While the AL wild card race may not be the primary concern for people in the Twin Cities, it remains a pleasant distraction for a region dealing with tragedy.
Three days after a bridge collapse near the Metrodome resulted in five deaths and about 100 injuries, the Minnesota Twins continue their four-game series against the Cleveland Indians on Saturday with hopes of narrowing the gap for the wild card.
The Twins (55-53) fell six games behind wild card-leading Detroit with a 5-2 loss to the Indians in Friday’s series opener. It was Minnesota’s first game since a portion of Interstate 35W collapsed Wednesday, sending dozens of cars into the Mississippi River.
“It was an emotional couple days,” said Twins outfielder Michael Cuddyer, who had two hits in his first game back from the disabled list with a thumb injury. “Still a little weird out there, but for the most part for us it got back to normal for the three hours that we were out there.”
Minnesota - which dropped to 2-7 against Cleveland this year, including an 0-3 mark at the Metrodome - has been outscored 54-27 in the season series.
With their second consecutive win after a four-game skid, the Indians (62-47) took over sole possession of the AL Central lead for the first time since July 5. They hope to build on their one-half game lead over Detroit, but Cleveland hasn’t won three straight games since a six-game run from June 28-July 3.
“Hopefully we can put together a good streak here,” said C.C. Sabathia, who started and outpitched two-time AL Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana for his 14th win and tied Carlos Zambrano of the Chicago Cubs for the major league lead.
Grady Sizemore homered and had four RBIs Friday, and is batting .390 (16-for-41) during an 11-game hitting streak. The left-handed leadoff hitter is batting .283 against left-handers this year, after he hit just .214 against them last season.
“That’s a lot of work on his part,” Cleveland manager Eric Wedge told the Indians’ official Web site after Sizemore improved to 13-for-37 (.351) against the Twins this year. “You talk about a star player never getting complacent and never being satisfied, and he’s a great example of that.”
Sizemore is 1-for-5 with two strikeouts against Matt Garza (1-2, 1.37 ERA), who will make his second consecutive start against the Indians.
On Sunday, the right-hander struck out a career-high 11 in six innings, while holding Cleveland to one run and five hits. He didn’t get a decision in the Twins’ 4-1 victory, and is 0-2 in his last three starts despite his 1.96 ERA in those games.
“Not many (pitchers) are blessed with that arm that can reach back and throw fastballs and get out of things,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire told the Twins’ official Web site. “But he’s one of those kids that can throw a fastball and get past good hitters. And that’s kind of what he did. He reached back and let it fly.”
Garza is 0-1 with a 3.27 ERA in two career starts against the Indians, who will call up left-hander Aaron Laffey from Triple-A Buffalo to make his major league debut.
“He needs to pitch his ballgame,” Wedge said. “Any time it’s your first big-league start, there’s a lot that goes with that. We’ll try to make him as comfortable as we can.”
Laffey was 7-3 with a 3.28 ERA in 14 games for Buffalo.