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Indians 'Target' Twins In First Of Three Weekend Games

Okay, time to rinse off the dust (or rust) from the Indians' loss last night to the Kansas City Royals and to move on. And hey, the Tribe is in first place, which is pretty cool beans on April 22, I would say, especially as being in first place at any time in this 2011 season was unexpected.

Cleveland moves on to the great upper Midwest for the weekend to take on the Minnesota Twins in a three-game series which will end the road trip that so far shows a 2-2 mark. After this trip the Indians get another shot at the Royals -- this time in Cleveland -- but we won't get ahead of ourselves.

In game one of the series, which is scheduled to start at 8:10 Cleveland-time, Fausto Carmona will seek his second straight victory, after beating Baltimore last Sunday, going seven innings and allowing two runs -- one earned -- in a 4-2 Tribe victory at Progressive Field that completed a sweep. In that game, Carmona (1-2, 4.74) notched five strikeouts while walking only one, in his third straight quality start since the season opener against Chicago.

In his last three starts, Carmona has gone at least seven innings, and in 21 2/3 innings total, has given up only three earned runs on eleven hits. Carmona's ERA in that three-start span is 1.25.

This will be Carmona's 19th appearance -- and fifteenth start -- against the Twins in his career. Carmona is 4-8 with a 4.82 ERA in 89 2/3 innings against Minnesota, but -- without the numbers in front of me to substantiate the claim -- it would be safe to assume that that ERA was inflated by appearances at the Metrodome, before the Twins moved to Target Field last year.

The Indians' offense was shut down on seven hits last night, and the two runs scored both came in the fifth inning. An Indian was cut down at the plate trying to add an insurance run in the eighth, and it was just one of those nights where you get a lead but cannot build on it to put a game away.

It is also worth noting that the Indians have not homered since Carmona's last start, a game in which Cleveland slugged three solo jacks before going to Kansas City and drawing a four-game goose-egg in the long ball department.

The Indians have hit nineteen homers in as many games, and are batting .269 as a team. Grady Sizemore -- who collected three hits last night -- leads the team with a .421 average, and among players who have been here since Opening Day, Travis Hafner leads with a .344 average. Hafner and Asdrubal Cabrera have each gone deep four times, and Asdrubal leads with 14 RBI.

The Twins will send Brian Duensing to the mound tonight, seeking their second win in a row after beating the Orioles in Baltimore last night. Duensing will be making his seventh career appearance against Cleveland. Including two starts, Duensing is 2-0 against the Tribe with an ERA of 3.93 in 18 1/3 innings. The Indians have collected 26 baserunners in those innings, so getting men on base has not been a problem. Duensing has walked six and struck out 13 in his appearances against Cleveland.

In 2011, Duensing is 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA. Tonight will mark his fourth appearance of the season, and in all three of his previous starts he has gone at least six innings. And while he is only 1-0, the Twins -- who have only seven wins as opposed to 12 losses on the season -- have won each of his three starts, leaving them 4-12 with all other starters.

In other words, expect a tough game and a tough job for Carmona to get win number two.

Duensing's only victory came in his last start, where he gave up two runs in seven innings in a 4-2 Twins' victory last Sunday. On the year, in 20 innings, Duensing has allowed 21 hits and eight earned runs, walking six, striking out 14 and allowing two homers.

The Twins, as a team, are hitting only .233 on the season, in which there have only been five games thus far at Target Field. Jason Kubel leads Minnesota with a .319 average, while three players share the team lead in home-runs with two. Minnesota has only gone deep eight times in nineteen games thus far. Nobody has reached double figures in RBI as of yet, with Danny Valencia leading the team with nine driven in.

Minnesota has scored only 57 runs, for an average of exactly three runs a game. The Indians, on the other hand, have scored 99 runs, for an average of 5.2 runs per contest.

After tonight's game, two day-games will follow, with a 1:10 start tomorrow afternoon and a 2:10 contest on Sunday.

Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.