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Suddenly Hot Minnesota Opens Series With Tribe In Cleveland Monday Night

Somehow it almost makes sense that when a team is slumping and sees an opponent coming up on the schedule that might help to make that slump a thing of the past, said upcoming opponent will choose to suddenly get hot.

That is what is happening with the slumping Indians next opponent, the Minnesota Twins.

Minnesota was stumbling along last Wednesday night at 17-37, and trailing the Tribe by 16.5 games, as the Twins got ready for four in Kansas City and the Indians prepared for four at home against Texas.

Lo and behold, by Sunday night the Twins had won four straight, the Indians had dropped four straight, and Minnesota comes into a three-game series beginning Monday night at 7:05 "only" 12.5 games back.

Nice timing for the Twins? We will see if the Tribe can have something to say about that.

Minnesota has beaten Cleveland seven straight times going back to last season -- including taking two from the Tribe in a rain-shortened series April 23-24.

The Indians will count on Josh Tomlin (7-2, 3.27 ERA) to get back on track. Tomlin gave up six runs in six innings in his last start, against the Toronto Blue Jays last week, in a game wherein the Tribe jumped to a huge early lead and won 13-9.

It is not at all fair to say that Tomlin had an off-night in that game, When a pitcher is staked to a big-time advantage, his job is to throw strikes and let the defense catch the ball behind him. What mattered was that Tomlin got the win, and perhaps had the game been played on natural grass instead of Bouncy Turf, those six runs might have been less.

Tonight's game will be the first time in his young career that Tomlin has faced Minnesota.

The Twins will counter with veteran right-hander Scott Baker (2-4, 3.86 ERA), who will be making his 20th career start against the Tribe. Baker is 7-7 vs. Cleveland with a 3.75 ERA in 112.2 career innings, so there will be nothing new for the Indians to see from Baker, who has gone 57-46 overall in his Big League career. Last season Cleveland went 2-0 against Baker, who had a 7.63 ERA in 2010 vs. The Good Guys.

Baker, in his last outing -- last Wednesday against the Tigers -- was the losing pitcher in a 4-2 Detroit win. In that one, Baker went six innings and surrendered seven hits and four runs.

Minnesota swept the Royals despite being without Jim Thome, Joe Mauer and Jason Kubel for the duration of the series, along with Justin Morneau and Denard Span for the last two games. It is uncertain if Morneau and Span will be available for this series with the Indians.

The Tribe needs to find some wins and find them fast, as the Tigers have crept to within 2.5 games, and -- after this series with the Twins -- Cleveland will be heading out on the road for four against the Yankees and three vs. the Tigers.

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