The All-Star break is over and the Twins and Indians are set to engage in a huge three-game series in Cleveland Friday-Sunday.
With 73 games to go, the Twins lead the Indians by 5.5 games in the American League Central Division. It's a healthy margin as is, but not nearly as comfortable as the 11.5-game lead the Twins had just over a month ago.
This weekend's series is massive. Here's how it could play out for the Twins:
- Twins go 3-0 and increase their lead to 8.5 games
- Twins go 2-1 and increase their lead to 6.5 games
- Twins go 1-2 and their lead shrinks to 4.5 games
- Twins go 0-3 and their lead shrinks to 2.5 games
Clearly, a big swing either way is possible, and the Indians have lined up its starting rotation to challenge Minnesota's imposing lineup with its three best healthy pitchers.
Mike Clevinger starts Friday followed by Trevor Bauer Saturday and Shane Bieber Sunday. The Twins will counter with Kyle Gibson Friday, followed by All-Stars Jake Odorizzi and Jose Berrios.
Clevinger, Bauer and Bieber are nasty as all three are strikeout machines.
- Clevinger: 40 strikeouts in 24 innings (0.99 WHIP)
- Bauer: 149 strikeouts in 132 innings (1.17 WHIP)
- Bieber: 141 strikeouts in 112.1 innings (1.01 WHIP)
Clevinger has only made five starts this season after dealing with an injury, and if his last start before the break – 6 innings, 4 hits, 0 runs, 9 strikeouts – is an indication that he's regained his dominating form. In his two starts before getting injured, he struck out 22 batters in 13 innings and allowed just two hits.
The Twins beat Bauer June 6, largely because Max Kepler homered three times off the All-Star right-hander. Bauer still went eight innings in the game and has been very tough to hit most of the season.
Bieber, meanwhile, beat the Twins with seven good innings (he allowed two solo homers) June 4, and opponents are hitting just .213 against him.