind Santana (11-8, 2.94 ERA), who is 41-6 with a 2.16 ERA in 62 second-half starts since the 2003 season.
The left-hander, though, is just 1-2 with a 4.05 ERA since this year’s All-Star break. He has suffered back-to-back losses in the second half for the first time since August 2002 after giving up a season-high six runs in five innings in the Twins’ 6-4 loss at Toronto on Monday.
“Those guys were aggressive, they were swinging right away,” said Santana, who also gave up a career-high four home runs. “It seemed like the ball was flying today.”
Santana is 7-4 with a 3.18 ERA in 26 career games - 16 starts - against the Indians, but he’s 0-2 with a 3.86 ERA in two starts this year.
Jake Westbrook (1-6, 6.20) will start for Cleveland, looking for his first win in more than three months. The right-hander, who spent seven weeks on the disabled list in May and June because of a strained abdominal muscle, is 0-4 with a 5.03 ERA in seven starts since beating Baltimore on April 27.
Westbrook is 4-7 with a 3.94 ERA in 14 career starts against Minnesota.
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