Minnesota is fresh off being handed its eighth sweep of the season, this time at the hands of the White Sox. And the Twins were plagued by all three phases of the game as they plummeted further into the American League Central cellar and now a face an Indians team invigorated after a 5-3 win over Detroit.
The Indians launched 10 hits in their 5-2 win over the Tigers, including consecutive home runs from Carlos Santana and Travis Hafner. Cleveland took two out of three in the critical series before embarking on a 10-day road trip.
"It was a huge win for us," Hafner said. "[Verlander] was really dominating up to that point. That inning seemed like it kind of came out of nowhere. Everybody contributed. It was huge and the place was rocking."
That should mean a tough matchup for the Twins, whose seemingly remade Francisco Liriano was shelled to the tune of seven runs in just 2 2/3 innings on Monday. Minnesota's defense struggled Tuesday, as the team tied a season high with three errors. And the club was simply outmuscled in an 8-2 defeat in Wednesday's finale.
Luckily, the Twins can turn to their most reliable starter in Scott Diamond in Friday's series opener, though Diamond also seeks a change from recent results. The left-hander has given up nine earned runs over his last 12 innings, spanning two starts.
Diamond yielded a season-high 10 hits in his most recent outing against Kansas City on July 21. It was only the fifth time this year he has failed to produce a quality start.
"I really don't second-guess any of the pitches I threw tonight," Diamond said after the Twins' 7-3 loss. "I felt like I executed well. It was just frustrating the way the results happened. It seems like there were a lot of ground balls that just found their way. Same thing with the bloops, but it's just the way it goes sometimes."
Trying to push Minnesota's losing streak to four games will be Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin. The right-hander has been solid of late, though it hasn't necessary translated into winning decisions. He enters with a 3.38 ERA in his last three outings, but Tomlin went just 1-2 in those games.
Tomlin took a loss his last time out when he surrendered two runs over six innings against Baltimore.
Indians: Lillibridge joins team
Newly acquired outfielder Brent Lillibridge joined the Indians on Wednesday. Cleveland traded Minor League pitcher Jose De La Torre to Boston on Tuesday in exchange for Lillibridge. The Tribe designated outfielder Aaron Cunningham for assignment to make space on the 25-man roster.
"Versatility, man," manager Manny Acta described as Lillibridge's best asset. "He's a guy we've seen in our division the last couple of years. He can play the outfield. He can play the infield. He can run. It's a guy that we'll welcome here."
Cleveland is 22-9 this season in series openers, including an 11-4 mark on the road.
Twins: Plouffe could go to DL
Trevor Plouffe will likely be placed on the disabled list if he's unable to swing a bat on Thursday. Minnesota's third baseman is still dealing with a bruised right thumb suffered on July 20, and he hasn't played since.
"If he can't go in and take swings [Thursday], then he'll go on the DL probably and we'll bring a player up for Friday," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We said we'd give him one more day. He's available to do very little off the bench right now."
Danny Valencia is a possible callup candidate, should Plouffe go on the DL. Valencia is hitting .249 with seven homers and 36 RBIs in 66 games for Triple-A Rochester.
Justin Morneau is hitting .313 (26-for-83) over his last 20 games, dating back to June 27. The first baseman has posted seven multihit games over that span.
Cleveland owns the all-time edge in the series, 374-351-1.
Minnesota's relievers hold an active 15-inning scoreless streak against the Indians.
Joe Mauer is hitting .338 lifetime against the Indians with a .420 on-base percentage.