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Indians Indians Archive Indians Look To Build Off Momentum in Minnesota
Written by Adam Burke

Adam Burke

santana twinsAfter notching, by far, the biggest win of the season, the Indians head to Minnesota for a long 10-day, nine-game road trip that features two AL Central bottom feeders and a rematch with the Tigers in Detroit next weekend. The Twins series is an especially crucial one because they have to build off the momentum of beating Justin Verlander and taking two of three from the Tigers to stay firmly entrenched in the AL Central face. The Indians haven’t faced the Twins since the first weekend in June, losing two of three at home to the worst team in the American League.

The Indians will try to finish the month of July strong, with a three-game weekend set in Minnesota and then the opening game of a three-game series in Kansas City. July has not been kind to the Indians, who have gone 11-11 and scored just 91 runs in those 22 games, two games accounting for 19 of those runs. The 11-11 record has been compounded by the Tigers going 14-6, putting the Indians three games back in the division, exactly where they were out of the All-Star break. Given how they’ve played, not losing any ground over the last two weeks is pretty fortunate. The only difference is that they have to leapfrog both Chicago and Detroit now.

The Tribe have won three of five against Minnesota this season, sweeping a two-game set at Target Field and dropping two of three at home in early June. The Twins are just 8-13 in July and are second-worst in the league with 19-30 record at home. It’s been a rough season for the Twins, who don’t have any household names outside of Joe Mauer and have allowed a league-worst 5.3 runs per game. They have, however, been respectable in the Central Division with a 16-18 record.

With the Indians in need of victories to keep pace, this is a must-win series for them. Here are the pitching matchups for the weekend:

tomlinvcinFriday July 27, 8:10 p.m. ET; Josh Tomlin (5-7, 5.34) v. Scott Diamond (8-4, 3.16)

Target Field has been less of a pitcher’s park than you might think. So far, in 49 games this season at Target Field, 489 runs have been scored, an average of just under 10 runs per game. That may not bode well for Tomlin who hasn’t sustained more than a couple starts in a row worth of success at any point in 2012. He’s pitched well in two of his last three outings, and he’ll need to do so again on Friday night because the Indians are facing a lefty and Minnesota’s best pitcher.

Scott Diamond has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise abysmal season for the Twins. Diamond’s luck may be running out, however. With a .280 batting average against and only 50 strikeouts in 91 innings of work, Diamond’s ERA has shot up from 1.61 on June 9 to 3.16 entering Friday’s start. Over his last seven starts spanning 46.1 innings, Diamond has a 4.66 ERA and has allowed 51 hits.

Tomlin has really struggled against the light-hitting Twins over his four career starts against them. He’s 1-2 with a 5.92 ERA. In his last start, Tomlin was tagged for five runs on 10 hits in a 7-4 loss. This will only be his second career start at Target Field. In his first start, he didn’t factor in the decision, giving up four runs over six innings. As for Diamond, he’s faced the Indians three times in his 21 Major League starts. He beat them back on June 3, giving up three unearned runs in seven innings. He’s 1-1 with a 3.38 in those three starts. At home this season, Diamond is 5-1 with a 2.72 ERA.

masterson01Saturday July 28, 7:10 p.m. ET; Justin Masterson (7-8, 4.12) v. Samuel Deduno (1-0, 3.94)

Justin Masterson’s every other start trend will have to be broken for the Indians to have a good chance to win Saturday’s game. Beginning with his first July start on July 1, and going through his five starts, Masterson has a .84 ERA in starts one, three, and five, and a 12.47 ERA in starts two and four. It’s been that kind of season for Masterson with a lot of ups and downs. Interestingly, just four of Masterson’s 21 starts have come against teams with records of less than .500. In those four starts, he’s 0-2 with a 7.94 ERA.

Samuel Deduno may pose problems for the Indians just like Miguel Gonzalez did last weekend. The Indians seem to have a lot of difficulty with pitchers that they’ve never seen before. Deduno has made three starts this season, posting a win and a couple of no decisions with an ERA of 3.94. The 28-year-old Deduno really paid his dues in the minors, appearing in 169 games, 140 as a starter, before getting a legitimate chance in the Majors.

Masterson threw a quality start against Minnesota the only time he faced them this season, going six innings and allowing three runs in a 6-3 Tribe loss. For his career, Masterson is just 1-5 against Minnesota in 11 appearances, but with a respectable 3.61 ERA. Deduno has never faced the Indians and is making just his fourth big league start.

jimenezhoustonSunday July 29, 2:10 p.m. ET; Ubaldo Jimenez (8-9, 4.97) v. Francisco Liriano (3-10, 5.31)

In the case of two guys who were on the fast track to stardom and have fallen on hard time, they’ll meet for supremacy in the series finale on Sunday afternoon. Jimenez, like so many Indians starters, has not been consistent all season long. He’s coming off a gritty win over the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday night in the series opener, but it’s really hard to predict which Ubaldo will show up.

Francisco Liriano was viewed as one of baseball’s top prospects and a guy who had superstar written all over him. Tommy John surgery struck in 2007 and Liriano has fought with consistency and command issues ever since. He had a decent return season in 2008 and put it together in 2010, but has posted an ERA above five in each of the last two seasons. He still has swing-and-miss stuff, as evidenced by his 15-strikeout performance against the Athletics on July 13. He followed that up by whiffing 10 Orioles in his next start.

Jimenez has not faced Minnesota this season and only faced them once in his Indians career. He won that game, allowing three runs, one earned, in 6.1 innings of work. Jimenez has been hampered by some pretty drastic home/road splits this season, with a 3.28 ERA at home and a 6.63 ERA on the road. Liriano pitched two innings against the Indians in a relief appearance this season, but has not made a start. In his career, Liriano is 5-5 in 17 appearances with a 3.51 ERA against the Tribe.


Keys to the Series:

1. It Starts With The Starters – The Indians need consistency from their starting pitching in a series against a subpar lineup. The Indians offense has had a terrible stretch since the All-Star break and the Indians don’t have favorable matchups in this series. The Indians have not done a good job playing catch up this season and have struggled late in games without the lead. Good starts will help.

2. Beat Up The Bums – The key to any successful season is to beat the teams you should beat. The Twins are a team you should beat. Period.

3. Focus Between The Lines – The last series against the Tigers put the Indians in an interesting position. They can be buyers now, depending on what happens this weekend, rather than likely being sellers had they fallen five games back. They can’t focus on standings or the jobs of the front office. Focus on the game and they’ll be just fine.


Player to Watch:

The player to watch for this series is Shin-Soo Choo. If the Indians are in fact out of it, Choo is their most valuable trade asset. His name will be brought up a lot as, arguably, the best hitter that would be available. It’ll be interesting to see how he plays if his name is tossed around.


Wishful Thinking:

Please, Toronto, with all of your injuries, help us out. You too, Texas.


Central Focus:

The Tigers head north of the border to Toronto to take on the Jays. The White Sox head south to Texas to face the Rangers. The Royals head west to Seattle.


One Last Thing...:

As I said in the preview for the Tigers series, keep an eye on for any late-breaking trade news and notes regarding the Indians this weekend.

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