It’s overcast and warm as the Minnesota Twins prepare to take on the Cleveland Indians in the first of three games to start a six-game homestand. It’ll be a pair of righties tangling on the mound, as the Indians will send Danny Salazar (4.15 ERA, 3.72 FIP in 80.1 innings) out while the Twins will counter with Bartolo Colon (6.77 ERA, 4.73 FIP in 94.1 innings).
More on that in a bit.
The Twins come into the series 59-57 — five games behind first-place Cleveland and in search of their first win over the Indians in Minneapolis. The Indians are 64-52, and 6-4 over their last 10 games, while the Twins are 8-2 over their last 10. This is the time to take advantage of head-to-head divisional matchups, manager Paul Molitor said.
“Obviously it carries a little more significance than the other times we’ve played them during the year,” Molitor said during his pregame availability. “They’re the team in our division that’s above us. The inter-divisional games are always two-game swings each and every time you play. You can cut (the deficit in the division) to four or increase it to six — we’re aware of that. We’d like to continue to do some of the things we’ve been doing.”
What are those things, you might ask?
“We’ve been pitching well enough,” Molitor said. “Our offense has been as hot maybe as it has been all year. We hope to continue to do that. We’ll try to keep it in perspective with the amount of games we have remaining, and the fact you’re just trying to win games. It should be fun with Colon pitching tonight and the Indians coming in on a nice night at Target Field.”
Here’s how both teams line up for this one:
— Brandon Warne (@Brandon_Warne) August 15, 2017
Colon has gotten better each time out for the Twins, though that’ll be a tough act to follow this time around. In his penultimate start, he tossed a complete game against the Rangers. He followed that up with seven shutout innings in Milwaukee to push his ERA with the Twins to 4.02 through five starts. It’s not all sunshine and lollipops, as opposing batters have hit him at a .302/.315/.484 clip in those five starts, but that was a bigger issue when he allowed eight hits in each of his first three starts (.364 BAA) as opposed to 14 over his last two (.233 BAA).
It’s not totally clear what Colon has left or how long he can do this, but he’s 44 and has given the Twins a desperately-needed shot in the arm. You can’t say enough about that.
Salazar has been red-hot since returning from the disabled list with a shoulder injury, and I caught up with Jordan Bastian of MLB.com to get his take on the flamethrowing righty:
Hector Santiago was back at Target Field prior to Tuesday’s game, but it wasn’t because he’s ready to pitch. The team has pulled him off his rehab stint as he’s again not feeling completely right as he’s dealing with discomfort with the upper thoracic pain that put him on the shelf.
“He didn’t make his last start,” Molitor said. “It’s one of those things where he’s not feeling quite right yet. We’re still trying to do things that get to the bottom of why he’s been slow to get back to 100 percent. That included more testing yesterday in Rochester.” The Twins did not have the results of that testing yet as of Molitor’s pregame availability, but did add that the team is also looking at his neck and upper spine to try locate any other problem spots.
There’s no official word yet on Glen Perkins, Molitor said. The left-hander worked back-to-back days for the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts before returning to Minneapolis, but he won’t be activated yet since he wouldn’t be available to work in the near term anyway. Molitor didn’t rule out a quick trip out to Rochester to polish off his rehab assignment, but that decision has not been made yet.
Molitor said Perkins was 88-91 mph on his fastball on Monday night.
“We had kind of planned for him to come back here after his stint with Chattanooga,” Molitor said. “I had a chance to talk with Jake Mauer (the Lookouts manager) and he said last night was his best night in terms of command, and he thought his breaking ball was sharp enough to get swings and misses.”
The Twins will make a determination for Perkins over the next couple days. Perkins has thrown 7.1 innings between the GCL Twins, Fort Myers and Chattanooga, allowing five earned runs (6.14 ERA) with 10 strikeouts and five walks. Molitor said he’ll have to have a chat with Perkins about his usage when the time comes for activation, and noted that the lefty’s repertoire will look a bit different, including using a mix of two- and four-seam fastballs. Perkins has been primarily a four-seam fastball pitcher as a reliever in recent seasons.
Notes and Quotes
- Today is former Twins manager Tom Kelly’s 67th birthday.
- The Twins are 5-8 against the Indians this season — 0-7 at Target Field and 5-1 at Progressive Field.
- Eddie Rosario was named AL Player of the Week for Aug. 7-13. He hit .444 over the week.
- The Twins are tied with the Indians as the No. 2 team in terms of offensive walk rate (9.7 percent).
- The Twins are hitting .274/.343/.457 in August — a 112 wRC+ that ranks fifth in MLB over that stretch.
- The Twins are ninth in MLB in ERA in August (3.60). That is a 4.58 mark from starters (18th) and a 2.03 mark (fourth) from relievers.
- Molitor on Colon’s influence on the team: “Different people have seen maybe even more than me. I’m out there quite a bit. It’s not like Kirby Puckett, where you know where he is in the clubhouse all the time. I think it’s more subtle, and ongoing throughout the day. It might be at the lunch table. The day in the dugout when Sano struck out three times in a row, (Colon) took the bat and showed him that there was a contact point. It’s little, but he’s definitely got a presence that commands respect from everybody here, and the fact that he’s been able to contribute the way he has has made him even more of a centerpiece to flock to at times. He doesn’t take himself too seriously. I think at times we all get a little too tightly wound about who we are and where we are in the game. It takes a little pressure off.”
- Molitor on Colon’s effect on Sano: “I think they’ve built a relationship rather quickly. I don’t know how much they interacted before he got here, if at all. But I know that Colon has helped him. He’s probably given him some wisdom. But he’s also not afraid to challenge him with a little sarcasm now and then too. It works more than one way.”