Thirteen games remain before the playoffs and the Twins (89-57) are staring down a chance to finish off the Cleveland Indians (86-61) in the American League Central Division race. Likewise, the Indians are staring at an opportunity to make the final 10 games extremely interesting.
And just in time for the biggest series of the season, the Twins could have some key players back in the lineup. According to Do-Hyoung Park, the Twins had Max Kepler, Miguel Sano and Jake Cave take batting practice for Thursday's loss to the Nationals, and all three could be available for the weekend series in Ohio.
Manager Rocco Baldelli was noncommittal when asked if the trio would play, but Park reports that Nelson Cruz was optimistic that Kepler and Sano, and perhaps Cave, would be in the lineup this weekend.
“We're getting closer and closer,” Baldelli said. “Internally, we know that. We don't always go into specifics of what that means for each guy, but our guys are feeling better. Each day, they are doing more and more. I'm not sure when we are going to have the entire group back out there playing at the same time. Hopefully, it's a matter of days."
Entering the series, the Twins lead the Indians by 3.5 games.
- If the Twins win 3 of 3, the lead grows to 6.5 games.
- If the Twins win 2 of 3, the lead grows to 4.5 games.
- If the Twins win 1 of 3, the lead shrinks to 2.5 games.
- If the Twins win 0 of 3, the lead shrinks to 0.5 games.
Clearly, this has the makings for some playoff-type baseball, and the pitching matchups will certainly align with what a potential postseason series would feature, especially for Cleveland.
- Friday: Jake Odorizzi vs. Aaron Civale
- Saturday: TBD vs. Mike Clevinger
- Sunday: Jose Berrios vs. Shane Bieber
Civale has a 1.64 ERA in 11 innings against the Twins this season. The right-hander has allowed just seven hits and two runs while posting nine strikeouts.
Minnesota's bats are hitting just .169 in 18.1 innings versus Clevinger, while the right-handed has struck out 22 batters compared to allowing only two runs.
Bieber has been good but not great against the Twins. In 22.1 innings this season, he's allowed eight runs (including four homers) while allowing the Twins to hit .224 against him. Not bad at all.
On the flip side, here's how Odorizzi and Berrios have fared against Cleveland this season.
- Odorizzi: 22.1 innings, 29 strikeouts, 14 hits, 4 runs (1.61 ERA)
- Berrios: 24.2 innings, 29 strikeouts, 16 hits, 7 runs (2.55 ERA)
That duo has held its own against Cleveland, and they'll need to do it again with the spotlight on them this weekend.
First pitch Friday is set for 6:10 p.m. However, the forecast calls for thunderstorms in an otherwise hot and humid day in Cleveland with a high of 87 degrees.