|Surging Minnesota Hosts First-Place Cleveland in AL Central Battle|
|Monday, 06 August 2007 08:00|
Twins Movin' Up
The Minnesota Twins continue to make their way up the AL Central standings.
Minnesota looks for a third straight victory against the first-place Cleveland Indians on Monday as it tries to win the four-game home set.
Scott Baker allowed four hits in eight stellar innings to outpitch Fausto Carmona and rookie second baseman Alexi Casilla had an RBI double on Sunday in the Twins' 1-0 win over the struggling Indians (62-49), who hold a one-half game lead over reeling second-place Detroit in the division.
Minnesota (57-53), which has won six of eight since losing a season-high five in a row, is just 4 1/2 games out of first place. The Twins were 9 1/2 out of the division lead as recently as July 25.
"It means we're getting closer," Twins outfielder Michael Cuddyer said. "We're not there yet, but at the same time we're on the right path."
The Twins, who lost their first six games to the Indians this season, have won four of their last five from Cleveland. Minnesota will try to win its second straight series over Cleveland, which has lost 10 of its last 15 games.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Cleveland -110 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 9.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 89% of bets for this game have been placed on Cleveland -110 (View MLB Bet Percentages).
"We smell blood right now,'' Twins outfielder Torii Hunter said. "We're ready to go."
Though the Twins are closing in on the division lead, they continue to search for offense. Minnesota is averaging just under three runs in its last 13 games, scoring more than four runs just once in that span.
Reigning AL MVP Justin Morneau went 0-for-4 on Sunday and is 0-for-11 in the series, but is hitting .481 (13-for-27) with three homers against Cleveland's Paul Byrd, who starts Monday.
After scoring 10 runs in two straight wins, the Indians have just two in consecutive losses. Cleveland is 3-for-22 with runners in scoring position in the series, going 0-for-11 in the last two games.
"We're a much better offensive ballclub than what we've been showing lately," Indians manager Eric Wedge said.
Victor Martinez had one of Cleveland's five hits Sunday and is batting .444 (12-for-27) with three homers, six doubles and 11 RBIs against Minnesota starter Carlos Silva. Travis Hafner is also 12-for-27 in his career against Silva with seven RBIs.
Silva (9-11, 4.61 ERA) tries for his sixth straight win at the Metrodome on Monday. He allowed two runs and seven hits in eight innings of a 5-3 home win over Kansas City on Tuesday to improve to 5-0 with a 3.38 ERA in his last five home outings.
The right-hander, who is 3-1 with a 4.73 ERA since the break, is 6-3 with a 3.73 ERA in 11 starts at home. He is 4-4 with a 5.11 ERA in 15 games - 14 starts - against the Indians, but is 0-1 with a 6.55 ERA in two starts against them this season.
Byrd (9-4, 4.43) looks to win his third straight decision. Byrd, who is 2-0 with a 4.50 ERA in his last four starts, allowed three runs and 10 hits in 5 1-3 innings in a 9-6, 10-inning home loss to Texas on Wednesday.
The right-hander has fared well against the Twins this season and throughout his career.
Byrd is 2-0 with a 5.14 ERA in two home starts versus Minnesota in 2007, including a 10-4 win on July 27. He is 8-3 with a 3.94 ERA in 14 starts against the Twins and 5-1 with a 2.45 ERA in eight starts at the Metrodome.
by: Dave Michaels - thespread.com – Email Us
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