One bright spot during the Minnesota Twins' dismal season might be how well they've played against the Cleveland Indians. 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. 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. 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. Jason Kipnis had two hits with two RBIs and Asdrubal Cabrera homered Wednesday for Cleveland, which has gone 39-72 since it held a four-game lead in the AL Central on May 17.
We get a nice price here as the season winds down, and especially during the day the ball does carry a lot better than it does during the evening at Progressive Field. Despite the pitching woes for Minnesota they are hitting .263 collectively with most of that success coming in a respectable second half led by Willingham (.262 35 110). Trevor Ploufe (.235 22 50) had a torrid summer hitting .335 but has since struggled mightily since late August despite second on the club in HR. Justin Morneau (.276 19 76) battled injuries past the first quarter point of the season but has bounced back respectively by overall standards. Ryan Doumit (.281 16 67) has battled rib injuries on several ocassions and has performed well when in the lineup. Denard Span (.290 3 36) is second on the team in hits out of the leadoff spot behind Joe Mauer (.324 10 79) who is amongst the leaders in hitting and has also battled the injury bug. On the other hand, the second half has completely gone in reverse for Cleveland, who is hitting just .247 overall. There is nice balance in the lineup aklthough most of us didn't expect cathcer Carlos Santana (.253 16 68) to lead the team in production and power. Asdrubal Cabrera (.269 15 59) and Sin Soo Choo (.274 15 56) battled tough starts at the beginning of the season while Jason Kipnis (.255 14 68) was hitting as high as .315 at one point before faltering in the second half. The same could be said for Casey Kotchman and Travis Hafner who have also gone through subpar seasons, however we think this series could be concluded with a bang given Vasquez and Kluber have struggled to hit their stride over the last few starts. Best of luck however you play!