Twins can't relax as Indians apply pressure in the AL Central

Cleveland is the hottest team in the MLB in June.
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Jose Berrios

Long assumed to be the likely runaway winners of the American League Central Division, the Minnesota Twins can see the Cleveland Indians charging before the All-Star break.

It's not unsettling at this point, but it has to have the Twins' attention considering their 11 1/2-game lead is down to eight approaching the All-Star break. 

What if the Indians trim the lead to five or six games over the next 10 days, then win two of three or sweep the Twins when they meet in Cleveland in the first series after the All-Star break (July 12-14)? 

All of a sudden, the Twins' lead might be down to four or five games with two and a half months to go. 

Bottom line: The Indians aren't out of the division race, but the next 10 days leading up to the All-Star break could play a huge role in what Cleveland does before the July 31 trade deadline. 

“I think the Indians are going to be willing to listen, but I think it’s going to be winter time for the Indians," MLB insider Jon Heyman said of the Indians' approach to the trade deadline. "They’re in that race. I don’t think they’ll beat the Twins, but they are certainly in the wild card and to be a seller now would be unusual.”

Cleveland is an MLB-best 16-7 in June and all signs point to their once dominant pitching staff returning to form. 

  • Mike Clevinger is back from injury. 
  • Trevor Bauer has been lights out more often than not. 
  • Shane Bieber rarely gets roughed up and is a strikeouts machine. 
  • Carlos Carrasco doesn't have a timetable to return, but he's playing catch again. 
  • Corey Kluber has a good chance to return to the rotation by September. 

Cleveland was 29-30 on June 2, then took two of three from the Twins and is now 44-36. 

Minnesota was 40-18 on June 2, having gone 12-10 since to turn the 11 1/2-game lead into an 8-game cushion with nine games to go before the All-Star break. 

According to Baseball Reference, the Twins still have a 99.3% chance to make the playoffs and a 97.3% chance to win the division. But if Cleveland smokes the Twins in their 13 remaining head-to-head matchups, those percentages will shift dramatically. 

Of course, the Twins could dominate those remaining 13 games and still run away with the division. But for now, the Twins can't relax. 

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