The Minnesota Twins’ path to the playoffs runs through the American League Central Division.
Yes, the Twins hope to claim the division, which they lead by 3 1/2 games entering Friday. But from here on out, the only teams Minnesota will play in the regular season are from the AL Central.
First up, a three-game series in Cleveland, against the hard-charging Indians. No matter what, the Twins will be in first place come Sunday, but by how many games?
Here’s how the next week of games looks for both the Twins and Indians (right now we’re only concerned with Minnesota winning the division; no talk of wild card here … yet).
Twins-Indians series (all games on FOX Sports North)
Friday, Sept. 13, 6 p.m.: Jake Odorizzi (14-6, 3.60 ERA) vs. Aaron Civale (3-3, 1.93)
These two pitchers matched up on Sept. 7, a 5-3 Twins win, although neither starter got a decision. Odorizzi went 5 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits while striking out 10. Civale lasted five innings, giving up one run on just three hits but with three walks. Odorizzi has pitched well against Cleveland this year, allowing just four runs in 22 1/3 innings (1.61 ERA) with 29 strikeouts. Civale also faced the Twins on Aug. 11, allowing one run on four hits with no walks in six innings. This one might come down to the late-inning relievers.
Saturday, Sept. 14, 6 p.m.: TBD vs. Mike Clevinger (11-2, 2.72)
Minnesota could well go with a bullpen game in this one – it depends, perhaps, on what happens Friday night. Five days previous, Randy Dobnak started and pitched one inning before Rocco Baldelli turned it over to four relievers. Clevinger started for Cleveland that day and went 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits with seven strikeouts. Clevinger hasn’t allowed more than two runs in each of his previous six starts. He’s handcuffed the Twins in three outings this year, allowing five runs in 18 1/3 innings. Expect to see Clevinger on the hill for as long as possible – he’s thrown 100+ pitches in each of his last 11 starts, dating back to July 17.
Sunday, Sept. 15, 12 p.m.: Jose Berrios (12-8, 3.63) vs. Shane Bieber (14-7, 3.17)
After going through some struggles, Berrios tossed seven scoreless innings Sept. 10 at Washington. This will be his fifth start against the Indians this season, but first since Aug. 11. He’s allowed eight runs (seven earned) in 24 2/3 innings, which includes 7 2/3 shutout frames on March 28 when he fanned 10. Bieber has struck out at least seven batters in 10 straight starts and has a 2.21 ERA over that span. Bieber whiffed 11 Twins on Aug. 9, allowing two runs in seven innings. He’s struck out 27 and given up seven runs in 20 1/3 innings vs. Minnesota this season.
More upcoming Twins games (all on FOX Sports North)
Minnesota begins its final homestand with the erratic Perez on the hill. From Aug. 13-25, he had three straight starts allowing two runs or less, then got bombed for eight runs (seven earned) in 2 2/3 by Detroit but followed that up with one run on two hits at Boston. His last time out, Sept. 11, he gave up five runs in five innings to Washington. Perez has faced Chicago just once, on the road on July 27, giving up three runs in six innings. Perez’s good fortune is getting to face Lopez, who has struggled all season. Although he’s been better in the second half, that’s mainly due to a good July. When Lopez is good, he’s really good (1.39 ERA in his nine wins). When he’s bad, he’s really bad (9.57 ERA in losses). The Twins have faced Lopez twice this year, both at Target Field, and have scored 15 runs (11 earned) in 9 2/3 innings, hitting five home runs. Bombas away!
Tuesday, Sept. 17 vs. White Sox – Kyle Gibson (13-7, 4.73) vs. Lucas Giolito (14-9, 3.41)
It’s been a troubling year for Gibson, who hasn’t been able to maintain any consistency – and now he’ll have to face off against one of the game’s better young pitcher in Giolito. Gibson has allowed four or more runs in four straight starts and five of his last six, including five in 6 2/3 innings to Chicago at home on Aug. 19. He did fare much better against the White Sox in his two previous starts this season, allowing one run each time (in six innings and seven innings), striking out nine on both occasions. Giolito has been the White Sox’s ace. He owns a 1.064 WHIP and 11.6 K/9. On the road, he owns a 2.83 ERA. In four starts against the Twins this year he’s 2-2 with a 3.24 ERA, 0.800 WHIP and 11.5 K/9. However, perhaps he’s tiring as he’s allowed 11 runs in 19 innings in three September starts.
Wednesday, Sept. 18 vs. White Sox — Odorizzi (14-6, 3.60 ERA) vs. Dylan Covey (1-8, 8.69)
Odorizzi has pitched well against Chicago – giving up six runs (five earned) in 16 1/3 innings over three starts, with just four walks and 23 strikeouts. He last started against the White Sox in Chicago on Aug. 28, allowing two runs in six innings with eight whiffs. Covey is back in the rotation after pitching a couple games out of the bullpen. He was hammered for seven runs in 2 2/3 innings by the Angels on Sept. 7. His previous start was against the Twins on July 28 – he failed to record an out in giving up two homers and five runs.
More upcoming Indians games
Tuesday, Sept. 17 vs. Tigers, 6:10 p.m. – Clevinger (11-2, 2.72) vs. Matthew Boyd (8-11, 4.54)
Cleveland gets a day off Monday then continues its final homestand against the worst team in the majors, although this should be the marquee matchup of the series. Clevinger begins the week with a 1.93 ERA at home while allowing just one run in 14 innings to the Tigers, walking just one and striking out 22. Welp. Boyd is Detroit’s best starter. Although his ERA his high (thanks in part to allowing a league-high 38 homers), he does own a 1.197 WHIP and 11.6 K/9. Boyd has a 5.50 ERA (11 runs in 18 innings) vs. the Indians, giving up five homers. He’s walked only four and struck out 20.
Wednesday, Sept. 18 vs. Tigers, Bieber (14-7, 3.17) vs. Spencer Turnbull (3-15, 4.77)
Bieber has faced Detroit only twice this year but has allowed just two runs on seven hits and two walks in 14 2/3 innings with 18 strikeouts. After a strong first half in which he had a 3.31 ERA, Turnbull has gone 0-7 with a 7.87 ERA in 10 second-half starts. He has not fared well against Cleveland this year, sporting an 0-5 record, 6.48 ERA and 37 hits allowed in 25 innings.
September 15 - September 21
September 30 - October 2
October 5 - October 9