The Cleveland Indians embark on a nine-game road trip brimming with confidence after beating one of baseball’s top pitchers to inch closer to the AL Central lead.
The Minnesota Twins are well out of the playoff picture and return home in a state of disarray.
The Indians look to build on an encouraging series and win for the fourth time in five games in Friday night’s series opener with the sputtering Twins.
Things were looking bleak for Cleveland (50-49) on Thursday, trailing Justin Verlander and Detroit 3-1 going into the seventh inning. The momentum shifted quickly when Carlos Santana and Travis Hafner tied it at 3 by homering on the first two pitches of the inning, and the Indians scored four times in the seventh off the reigning AL MVP to win 5-3.
Asdrubal Cabrera singled home the go-ahead run for Cleveland, which took two of three from the Tigers to knock them out of first place and pull within 3 1/2 games of division-leading Chicago.
“It was like unbelievable and so exciting,” Santana said.
One of the biggest positives heading to Minnesota, where the Indians have averaged 6.6 runs in winning the last five meetings, is Hafner and Santana appear to be finding their stroke.
Hafner has homered in back-to-back games after failing to go deep in his previous 10, and Santana is batting .409 with two homers, five doubles and four RBIs in the last six contests.
Both should be looking forward to this series. Santana has three homers and six RBIs during the winning streak in Minneapolis, and Hafner has hit safely in all 14 career games at Target Field, batting .364 with 10 RBIs.
The Twins (40-58), owners of the AL’s worst record, don’t have as much to be excited about after getting outscored 26-10 in suffering a three-game sweep to the White Sox. They went 3 for 31 with runners in scoring position for the series, left 23 runners on base and squandered leads in all three games. Joe Mauer was in the middle of the mess, going 2 for 10 without an RBI.
“Just a terrible series by us,” manager Ron Gardenhire said after Wednesday’s 8-2 defeat that dropped Minnesota to 4-11 since July 7.
Gardenhire will give the ball to Scott Diamond (8-4, 3.16 ERA) as the Twins return to Target Field, where they’ve won only one of their last six series.
Diamond allowed four runs and a season-high 10 hits in six innings in Saturday’s 7-3 loss to Kansas City. The left-hander has a 6.75 ERA in two starts since the All-Star break after recording a 2.40 ERA in his previous two.
He won his only start of the year against Cleveland on June 3, permitting three unearned runs in seven innings of a 6-3 victory.
The Indians counter with Josh Tomlin (5-7, 5.34), who gave up two runs in six innings against Baltimore on Sunday but was saddled with a 4-3 loss. He has been hit-or-miss over his last six starts, posting a 1.83 ERA in three of them but a 9.20 ERA in the other three.
The right-hander didn’t pitch well in his lone start of the season against the Twins on June 2, yielding five runs and 10 hits in six innings of a 7-4 defeat.
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