In a crazy turn of events, the Indians have won three straight series, now that they are out of the most difficult stretch of the season. They were able to actually beat Ervin Santana, who has been a thorn in the Indians side for the past few years and the bullpen has retained some order with Vinnie Pestano getting his first two saves. The Indians used their two top starters to win the final two games against Kansas City, so they will be sending the bottom of the rotation against the fourth place twins.
In an interesting note, the Indians played the Tigers in a series starting June 6th where they could have passed the Tigers in the standings with a sweep, then recently played Kansas City who could have done the same against the Indians. Now the Indians are playing the Twins, who, while being two places behind the Tribe, could still catch and pass them with a three game sweep. This is real evidence of the closeness of the AL Central Division which remains within 10.5 games between first and last place.
Game 1: Friday, June 21st 7:05 PM EDT
Sam Deduno, RHP, 3-1, 3.26 ERA vs Scott Kazmir, LHP, 3-4, 5.89 ERA
Deduno came out of nowhere last year as a 28 year old rookie and has been dominating the Indians ever since. Depending on how Terry Francona sets up his lineup, there is a good chance the first six batters will have gone 0-12 in their career against Deduno. Only Lonnie Chisenhall (1-2, HR) and Michael Brantley (2-3) have hits against the Twins starter. Last year, the Twins lost seven of his last ten starts, but beat the Indians for two of the three wins.
The Indians have never won a game that Sam Deduno has started and Kazmir has been the most inconsistent regular starter for the Indians this season, making this game look like a lost cause before it even starts. Thankfully for the Tribe, the second and third games of this series are very winnable.
Game 2: Saturday, June 22nd 7:15 PM EDT FOX
P.J. Walters, RHP, 2-2, 3.23 ERA vs Corey Kluber, RHP, 5-4, 3.58 ERA
Walters is a relative newcomer to the Twins rotation, coming to the team about a month ago. He has pitched well so far, better even than his numbers look if you take into account that 6 of his 11 runs came against the Tigers. His last start was one of these against Detroit where he gave up 4 runs in just over five innings. That was his shortest start this season. The Indians best shot will be to be patient and force Walters to throw a lot of pitches early in the game. Lonnie Chisenhall has seen some success in the past against Walters and this may be just what he needs to get out of his slump.
Kluber has been amazing for the Indians so far this year, but he pulled out all the stops in his last start, pitching a season high 8 shut out innings. He has now given up six runs in his last five starts and won two in a row. The Twins should be no issue for the Indians new top end starter.
Game 3: Sunday, June 23rd 1:05 PM EDT
Mike Pelfrey, RHP, 3-6, 6.11 ERA vs Carlos Carrasco, RHP, 0-2, 8.40 ERA
Pelfrey is the (statistically) worst starting pitcher the Indians have played against in a long time, but this doesn't necessitate offensive success. Current hitters on the Indians roster are batting just .255 with just 6 RBI in 55 at bats against him. Mark Reynolds has about twice as many at bats as any other hitter against him and has 3 of the 6 RBI.
The Indians almost won Carrasco's last start, but he was pulled early and the bullpen blew the save. It was his first start (of three this season) that was not completely embarrassing. In fact, it was amazing as he started to throw inside to hitters without hitting them and pitched 7.1 shut out innings (his one run allowed was given up by the bullpen). He will look to continue that success into this game against the light hitting Twins.