After his manager suggested he was returning to his Cy Young Award-winning form, Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber endured one of his worst performances.
The right-hander now looks to harness his command against a Minnesota Twins team that finally got some promising results from its new-look lineup.
As the Indians go after their seventh victory in eight home games, the AL-worst Twins try to avoid second nine-game losing streak of the season Saturday.
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Terry Francona believed Kluber was back to the dominant ways that resulted in 18 wins and a 2.44 ERA in 2014 after he allowed three earned runs with 23 strikeouts over a three-start stretch heading into the week.
Kluber, however, couldn't hit his spots in the third inning Monday, forcing him to come in over the middle of the plate. He surrendered five runs, five hits and three walks over 2 2/3 of a 7-1 loss at Houston.
"There (were) some pitches I didn't locate that well, and when I threw those pitches, they took advantage of them," he told the league's official website.
Kluber (2-4, 4.14 ERA) will try to get back on track against a Minnesota team that gave him trouble in September. He gave up eight runs over 9 2/3 innings in a pair of losses, leaving him at 6-4 with a 3.64 ERA in 15 career starts in this series.
Joe Mauer went 5 for 15 with a home run and two doubles off him last season, though Miguel Sano and Brian Dozier were a combined 2 for 23.
Mauer is 2 for 10 in three games since manager Paul Molitor moved him into the leadoff spot. However, Eduardo Nunez, Sano and Byung Ho Park - Nos. 2, 3 and 5 in the lineup - went 6 for 15 with four homers and six RBIs in Friday's 7-6 series-opening loss.
Park hit two home runs after going 0 for 11 with six strikeouts over his previous three games. Sano has homered in the last two after going 2 for 23 in the previous six.
Minnesota (8-26) scored six runs for only the third time in 18 games. It had averaged 2.9 over its previous seven.
Right-hander Ervin Santana (0-2, 3.86) is looking for some support after struggling in his return from a back injury last Saturday. He allowed three runs, seven hits and three walks over 3 1/3 innings of a 7-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
Santana has gone 4-10 with a 4.47 ERA in 19 starts against the Indians (17-15), though he's limited them to three or fewer earned runs in 14 of his last 16.
Jose Ramirez is 6 for 8 when facing Santana, while Mike Napoli has gone 7 for 19 with three home runs. Marlon Byrd, however, is 7 for 39 (.179) with 13 strikeouts in the matchup.
Byrd delivered a two-run double in the eighth inning Friday when Cleveland scored three times to overcome a 5-4 deficit. Jason Kipnis hit a solo home run and Yan Gomes added a two-run shot to break a 2-for-42 slump.
Michael Brantley could be sidelined for a fourth straight game because of fatigue in his surgically repaired right shoulder. That's after Lonnie Chisenhall was placed on the bereavement list.