After winning consecutive series against all three American League division leaders, the suddenly surging Minnesota Twins will turn their attention to the second-place Cleveland Indians on Monday night in the opener of a three-game series in Minneapolis.
Right-hander Griffin Jax (3-1, 5.45 ERA) will try to win his third straight start for Minnesota. He will be opposed by right-hander Cal Quantrill (3-2, 3.13).
Quantrill is 0-0 with an 8.64 ERA in four career appearances and one start against the Twins. He gave up six runs on six hits and a walk in 4 1/3 innings in an eventual 8-7 loss to Minnesota in his only start against the Twins on June 25. Coincidentally, Jax picked up his first major league victory in relief in that same contest, allowing three runs on three hits in 4 1/3 innings.
Jax has played a key role in a stretch that saw Minnesota take three of four games at AL West-leading Houston followed by winning two of three games at home from both Central leader Chicago and East leading Tampa Bay. He picked up the win in a 5-3 victory over the Astros on Aug. 5 and then struck out a career-high 10 batters while allowing three runs on five hits over six innings in his last start, a 4-3 win over the White Sox on Tuesday.
The Twins bounced back from a 10-4 opening loss to the Rays on Friday night to win 12-0 on Saturday, and took the series with a 5-4 walk-off victory on Sunday afternoon. Jorge Polanco drove in Max Kepler, who had led off with a double and advanced to third on an error, with the winning run on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth.
“Another fantastic series,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We’ll take it.”
The Twins, who began August in last place in the Central, have moved into fourth place and have closed to within six games of the Indians heading into Monday’s opener.
“We want more,” Baldelli said. “Much of what we’re doing now, we want more of it. We want to continue to improve upon what we’re doing. Obviously, nobody over here is satisfied with what we’ve seen as a whole. (But) this is not an easy part of our schedule. Any team in baseball who would be looking at our August would be saying that it’s about as tough as it gets in major league baseball.”
Indeed, after playing the Indians, the Twins hit the road to play four games against the Yankees and three games against the Red Sox. Then it’s back home for three games against the National League Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers.
Cleveland comes in after taking two of three games at Detroit, including a near historic 11-0 victory on Sunday afternoon.
Right-hander Triston McKenzie, who entered the contest with just a 3-6 record in 22 career starts, flirted with a perfect game as he retired the first 23 batters he faced before shortstop Harold Castro lined a single to right with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. McKenzie left after allowing just the one hit over eight innings while striking out 11.
“He beat me,” McKenzie said of his letter-high 2-1 fastball that was clocked at 90 mph. “I think I made a good pitch, and he beat me. I should’ve made a better pitch. I just feel like I could’ve got it past him.”
–Field Level Media