CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Francisco Lindor didnt want to think about it quite yet. He just got done playing in his fourth straight All-Star Game on Tuesday night at Progressive Field.
His mind was on Wednesday and Thursday and getting some rest. Friday would get here soon enough to deal with the AL Central-leading Twins. When it does arrive, its not going to check the lock on the back door. Its going to put a shoulder to the front door and push hard. Thats a good thing.
The Indians brought this collision upon themselves. Its the only way they could have made themselves relevant again in the AL Central.
They trailed the Twins by 11 1/2 games on June 3. Theyve gone 21-8 since, riding a six-game winning streak into the break. The Twins went 16-15 over the same period. When they arrive at Progressive Field on Friday night to open a three-game series, the Indians will be 5 1/2 games back.
Im going to enjoy the next couple of days, said Lindor. Once the Twins are here, it will be a good series. ... Its fun playing against them. I cant wait."
The Indians will have an optional workout Thursday at 7 p.m. Manager Terry Francona said his four All-Stars, Lindor, Shane Bieber, Carlos Santana and Brad Hand, have permission to skip it and rest. Another element to the day has Carlos Carrasco scheduled to talk to reporters about his leukemia diagnosis at the workout. Its possible Carrasco will throw a bullpen session as well.
The Twins will work out at 5:30 p.m.
Both teams will open with their top three available starters. The Indians will go with Mike Clevinger (2-2, 4.44) on Friday followed by Trevor Bauer (8-6, 3.61) and All-Star MVP Shane Bieber (8-3, 3.45). The Twins will start Kyle Gibson (8-4, 4.09) on Friday followed by All-Stars Jake Odorizzi (10-4, 3.50) and Jose Berrios (8-5, 3.00). Odorizzi has been on the injured list with blisters on his pitching hand.
This series is very important, said Jorge Polanco, Minnesotas All-Star shortstop. We know how important it is to win the games against the Indians. As we go into those games it will be the key to our hopes for the rest of the season.
A lead of 5.5 games is comfortable. For a while, however, it looked like the Twins would win the division by twice that.
Im not surprised the Indians have closed the gap," said Polanco. We know theyre a very competitive team. Theyve won the division the last three years and we knew they were going to keep fighting us. We just have to continue to play the kind of baseball weve been playing.
This is not an end-all, be-all series. Its important, yes, but the Indians and Twins will meet 10 more times following Sundays game.
Still, the pressure is on the Tribe to sweep or at least win the series. It always is when a team is playing from behind.
Were chasing them and weve got to play well when we do play them, said Hand. Weve only played them twice (two series) this year. For how many games down we were at one time, its going to be a very important test every time we play them. We have to play them tough and try to win the series every time.
Whit Merrifield, Kansas Citys All-Star jack-of-all-trades, saw plenty of the Indians and Twins in the first half. Heres how he handicaps the second half.
The Indians are a good team, said Merrifield. "Theyre a little banged up right now. If they can get healthy, theyd be in a better situation.
But theyre playing well. Theyre 5 1/2 back and thats nothing with the whole second half to go. It will be a good fight between them and the Twins, but Minnesota isnt going anywhere. Theyre too good.
The Indians and Twins have split six games. The Indians lost two out of three at Target Field March 28-31. The Indians took two out of three at Progressive Field June 4-6.
After Sunday they will play four games in August and six in September.
Lindor is hitting .455 (5-for-11) with three homers and four RBI against the Twins this year. Berrios is 2-0 with a 0.66 ERA against the Tribe. Hes struck out 16 in 13 2/3 innings.
Theres no hate, said Lindor of the rivalry with the Twins. Were a brotherhood, but at the end of the day, you like to beat your brother."
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