Enjoying their first three-game win streak in close to a month, the Minnesota Twins settle in on Saturday evening for the second of three straight versus the Cleveland Indians at Target Field.
Minnesota, which last posted three wins in as many games when it swept a series versus the Chicago White Sox between June 18-20, closed out the first half of the 2013 campaign with consecutive victories against the New York Yankees on the road after winning only once in the previous 13 tries overall.
The Twins were held scoreless through the first five innings on Friday in the series opener, but managed to knot the score at 2-2 thanks to a two-run single by Trevor Plouffe that plated Pedro Florimon and Brian Dozier. Florimon came around to score the winning run three innings later on a single by Joe Mauer, giving the hosts a narrow 3-2 triumph.
Minnesota reliever Casey Fien was credited with his second win of the season and Glen Perkins picked up his 22nd save, needing just nine pitches to retire the side in the ninth. Jared Burton struck out all three batters he faced in the seventh, as Yan Gomes, Drew Stubbs and Michael Bourn all went down swinging.
Twins starter Mike Pelfrey failed to factor into the decision after allowing two runs on four hits and three walks over 5 2/3 innings. Pelfrey, who now has an ERA of 5.40 on the season, also struck out five.
"I think for as bad mechanically as I felt, I thought I grinded," Pelfrey said. "I'd prefer not to grind. I'd prefer to have some clean innings, some smooth innings. But there's going to be days like this, and you can't just give up."
Bourn accounted for half of his team's four hits in the contest, plating Lonnie Chisenhall and Stubbs with a double in the third inning, but still the Indians saw their four-game win streak come to an end. With the setback, Cleveland is now 1 1/2 games behind Detroit for first in the American League Central.
Scott Kazmir made the start for Cleveland, giving up just two runs on as many hits and three walks, while striking out three in six innings of action. Saddled with his first loss of the season was Joe Smith, who surrendered three hits of his own in the eighth.
"Kaz pitched so well," Chisenhall said. "He's been throwing the ball awesome, and he deserved to win that game. ... When you give guys extra outs, they turn them into runs."
Kevin Correia gets the start for the Twins tonight, seeking his first win in five starts as he takes the hill. The right-hander, who has won just two of his last 10 outings, is coming off yet another no-decision on July 10 versus Tampa Bay on the road.
Against the Rays the San Diego native permitted three runs on just five hits, but he also walked five batters, striking out six, in 5 1/3 innings of work. Correia has had a bit of trouble with his control the last few weeks, issuing 13 walks in the last four games, matching his entire total from the previous 14 contests.
Having lost his most recent outing against Cleveland, Correia is now 0-2 with a 4.22 ERA in two matchups in his career, all of which was spent in the National League before joining Minnesota this year.
As for the Indians, they are sending Corey Kluber to the mound this time around. The right-hander, who has amassed 18 strikeouts in his last two games, is coming off a strong outing versus Kansas City on July 12, picking up his seventh win in the process.
Against the Royals, the Alabama native made it through 7 2/3 shutout innings, giving up only three hits and walking three in the 3-0 triumph at home.
Already with one win against Minnesota to his credit this season, Kluber is 1-1 with a 4.67 ERA in five such encounters in his career.
Minnesota, 13 games under .500 and 11 games out of contention in the AL Central, won the season series versus the Tribe a year ago by a 12-6 margin, but is still trailing by one game (4-3) this time around.