CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians, who are in first place in the American League Central Division, are in the midst of a portion of their schedule in which they have an opportunity to lengthen their division lead, or see it evaporate — quickly.
Saturday at Progressive Field the Indians will host the division-rival Minnesota Twins in the second game of a three-game series. Saturday’s game will be the Indians’ ninth game in a 16-game stretch in which they will play only AL Central teams. In the first eight games in that span the Indians are 4-4, including a 6-3 loss to the Twins Friday night.
Overall this season the Indians are 18-12 against AL Central teams, including 11-3 at Progressive Field. The Twins are 15-10 against AL Central teams, and 5-2 against Cleveland.
Both teams made roster moves prior to Friday’s game. The Indians activated outfielder Tyler Naquin off the disabled list and placed first baseman Yonder Alonso on the family medical emergency list. Naquin was in the lineup Friday and played center field. He went 1-for-3 in his first game since being placed on the DL on May 11 with a strained left hamstring.
The Twins on Friday activated first baseman Joe Mauer off the disabled list and recalled infielder Taylor Motter from Triple-A Rochester. Mauer and Motter replace infielder Miguel Sano, who was optioned to Class-A Fort Myers, and outfielder Jake Cave, who was optioned to Rochester.
“It’s really been bothering him that he hasn’t been contributing while we’ve been losing. His biggest goal is to win,” Twins manager Paul Molitor told the Minneapolis Star Tribune regarding Sano. “Some things have knocked him off course from time to time, and it’s time to address them.”
Mauer missed 25 games with a cervical strain/concussion-like symptoms. Motter was claimed off waivers from Seattle on May 28 and hit .167 (7-for-42) at Rochester.
Although the Indians are just 6-7 in June, they are encouraged by the improved work by their bullpen, which was the American League’s worst over the first two months of the season. However, in the month of June, the Indians’ 2.30 bullpen ERA ranks fifth. Two new additions, left-hander Oliver Perez and right-hander Neil Ramirez, have been key contributors in the bullpen’s resurgence.
“We were hoping that with an opportunity to pitch for those guys, good things would happen, and that’s what happened,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “Perez has helped a lot, and Ramirez has some swing and miss stuff. Things are definitely settling down (in the bullpen).”
Carrasco (8-4, 3.90 ERA) is coming off his best start of the season, a 4-0 win over the White Sox on June 11. In that game, Carrasco pitched seven scoreless innings. He gave up two hits and recorded 11 strikeouts with one walk.
Carrasco has started two games against the Twins this season and is 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA. In 19 career appearances (16 starts) against Minnesota, Carrasco is 5-7 with a 3.97 ERA.
The 23-year-old Romero (3-2, 3.92) will be making his ninth major league start and his first against Cleveland. Romero’s last start was a 7-5 win over the Angels on June 10. Romero pitched five innings in that game, giving up three runs (two earned) on five hits, with five strikeouts and two walks.
Romero’s rookie season started well but has been bumpy in recent starts. In his first three starts he was 2-0 with a 0.54 ERA. But in his last five starts he is 1-2 with a 6.20 ERA.
The Twins came into the series struggling at the plate and figured to have a tough time with Kluber, who has been as dominant this season as any stretch of his career and was seeking to become baseball’s first 11-game winner.
Kluber, though, wasn’t Kluber.
With Joe Mauer returning from the disabled list after missing 25 games with a strained neck and concussion-like symptoms, Minnesota manager Paul Molitor dropped Dozier from the leadoff spot to No. 5 and the second baseman responded with his two-run homer in the fourth and three RBIs.
Lindor had two more errors, giving the Indians All-Star shortstop 10 this season, tying his total from 2017.
Dozier put the Twins ahead 4-0 in the fourth inning, when Kluber allowed his first walk in seven starts.
After Rosario doubled leading off, Kluber threw four balls to Eduardo Escobar, snapping his string without a walk at 46 1/3 innings – the longest for a Cleveland pitcher in 11 years. Rosario then scored when Lindor’s return throw to first after a force out nearly went into Minnesota’s dugout.
Dozier followed by snapping a 0-for-20 slump with his 10th homer, a shot that barely cleared the wall in left to make it 4-0 and put Kluber in an unfamiliar hole. The steady-and-stoic star had not given up more than three runs in a game since Aug. 3, a span of 27 starts and testament to his consistency.
Rosario has tormented Cleveland’s pitching all season, and he gave the Twins a 1-0 lead in the first when he connected on Kluber’s first pitch for his 15th homer – and fourth against the Indians.
It was Rosario’s second homer on consecutive pitches against the Indians. He hit three homers, including a walk-off in the ninth, to lead Minnesota to a win over Cleveland on June 3.
The Indians were without starting first baseman Yonder Alonso, who was placed on the family-medical-emergency list and will miss at least this series.
Twins: OF Byron Buxton (toe fracture) is working out with the team and could begin a minor league rehab assignment in a few days. He was injured May 29 and placed on the disabled list the following day.
Indians: There’s still no definitive plan with All-Star LHP Andrew Miller, who has been out since May 24 with right knee inflammation. Francona said the team is taking a “long-term” approach with the elite reliever, who has been on the DL twice this season. “When we get him back, we want to keep him back,” Francona said, adding Miller has not had any recurrences or setbacks. … RHP Nick Goody has been shut down for three weeks after receiving a PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injection in his elbow. He has a bone spur which flared up while he was throwing from 100 feet.
Indians RHP Carlos Carrasco shut out Chicago with 11 strikeouts in seven innings in his last outing. He’ll make his third start this season against the Twins, who will counter with Fernando Romero.
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
Did you have a crummy Thursday? Join the club! Whatever mayhem you encountered—rush-hour traffic, a poorly-timed (and piping hot) coffee spill, having your lunch disappear from the break room—I’m sure Miguel Sano can top it.
Thursday morning Sano woke up as the Twins’ starting third baseman. Today he’s the starting third baseman for the Fort Myers Miracle. Excuse me, I meant to say the Single-A Fort Myers Miracle. That’s right, folks—Miguel Sano, one of the Twins’ three All-Star representatives last season—now plays at a lower minor league level than Tim Tebow.
We knew the Twins would have to send someone down with Joe Mauer (concussion) coming off the disabled list, but who in their right mind would guess that Sano, he of 28 homers last year, would be the odd man out? Sano has hit just .203 with seven homers in 148 at-bats this season. Those are ugly numbers to be sure, but are those stats really bad enough to warrant a demotion of this magnitude? Sano hasn’t played in the Florida State League since 2013. Back then, he was 20.
We’ve seen big names get sent down before—Kyle Schwarber and Yasiel Puig have both been demoted in recent years. But there’s not much precedent for a player dropping three levels at once. Roy Halladay began 2001 in High-A after pitching in the big leagues a year earlier. The difference, however, is that Halladay wasn’t an established star yet. Last year Sano homered at a higher rate (once every 15.1 at-bats) than Paul Goldschmidt (15.5), Nolan Arenado (16.4) and Anthony Rizzo (17.9), just to name a few.
So what happened? How did Sano fall so far, so fast? The simple answer—strikeouts. Sano has always been dogged by a low contact rate, but this year he’s taken it to another level. The Dominican Republic native has struck out in over 40 percent of his plate appearances (up from 35.8 percent in 2017) with an embarrassing 64.7 percent contact rate. Only notorious free-swinger Joey Gallo has whiffed more frequently (62.6 percent contact rate) this season. Sano has had an especially rough June, punching out 18 times in only 37 at-bats. Overall, he’s gone just 13-for-68 (.191 AVG) since coming back from a hamstring injury late last month.
Manager Paul Molitor worked day and night to get Sano going, even moving him down in the order to take some of the pressure off. But with Eduardo Escobar (.564 slugging percentage, league-leading 26 doubles) having a breakout year at third base, the Twins did what smart teams tend to do—they rewarded the better player.
But don’t think Minnesota has given up on Sano. Whether the problem is a mechanical flaw or a mental block, the Twins are going to get to the bottom of it, one way or another. “We’re not going to follow the traditional view—just go get at-bats at Triple-A,” said executive VP Derek Falvey. “We wanted to take a step back and blank-canvas this a bit and say, ‘What do we think the best next steps are for him?’” At the team’s spring training facility in Fort Myers, Sano will be surrounded by coaches who can roll up their sleeves and find the root of his struggles. The relatively low-stakes atmosphere in the Florida State League should also be a boon for his confidence, which has surely eroded over the past few weeks.
While sending down an All-Star is never ideal, Sano could certainly benefit from a change of scenery. I’m sure the Mets would love to give a struggling player like Jay Bruce a week or two to clear his head in Florida, but given his veteran status (translation: no minor league options) and the team’s lack of depth, the best New York can do is invent an injury to make him go away for a while (they seem to be doing exactly that). David Ortiz had nowhere to hide when he was circling the drain a few years ago. But Sano has that luxury. With Escobar manning third base, there’s no rush for him to get back to Minnesota. It’s not like the Twins are in a pennant race either. A month in Florida, or however long it takes for him to break through, will be a small price to pay if it helps Sano get back to where he was in 2017.
Of course, now that Sano is starting from scratch, the Twins are in a precarious position. When they began their rebuild a few years back, Sano and Byron Buxton were touted as the key ingredients, the saviors expected to lead Minnesota out of the dark ages and into a brand new era of Twins baseball. But with Sano on hiatus and Buxton still a major work in progress (he’s hit just .156 when healthy this year), it’s entirely possible that two of Minnesota’s franchise cornerstones may never pan out. At least they guessed right on Jose Berrios.
You have to hand it to him—despite Thursday’s ego bruise, Sano is taking his demotion in stride. “I’m not mad,” said Sano. “I’m happy, because I know I’m struggling, and [Molitor] gave me an opportunity. There’s no reason I can get mad.” Call him the anti-Matt Harvey.
AL Quick Hits: Justin Verlander didn’t have his best stuff on Thursday—he let up three runs in seven innings—but it was more than enough to beat the A’s as the surging Astros claimed their eighth straight victory. Verlander leads the AL in ERA (1.61) and is second in wins behind reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber … Matt Chapman was diagnosed with a right-hand contusion on Thursday and will head for an MRI. The 25-year-old claims the injury has bothered him since spring training, though he has yet to miss a game this season … Trevor Cahill is headed to the disabled list with a strained right Achilles. It’s the right-hander’s second DL stint after missing time with an elbow impingement last month … Jordan Zimmermann is slated to return Saturday against the White Sox. A shoulder impingement has sidelined the right-hander since early May … Joe Mauer will return from the disabled list on Friday after missing almost a month with a concussion. He looked rusty on his minor league rehab assignment, going 0-for-10 during a three-game stint with Triple-A Rochester … The Indians designated Melky Cabrera for assignment on Thursday. The former All-Star Game MVP has hit just .207 over 58 at-bats for the Tribe this year .. Gleyber Torres socked his 13th homer Thursday in a win over Tampa Bay. The 21-year-old has slashed a phenomenal .295/.351/.577 since his call-up in late April.
NL Quick Hits: Evan Longoria fractured the fifth metacarpal bone on his left hand after being hit by a pitch Thursday against the Marlins. It’s the same injury that sidelined teammate Madison Bumgarner for more than two months earlier this year. Pablo Sandoval, who delivered the go-ahead hit in Thursday’s 16-inning victory, is a candidate to fill in at third base during Longoria’s absence … Julio Teheran will return to the Braves’ rotation Sunday against San Diego. The right-hander has been out the past two weeks with a right thumb contusion … Ronald Acuna hit on the field prior to Thursday’s series opener against the Padres. The 20-year-old is expected to run the bases this weekend, though beat reporter Mark Bowman of MLB.com believes it will be another week until he’s activated from the disabled list. A sprained ACL has kept Acuna out since late May … Mets 1B prospect Peter Alonso was promoted to Triple-A Las Vegas on Thursday. The 23-year-old has had a monster year in the minors, batting .314 with 15 homers, 52 RBI and 42 runs scored over 65 games for Double-A Binghamton. He’s New York’s No. 4 prospect, according to MLB.com … Thursday was a day Ryan McMahon will never forget. That’s because the 23-year-old slugged his first career homer in a loss to Philadelphia. It came in the eighth inning off Hector Neris … Jay Bruce sat out Thursday’s series opener in Arizona with a sore back and is expected to miss Friday’s game as well. The slumping outfielder has logged just two hits in his last 20 at-bats … According to Jon Morosi of MLB.com, unless the Pirates quickly make up ground in the NL Central—they’re currently eight games back of the first-place Brewers—they’ll likely be sellers at next month’s trade deadline. Morosi mentioned Francisco Cervelli, Corey Dickerson, David Freese, Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, Ivan Nova and Sean Rodriguez as players the Bucs could look to move before July 31.
In the latest episode of the Rotoworld Baseball Podcast, D.J. Short and Drew Silva break down Miguel Cabrera‘s season-ending injury, Miguel Sano‘s demotion, and sudden signs of life from Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna. They also discuss closer situations around the game and waiver wire pickups and streaming options to keep in mind in fantasy leagues.
Editor’s Note: With over 15,000 reviews, DRAFT is the highest rated fantasy sports app. For a limited time, DRAFT is giving Rotoworld readers a FREE entry into a real money draft and a Money-Back Guarantee up to $100! Here’s the link.
CLEVELAND – Two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, who is pitching like he wants to add a third Cy Young to his resume, will be on the mound Friday night as the Cleveland Indians begin a nine-game homestand with the opener of a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins.
Kluber (10-2, 1.99 ERA) has gone six starts, 41 innings and 168 consecutive batters since he last walked a hitter. His last walk came over a month ago, on May 8.
In six starts since then, Kluber is 5-0 with a 1.09 ERA, 46 strikeouts and no walks in 41 innings. Kluber this season almost has more wins than walks. He has 10 of each.
One of those 10 wins came against the Twins, on April 17, a 6-1 victory in which Kluber pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing one run and five hits with six strikeouts and two walks.
How good has Kluber been this year? His ERA in his two losses and his two no-decisions is 2.30. He could very easily be 14-0.
His two losses were by the scores of 2-1 and 3-2. The score in one of his no-decisions was 3-2. In the other no-decision, the Indians were winning 2-0 in the seventh inning when Kluber was removed from the game.
In 20 career starts against Minnesota, Kluber has a record of 9-5 with a 3.21 ERA.
Cleveland returns home after going 4-3 on a trip to Detroit and Chicago, although the Indians have scored just eight runs in their last three games.
“We’ve been scuffling to score some runs the last few days,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
The Twins come to Cleveland having just lost two of three games in Detroit.
Kluber’s mound opponent of Friday will be right-hander Kyle Gibson (1-4, 3.45). Gibson’s only win came in his first start of the season, on March 31. Since then, he is 0-4 but with a decent 3.75 ERA.
Gibson’s biggest problem has been a lack of run support from his teammates. In Gibson’s 13 starts, the Twins have scored an average of 3.6 runs per game.
Gibson’s last start against Cleveland came June 3 when he received no decision in a 7-5 Minnesota win. In that game, Gibson pitched 5 2/3 innings, giving up two runs and two hits with seven strikeouts and two walks. In 14 career starts against Cleveland, Gibson is 2-6 with a 5.60 ERA.
Minnesota’s lineup for Friday’s game will have a different look after the Twins on Thursday optioned struggling third baseman Miguel Sano to Class A Fort Myers. After hitting .264 with 28 home runs and 77 RBIs last year, Sano this year was batting .203 with seven home runs and 27 RBIs, and he had struck out in nearly half (66) of his at-bats (148).
“He needs to be the guy we think he can be. He’s not there right now,” Twins manager Paul Molitor told MLB.com. “We have to take a step backwards here and determine the steps moving forward.”
The Twins are also expected to activate first baseman Joe Mauer off the disabled list on Friday. Mauer has been sidelined since May 18 with a neck strain. The Twins will announce another roster addition to replace outfielder Jake Cave, who was optioned to Triple-A Rochester on Thursday.
Following Thursday afternoon’s 3-1 loss to the Tigers, the Twins optioned third baseman Miguel Sanó to High-A Fort Myers and outfielder Jake Cave to Triple-A Rochester, Dan Hayes of The Athletic reports. The club will activate Joe Mauer from the disabled list and add another player to the roster on Friday before opening a three-game road series with the Indians.
Sanó, 25, has struggled this season, batting .203/.270/.405 with seven home runs and 27 RBI in 163 plate appearances. Since returning in late May after dealing with a hamstring injury, Sanó hit .191 over 73 trips to the plate.
Usually, when a player is in the midst of a slump, a team might send him to Triple-A for a spell to figure things out. It’s rare for the club to demote an established major leaguer — an All-Star, even — to Single-A. Perhaps the Twins want Sanó to face lesser competition as a way to help rebuild his confidence.
Mauer, 35, suffered a neck injury diving for a ball a month ago and developed concussion symptoms. He will return to play batting .283/.404/.355 in 167 PA.
Cave, 25, hit a pair of home runs across six games in the majors this season. He’ll continue to serve as outfield depth in the minors.