With first place in the AL Central up for grabs, the Cleveland Indians travel to Target Field to take on the Minnesota Twins for a three-game series beginning today (8.10pm ET Friday on FSN).
Undoubtedly one of this year’s surprise stories, the (34-29) Minnesota Twins find themselves in first place in the AL Central. If results hold and the Twins finish the season atop the division, it will be the first time since 2010. More importantly, it will be just the second time in the last eight years that the team will have managed to win at least 70 games.
The team they’ll face, is one that has been on the rise too and is coming off a runner-up finish in the World Series in 2016. The (32-31) Cleveland Indians are currently just two games back of first place in the AL Central meaning a sweep this weekend would change the leaderboard.
The teams will play another series from June 23-25 at Progressive Field in Cleveland, and with the all-star break just a month out, all of these games count to see which team will have momentum going into the second half of the season.
Now this preview will take a look at the factors that could influence the result of today’s game and decide on our picks and betting predictions.
By the Numbers: Minnesota Twins
By all estimations, the Minnesota Twins are an average team. You won’t find the Twins in any top-10 category offensively with the exception of on base percentage, which they rank 7th (.334). Otherwise, the Twins are just 18th in runs scored, 17th in home runs, 17th in RBI and 18th in total bases to name a few.
Fortunately for the Twins, they are in baseball’s worst division. Their 34 wins would be good enough for fourth in the NL West, third in the AL East, AL West and NL East and second in the NL Central. So, when considering the team’s stats among the competition of their division, the picture starts to make a little more sense as to why Minnesota has been able to have the relative success they have this season.
However, when you look on the other side of the ball, the Twins are even worse. They have the 28th aka third worst ERA in all of MLB at 4.91, are dead last in strikeouts with just 436 and walk the 16th most batters (214). One would not really equate those stats with a winning team especially when said team’s record is a paltry 14-20 at home.
Not including their 7-1 record against the (30-34) Kansas City Royals, it’s not even as if the Twins are a .500 team among their division. Minnesota is just 9-11 against the AL Central, and 2-4 on the season against the Indians.
By the Numbers: Cleveland Indians
Offensively, it’s not as if the Cleveland Indians are lighting the world on fire either, which plays to the Twins’ advantage. The Indians are ranked 24th in runs scored, dead last in hits, 22nd in home runs, 27th in total bases and 24th in RBI. Their team batting average of .245 is just 21st in the MLB as well.
Cleveland’s biggest strength is on the mound where they rank 10th in ERA (4.06), have surrendered the fourth fewest walks at just 182, and have struck out the fifth most batters (600). Among AL pitchers, Carlos Carrasco, who will take the mound in Game 1 of the series, ranks 10th in ERA (3.36), fourth in WHIP (1.00), and 13th in strikeouts (72).
Despite the poor offensive stats, Cleveland does get at least modest production up and down their lineup with seven players recording at least 20 RBI and six with at least 20 runs. Both Edwin Encarnacion and Francisco Lindor have 12+ home runs, something the Indians can take advantage of while at Target Field. The home of the Twins has yielded the fifth most home runs in all MLB ballparks and third most runs. With Minnesota’s 28th ranked ERA, this combination of factors could help the Indians during their series.
Pitching Probables Game 1: CLE Carlos Carrasco vs MIN Nik Turley
One of the American League’s top pitchers will be on the mound against a career minor leaguer who has just one previous start under his belt. The advantage definitely belongs to Carlos Carrasco and the Indians.
Carrasco is coming off his sixth win of the season, a two-run, seven hit game against the Chicago White Sox. Carrasco is 2-1 in his last three starts with a 4.86 ERA and 14 strikeouts. It was the eighth time in his 12 starts this year that Carrasco logged a quality start of five innings or more and two runs or fewer. Over his career, Carrasco is 2-6 with a 4.74 ERA against the Twins with Minnesota’s Joe Mauer hitting .526 in 19 at-bats with five extra base hits, against the veteran right handed pitcher. It should also be noted that Carrasco has pitched significantly better on the road this year, with a 4-1 record in six starts and just a 3.13 ERA.
Rookie Nik Turley meanwhile has just the one career start, which came last Sunday against the San Francisco Giants. The left-handed Turley went just four innings, allowing four runs and eight hits. Look for Francisco Lindor to find success against the new pitcher just as he has throughout his career against the Twins. Lindor is hitting .309 in 152 at-bats with 13 extra base hits and 21 RBI.
Our Preview’s Cleveland Indians @ Minnesota Twins Picks & Betting Predictions
- Considering Carrasco’s success this year compared to the fact that Minnesota is starting a rookie pitcher, it’s somewhat surprising to see the runline at just 1.5. That being said, it does favor the road team. Considering the factors, such as Carrasco’s strong numbers and the fact that the Twins are not a particularly great team at home, the spread is our choice for the wager. Take the Indians -1.5 @ best betting odds of +105 with 5Dimes Sportsbook.
- Take the two teams to combine to hit a total of over 10 runs, again this option is currently best with 5Dimes @ +105. It is +100 (evens) with most other oddsmakers.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.