The Twins look to complete a three-game sweep with a sixth consecutive win over the Indians on Thursday at Progressive Field.
The only team with a worse record than Minnesota (62-87) in the AL is Cleveland (61-88). That’s in part because the Twins have won 12 of the 17 games between the clubs this season. Josh Willingham had four hits with four RBIs as the Twins improved to 6-2 at Progressive Field with a 6-4 win Wednesday.
Though Minnesota will finish with its second consecutive losing season, Willingham has set career highs with 35 homers and 110 RBIs in his first year with the Twins. His home run total is the most by a Minnesota player since Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew’s 41 in 1970.
Willingham has hit .314 (11 for 35) with two home runs and eight RBIs at Progressive Field this season.
“He can put it in the seats and we knew that when we signed him,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He has some big RBIs for us.”
After Liam Hendricks earned his first major league win Wednesday, scheduled Minnesota starter Esmerling Vasquez (0-2, 7.53 ERA) makes his fourth straight start since being called up from the minors, and second against the Indians this month.
The right-hander allowed four runs and walked five in three innings of an 8-7 win over Cleveland on Sept. 9. The base on balls continue to be a problem for Vasquez, who walked four while giving up three runs and three hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 6-0 home loss to Chicago on Friday.
“He’s got good stuff,” White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “I’m sure they’re telling him this all the time: If he cuts down on his walks, he’s doing pretty good. But you can see it. You can see why he’s here. You can see why he’s starting. And the guy has potential.”
The Indians counter with Corey Kluber (1-4, 5.48), who has posted a 4.66 ERA while not earning a decision in two starts versus Minnesota in 2012. The right-hander allowed five runs in 3 2-3 innings of an 8-7 loss at Minnesota on Sept. 9, then gave up four in five innings of a 4-0 loss to Detroit on Friday.
Batting .167 with two home runs and seven RBIs in his last 21 games, Cabrera is not expected to play in the finale after he left Wednesday’s contest because of a sore wrist.
Teammate Travis Hafner could be in the lineup for a second straight game after he went 0 for 3 on Wednesday in his first contest since missing more than a month because of lower back inflammation. He is 3 for 12 against the Twins in 2012.