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Big challenge: Twins face Yankees with Indians charging in AL Central

This is not what the Twins had envisioned with an 11.5-game lead in early June.
Nelson Cruz

Having dropped five of their last seven games, the Twins (60-38) have allowed the Indians (57-41) to climb within 3 games in the race for the American League Central Division title – and the week ahead could tighten the competition further. 

While the Twins are hosting the AL-leading New York Yankees Monday through Wednesday, the Indians will be in Toronto facing a Blue Jays squad that's 25 games under .500. 

If you dig deeper, you'll see that the Indians will be throwing three stud pitchers – Mike Clevinger, Trevor Bauer and Shane Bieber – against a young, inconsistent Toronto lineup. 

At the same time, the Twins will face a daunting Yankees lineup without Jose Berrios getting a turn in the rotation, as it won't be his turn to start again until the Twins travel to Chicago for a weekend series against the White Sox. 

  • Monday: Martin Perez vs. C.C. Sabathia
  • Tuesday: Kyle Gibson vs. Domingo German
  • Wednesday: Jake Odorizzi vs. J.A. Happ

Advantage: Cleveland, without a doubt. 

Let's say the Yankees take two of three against the Twins and the Indians sweep the Blue Jays. That would shrink Minnesota's lead over Cleveland to one game in the AL Central. 

If the Twins get swept by the Yankees and the Indians sweep the Blue Jays, then Cleveland would have crawled all the way out of an 11.5-game hole and into a tie for first place with the Twins. 

All in all, the Twins and Indians have been polar opposites since early June. 

  • June 3 record: Twins 40-18, Indians 29-30
  • Since June 4: Twins 20-20, Indians 28-11

Fortunately, the Twins' three series after playing the Yankees are against the White Sox, Marlins and Royals. The Indians, meanwhile, play four in Kansas City to end the week and then play nine straight at home against tough competition, including the Astros, Angels and Rangers. 

Assuming the division race is still close at that point, it'll set the stage for the most important series of the season as the Twins and Indians battle in a four-game set at Target Field Aug. 8-11. 

However, with the Twins' bullpen continuing to show cracks in the armor, they'll need some additions by the July 31 MLB Trade Deadline.   

According to FanGraphs, the Twins have a 78.6% chance to win the AL Central compared to the Indians' 21.4% chance. But let it be known that Minnesota's chances of winning the division just a few weeks ago was greater than 95%. 

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