Francisco Lindor and the Cleveland Indians take on the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday. Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI | License Photo
CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians, invigorated by a rare off day at home on Monday, will host the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night at Progressive Field in the second game of a three-game series.
Following their 8-1 win Tuesday, the Indians have a 14-game lead over the Twins in the American League's Central Division. The Indians came into Tuesday's game having lost four of their last five games, with their two most important hitters, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, in slumps.
Lindor came into Tuesday's game hitting .194, with no home runs and four RBIs in his last 14 games. Ramirez was hitting .128 with one homer and two RBIs in his last 11 games.
However, in Tuesday's win, Lindor was 4-for-5 and Ramirez 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
The Indians' huge lead in baseball's worst division probably contributed to the team's recent malaise. Part of it is the time of the season. There will be no race for the division title in September for the Indians, who haven't been challenged by any team in the AL Central since midseason.
The Indians have also spent a lot of time on the road recently. Prior to Tuesday's game, they had played 13 of their last 16 games away from home.
"It felt like we were gone for a long time," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. "We had a day off at home (Monday), which is rare, and now we're home for 10 days. The weather is going to start cooling off a little bit. That should help a little bit, because I thought our guys had gotten a little raggedy."
The Indians seem to have emerged from their funk in their last two games, beating Kansas City and Minnesota by a combined score of 20-6.
The Twins, who have lost four in a row, are already looking toward next year, and one of the pitchers they'd like to think will be a part of their future will be on the mound Tuesday: 23-year-old right-hander Kohl Stewart.
The Twins selected Stewart with the fourth overall pick in the first round of the June 2013 draft. Stewart (0-1, 6.94 ERA) will be making his fourth major league start on Wednesday. His last start came on Aug. 23 when he received no decision in the Twins' 6-4 win over Oakland. Stewart pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing three runs and seven hits, with six strikeouts and two walks.
Stewart spent the first half of the season in the minor leagues. In a combined 21 appearances (19 starts) at Triple-A Rochester and Double-A Chattanooga, he was 3-7 with a 4.47 ERA.
Cleveland's starter on Tuesday will be rookie right-hander Adam Plutko (4-4, 5.09). Plutko's last start did not go well, a 7-0 loss to Boston on Aug. 23. He pitched 4 1/3 innings, giving up five runs and five hits, with five walks and four strikeouts.
Plutko hasn't won since June 24. In five appearances since then (three starts), he is 0-3 with a 5.73 ERA. In his first three starts this season, Plutko was 3-0 with a 3.93 ERA. He has pitched in eight games (five starts) since and is 1-4 with a 5.71 ERA.
His only career appearance against the Twins came on June 16, when he pitched two innings in relief, allowing one run and two hits.
Plutko started this season at Triple-A Columbus, where in 14 starts he was 7-3 with a 1.70 ERA.