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Indians Indians Archive The Battle For Last Place: Twins/Indians
Written by Adam Burke

Adam Burke

kotchman twinsThe exciting battle for last place in the American League Central Division will reach a crescendo this week as the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins meet for the final time in the 2012 season with a three-game series at Progressive Field. Just one game separates these two lovable losers and emotions are sure to run high during this crucial series. If the season series is any indication of how things will go, hide the women and children.

Of all the teams in the Central Division, the Indians have allowed the most runs to the Minnesota Twins. There are still six games left against both the White Sox and the Royals, but that still seems like an inexcusable stat. The Twins lead the season series 10-5 and have outscored the Indians 93-60 in the 15 meetings. That means that the Twins are averaging more than six runs per game against Indians pitching this season. Only the White Sox are higher with over seven runs per game.

The Indians put themselves in this position by losing 45 of their 62 games since the All-Star break. In that span, the Tribe offense has averaged 3.24 runs per game and Tribe pitching/defense has allowed 5.66 runs per game. As for the Twins, they have hit the wall again after playing well out of the All-Star break. They’re 12 games under .500 over their last 44 games. Of the 13 other AL teams, the only team other team that the Twins have a winning record over is the Royals.

Two really bad ballclubs going in the same direction will try to avoid the dubious distinction of finishing last in the AL Central. Here are the pitching matchups for this epic series:

huffTuesday September 18, 7:05 p.m. ET; P.J. Walters (2-4, 6.70) v. David Huff (1-0, 0.00)

P.J. Walters opens up this series for the Twins in search of his first quality start since May 27. Walters started the season with four quality starts for the Twins from May 12-May 27, but it went downhill from there. By mid-June, he was out of the rotation and making starts for the Twins Triple-A affiliate in Rochester. With roster expansion, Walters has become a sacrificial lamb, making two starts and giving up 12 runs in nine innings during September.

After Jeanmar Gomez got a second chance to impress Tribe brass, he was removed from the rotation in favor of David Huff. Huff will now get his chance to leave a lasting impression through the winter and put himself in a position to contend for a rotation spot during Spring Training. Huff has thrown the ball well in two relief appearances, spanning six shutout innings with eight strikeouts and one walk.

Walters faced the Indians for the first time back on June 2 and didn’t make it through the fifth inning, allowing four runs on seven hits in 4.1 innings. Though Walters hasn’t pitched overly well, the Twins are 4-5 in his nine starts. Huff picked up a relief win over the Twins on September 7, his first appearance against them since September 24, 2011. Huff is 4-5 in 10 appearances, nine starts, against the Twins with a 4.92 ERA.

mcallister tampaWednesday September 19, 7:05 p.m. ET; Liam Hendriks (0-7, 6.14) v. Zach McAllister (5-7, 4.15)

Liam Hendriks has probably three more starts to avoid going winless for the season. The Australia native has made 13 starts without a victory, including a complete game loss to the Seattle Mariners, where Felix Hernandez beat him 1-0. Hendriks has been especially bad away from Target Field, posting an 8.42 ERA in six starts. In those six starts, he is allowing more than two baserunners per inning and opposing hitters are batting .376. He has made 17 starts at the Major League level and has never won a game.

Zach McAllister pitched really well in his last start against the Texas Rangers, his first quality start since August 22. The key for McAllister was command, as he didn’t walk anybody for the first time since his last win, August 11, against Boston. After giving up 32 runs in his first 61.2 innings this season, McAllister has allowed 37 in his last 46 innings.

Hendriks gave up four runs in five innings against the Indians on September 7. In his other start against the Indians, in 2011, Hendriks gave up four runs in six innings. McAllister has been tortured by the Twins this season. In two starts against them, he has lasted just 4.2 innings and allowed 11 runs, just four of them earned. In his last start, he needed 87 pitches to get through three innings.

kluberThursday September 20, 12:05 p.m. ET; Esmerling Vasquez (0-2, 7.53) v. Corey Kluber (1-4, 5.48)

On a Thursday getaway day, the Twins send Esmerling Vasquez to the mound for the fourth time this season. Vasquez has allowed 25 baserunners via hit or walk in 14.1 innings so far and 12 runs. The three starts Vasquez has made this season are the first in his career, which spans 144 games.

Corey Kluber is still looking for his first career win at home and his sixth home start will be his fourth day start of the season. His only win came on Labor Day in Detroit. In that start, Kluber went six innings and allowed two runs. In his other two daytime starts, he has allowed 10 earned runs in seven innings. This will be Kluber’s third start against the Twins in a month-and-a-half.

Vasquez lasted just 3.2 innings against the Tribe in his last start, walking five, and allowing four runs on three hits. That was his first appearance against the Indians. Kluber has faced the Twins twice, allowing eight runs, five earned, in 9.2 innings. The Twins are batting .318 off of Kluber this season.


Keys to the Series:

1. Bubble Boys – Zach McAllister is entrenched in the 2013 starting rotation, but David Huff and Corey Kluber are not. For as bad as the Twins are, offensively, they rank sixth in batting average, fifth in on-base percentage, and fourth in stolen bases. This is a pretty decent test for both Huff and Kluber. Huff had been pitching in relief of Jeanmar Gomez by design, so he’ll be on regular rest.

2. Take Advantage Offensively – The Indians avoid both Samuel Deduno and Scott Diamond, two pitchers who have given them fits this season. They get the three weakest pitchers in the Twins rotation. It would be nice to give the starters some margin for error, but it would be even nicer to wake up this slumbering offense.

3. If You’re Not First, You’re Last – That’s certainly true depending on how you look at it. By Pythagorean Win-Loss record, the Indians are already last, but, luckily, that’s not how the standings are set up. It’s a terrible season for the Indians regardless of if they finish fourth or fifth, but the Indians have never finished last in the Central Division and haven’t finished last in a division since they were at the bottom of the AL East in 1991.


Player to Watch:

The player to watch for this series is Carlos Santana. Lost in what his been a putrid second half is the production that Santana has had. For the second half, Santana is batting .291/.382/.516/.898, leading the team is almost every offensive category. This is the Santana that the Indians must have during his contract if they wish to have any shot at competing.


Wishful Thinking:

Can we actually take advantage of someone else’s crappy pitching for once?


Central Focus:

Chicago heads to Kansas City and the Tigers host the Oakland A’s.


One Last Thing...:

How awesome was it to beat Valverde and the Tigers on Sunday? In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter, but Valverde’s antics on the mound make him deserve that more than most. The Indians core players, Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, and Lonnie Chisenhall were the main contributors in that inning. A glimmer of hope for the future?

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