After winning the Central Division title in 2009 and 20120, the Minnesota Twins have had a very streaky 2011, and the end result is that they have long been out of contention for a three-peat. After falling 20 games under .500 at 17-37, the Twins crept back to 46-51 and found themselves within five games of first place on July 20. But since then, Minnesota has stumbled to a 13-38 record to dive into last place, four games behind the Royals.
The Indians, who know all about streaks and falling out of contention, open a three-game set in Minneapolis tonight. The Tribe is coming off of a three-game sweep in Texas and has fallen three games under .500 for the first time all season.
Even so, Cleveland is still in a virtual tie with the White Sox for second place in the Central, and can perhaps find incentive in that and make that incentive work for them over the last 15 games of the season.
In Friday's series opener at 8:10, Ubaldo Jimenez takes on Kevin Slowey. Jimenez (3-2, 4.98 ERA with the Indians) will be making his first appearance of the season vs. Minnesota. Over his career, Jimenez is 1-1 in two starts, covering 15 innings, against the Twins, with a 2.40 ERA.
Slowey will also have his first outing of 2011 vs. tonight's opponent. Slowey (0-5, 6.07 ERA) has had success in the past against the Tribe, going 6-2 in 10 starts, with a 3.52 ERA in 61.1 frames of work.
After two extended stays on the DL, Slowey will be making just his 12th appearance of the season. Slowey saw no action between April 4 and May 7, and then, after three starts in May, saw a two-month gap of inaction in the Majors between May 20 and August 19.
Slowey will be making only his sixth start tonight. He has lost his last five starts, all coming since August 19.
This series will continue with day games on Saturday at 1:10 and on Sunday at 2:10, before the Tribe comes back to Progressive Field to play their last nine home games in seven days, beginning Monday and including a doubleheader with the Twins on the 24th.