Right-hander Michael Pineda makes his third start of the season as the Minnesota Twins try for a three-game series sweep of the Cleveland Indians on Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis.
Pineda (1-0, 2.77 ERA) missed the first 36 games of the season while finishing up a 60-game suspension for taking a banned diuretic. He is 1-0 with a 2.81 ERA in three career starts against the Indians.
Minnesota (29-18) has won nine of its last 11 games and it has a 20-5 home record, best in the majors.
The Twins opened the series with Cleveland (26-20) with a 3-1 victory over Cy Young favorite Shane Bieber on Friday night behind a two-run homer by Byron Buxton and seven shutout innings from starter Kenta Maeda.
They followed that up Saturday with five homers in an 8-4 win. Buxton homered for the second straight game, and the Twins had back-to-back homers in two innings in the same game for the first time since 1966, and just the second time in team history.
Minnesota also snapped Cleveland starter Zach Plesac’s three-game winning streak.
“They went out there hitting tonight,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “It was spaced out a little bit. We were able to continue to put some runs on the board but continue to add on when we needed them.”
Marwin Gonzalez and Willians Astudillo went back-to-back while building a 3-0 lead in the second, Buxton added a two-run shot in the fourth, and Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano went back-to-back in the eighth off reliever Nick Wittgren to make it 8-4.
It was the 10th home run of the season for Rosario, who hinted that the team nicknamed The Bomba Squad after breaking the major league single-season record for homers with 307 in 2019 could just be getting warmed up.
“If you think about a 162-game season, right now, it’s basically where we’d probably be in the first two or three months of the regular season, like 100-plus at-bats,” Rosario told twincities.com.
“That’s when everyone starts warming up for the regular season, for 162. Obviously, we’re in the middle of this pandemic-shortened season, so right now is when everybody in the regular season starts warming up, so I think everybody’s clicking together,” Rosario said.
Acting Cleveland manager Sandy Alomar Jr. hopes there’s something to Rosario’s logic.
The offensively-challenged Indians, who were no-hit for 8 1/3 innings by Kansas City rookie Brady Singer on Thursday and managed to plate just two runs over a three-game span, scored four runs on Saturday but still lost for the fifth straight time.
Third baseman Jose Ramirez, who has been plagued by a sore left thumb, has homered in back-to-back games.
“Tonight, we made strides offensively,” Alomar told Cleveland.com. “We fought, went deep into counts, fought some pitches off. We scored four runs. It’s a step in the right direction. We have to continue pushing.”
Cleveland will turn to 23-year-old right-hander Triston McKenzie (2-0, 2.57 ERA) to start Sunday’s finale. The 6-5, 165-pound McKenzie will be making his fifth career start and first against the Twins.
McKenzie comes in off a no decision in an 8-6 loss to Kansas City on Tuesday when he allowed three hits, including a three-run homer to Whit Merrifield, and three runs over five innings while striking out seven.
For the season, McKenzie has allowed just 11 hits, five walks and six earned runs over 21 innings, while striking out 26.
–Field Level Media