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Twins Insider

La Velle E. Neal III and Phil Miller report on the Twins from wherever they make news

Postgame: Kluber challenged Dozier, and eventually paid for it

    CLEVELAND — Three extras as one of the worst road trips imaginable comes to a close:

    Corey Kluber’s slider is an amazing, sideways-spinning, last-second-diving pitch, and he used it to great effect Wednesday night against the Twins. Kluber struck out a season-high 11 Twins, and Minnesota manager Paul Molitor mentioned after the game that “we had some guys who couldn’t make any adjustments.” No names, but Miguel Sano struck out three times.

    Anyway, that’s why Molitor was intrigued by the way Kluber pitched to Brian Dozier. The Twins’ hottest hitter, with a dozen home runs already this month, struck out looking on a slider in the first inning, but didn’t see only sliders the rest of the way.

    “He was challenging Dozier. He threw him some sliders, but almost every at-bat — he know dozier can hit a fastball, and he wasn’t afraid to do it,” Molitor said. “Dozier finally caught up to one and smoked it.”

    He did, about 400 feet into the bleachers in left-center field, his 32nd home run of the season.

    “He threw a lot of fastballs tonight,” Dozier agreed. “I took a good cut at one earlier,” so Kluber clearly was emboldened to try again.

    It was Dozier’s second career home run against Kluber, the other coming last September, but don’t be fooled into thinking Dozier likes his chances against the former Cy Young winner. He’s now 5-for-37 (.135) in his career, and was extremely impressed with how the Indians’ ace looked on Wednesday.

    “He was pitching really big-league for awhile there,” Dozier said.

    Dozier has had more plate appearances than any other pitcher in his career except one — Jose Quintana, who by coincidence he will face on Thursday.

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    Max Kepler’s third-inning home run off Kluber also came on a fastball. Oddly, considering the quality of Kluber’s slider, that’s what Kepler was looking for.

    Hitting coach Tom Brunansky “told me [Kluber] likes to throw his fastball by you at 95 [mph] when you’re behind in the count,” Kepler explained of his thinking. “And he left it up a little. I just kind of slapped it out to center.”

    He “slapped” it 418 feet, actually, his 16th homer of the season.

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    Wednesday’s postseason roster deadline passed without a trade by the Twins, who could have dealt any player who passed unclaimed through waivers.

Amid 12-game skid, Twins need Dean to be Cy Young slayer again

    CLEVELAND — Pat Dean outpitched Felix Hernandez in Seattle on May 27. Now he’ll try to repeat that performance against another Cy Young winner here at Progressive Field.

    Corey Kluber, who has won six straight decisions and is 10-2 since June 1, and who hasn’t allowed more than three runs in a start since the All-Star break, is on the mound for the Indians tonight, making the Twins’ task in snapping their 12-game losing streak particularly challenging. “His stuff is high tier, he’s got extra velocity when he needs it, and he’s got one of the best sliders in the game,” manager Paul Molitor said with a shrug. “He knows how to pitch in on both lefties and righties.”

    That’s a skill that Dean must count on, too. Also critical: Not fixating on his best pitch, the cut fastball.

    “He’s got to mix in the curve and the changeup. They’re not maybe his best pitches, but they need to be part of the mix because when he gets too fastball/cutter dominated, everything is kind of on the same plane,” Molitor said. “We all know he likes that cutter. He gets in trouble when he leaves it out over the plate too much, because it’s at a speed that’s easily handled by most hitters.”

    This is the final game of a six-game trip, and the Twins, who have played 19 road games this month, are certainly looking forward to heading home. They’d like to do it without history hanging over their heads: A loss tonight would mean they have a chance to tie the worst losing streak in franchise history on Thursday.

    The Indians acquired outfielder Coco Crisp, who began his career here, from the A’s today, but he won’t be in Cleveland tonight.

    Here are the lineups for tonight’s series finale:

 

TWINS

 

Dozier 2B

Mauer 1B

Plouffe 3B

Sano DH

Rosario LF

Polanco SS

Kepler RF

Centeno C

Schafer CF

 

Dean LHP

 

INDIANS

 

Davis CF

Kipnis 2B

Lindor SS

Napoli 1B

Santana DH

Ramirez 3B

Guyer LF

Almonte RF

Perez C

 

Kluber RHP

Final, 8/31 R H E
Minnesota 49-84 4 8 0
Cleveland 76-56 8 12 0