The surging Minnesota Twins have cut their AL Central deficit in half over the past two weeks.
Now, they have a chance to post their longest home win streak over the Cleveland Indians in 47 years.
The Twins look to continue their improbable return to contention in Monday’s series-opening day-night doubleheader against the Indians at Target Field.
Minnesota earned its 12th win in 16 games Sunday, beating Kansas City 4-3 on the strength of Jim Thome’s(notes) 596th career home run, a three-run shot. Coupled with the Indians’ 8-3 loss in Baltimore, that result pushed the Twins (44-49) within five games of division co-leaders Cleveland and Detroit.
Minnesota, which earned the worst record in the majors earlier this season, was 10 games out in the division and tied with Kansas City for last place before its recent hot streak. Now, the Twins could gain sole possession of third place Monday night if Chicago loses and they’re able to sweep this doubleheader.
They would seem to have a good opportunity to do just that, as they’ve won nine of 10 over Cleveland (49-44) overall, and six straight meetings at Target Field. The Twins haven’t won seven straight at home over the Indians since a nine-game run from April 10, 1963-April 28, 1964.
The right-hander allowed one run over six innings and struck out a season-high five against the White Sox on July 10, getting credit for a 6-3 victory in his first start since defeating the Royals in another six-inning effort June 2.
“It’s always fun to get a start because that’s what I’m comfortable doing,” Swarzak, who allowed 11 runs over eight innings while losing two starts to the Indians in 2009, told the Twins’ official website. “Any time that the team needs me to pitch, I’m going to grab the ball and go as long as I can.
“I kind of like that. I feed off it. It’s kind of nice to be wanted.”
Scott Baker(notes) had been slated to start the opener of this twinbill, but Minnesota placed him on the disabled list Sunday with an elbow strain. In his place, the Twins will summon Scott Diamond to make his major league debut in the nightcap. The left-hander is 4-8 with a 4.70 ERA in 17 starts this season at Triple-A Rochester.
The Indians are expected to activate Fausto Carmona(notes) (4-10, 5.78) from the disabled list (strained right quad) to oppose Diamond, and will recall David Huff(notes) from Triple-A Columbus to make his season debut in the opener.
Huff, who has made 38 starts in the majors, is 2-5 with a 6.57 ERA in seven career matchups with Minnesota. He was 8-3 with a 3.86 ERA in 17 games at Columbus this season.
“He’s been pitching very well. He deserves to come up,” manager Manny Acta told the Indians’ official website. “He’s made some adjustments down there, and they’re happy with the progress he has made. We still believe in this guy.”
Carmona is 1-7 with a 7.41 ERA versus Minnesota in 10 starts since the start of 2008, and posted a similar 1-7 mark and 8.20 ERA in his last nine outings overall before landing on the DL.
The Indians have dropped five of seven overall. They are 13-12 against the AL Central this season, but seven of those wins have come against last-place Kansas City.
The Twins are 19-12 against division rivals.