After going through the Corey Kluber experience on Friday, there might be a tendency to consider Sunday’s challenge a lot easier for the Twins. But Paul Molitor knows it won’t be easy.
The Indians were a popular darkhorse choice to be a contender this year — Sports Illustrated picked them to win the World Series — and starting pitching was a big reason why. Cleveland may have decided to clear their veterans and rebuild, but those pitchers remain. And Carrasco can be dominant, especially on the road.
“We’ve seen glimpses of how dominating he can be,” Molitor said. “He’s figuring out how to do it more consistently.”
Away from Progressive Field, Carrasco has been an elite starter. He holds hitters to a .180 average on the road, which is the best average by a starter in the American League. Carrasco, 11-8 on the season with a 3.68 ERA, has allowed 14 home runs, but only four of them outside Cleveland. And he makes batters miss — his average of 10.30 strikeouts per nine innings on the road is second-best in the AL.
It’s important for the Twins to score early, because Carrasco is also 10-0 when he’s been staked to a lead; he knows how to close out a win.
On the other side, Tommy Milone returns after a two-week break to let some elbow inflammation subside. Because it’s been such a short absence, Molitor doesn’t expect his left-hander to need any time to get used to pitching again. The manager said he’s probably going to be inclined to shorten Milone’s day, but only slightly. Sounds like they want him to get in the 80-100 pitch area.
After the game, the Twins fly to New York to begin a grueling stretch of 19-of-25 games on the road, with a pair of 10-day trips, each of which opens in the ballpark of a first place team (New York and Houston). After the ugliness of last week’s 1-6 trip, Molitor stressed the importance of winning this series and finishing the brief homestand with a winning record, enough to restore their confidence as they head out of town.
With such a busy schedule coming up, Torii Hunter sits out again today. Since hitting the game-winning, ninth-inning home run in Cleveland nine days ago, Hunter is 0-for-17, so it’s not a bad time for a break.
Here are today’s lineups: