When two MLB teams are in the same division, they get to know each other pretty well.
The Cleveland Indians had already seen the Minnesota Twins (59-90, 28 GB) 11 times this year before the action kicked off at Target Field last night. Despite owning the worst record in the American League, the Twins were actually winning the season series, 6-5, before last night’s 7-6 Tribe victory.
But while Indians fans might consider themselves experts on the Twinkies after seeing them so many times, it’s still worth our while to talk to someone who actually follows the team. So I did another series preview Q&A with our very own Twins Featured Columnist Joshua Casey. Here’s what he had to say about Matt Capps’ breakout, Minnesota’s two closers, and what has doomed the Twins this year.
LEWIE POLLIS: The Twins were heavy favorites to make the playoffs and they now have the worst record in the American League. Their many struggles have been well-documented, but what’s been the biggest thing driving their fall to the basement?
JOSHUA CASEY: I think that the biggest contributing factor to a horrible Twins season this year was all the injuries. It seemed like every time a Twins player was coming off the DL to give the team a lift, another player went down right after. Players were dropping like flies this season.
LEWIE POLLIS: Soon-to-be free agent Michael Cuddyer is in the midst of what may be a career year, and his 2.7 fWAR is a team high. What’s fueling his turnaround? Will he re-sign with the Twins this winter?
JOSHUA CASEY: This year Cuddyer has really re-dedicated himself to the game. Cuddyer went through a few personal rough patches early on in his career and really caused him to not play up to his potential. But as of late he has realy dedicated himself to the game, and gotten his life back on track. This dedication really showed this season when he made his first American League All- Star team. I think the Twins should really push hard to re-sign Cuddyer, but with the state of their team I don’t think it’s going to happen.
LEWIE POLLIS: Matt Capps and Joe Nathan have both spent a lot of time as closers for the Twins this season, and neither has lived up to his normal standard. Who do you feel more comfortable going to with the game on the line?
JOSHUA CASEY: I really feel more comfortable when the Twins go to Matt Capps with the game on the line. Capps, at least this year, has shown the ability to close with the game on the line. Nathan has shown to be unreliable, especially with the elbow injury and and any lead is always in question when Nathan is on the line. But I also feel that both options aren’t really that reliable compared to other closers around the league, but the Twins are stuck with what they’ve got.
LEWIE POLLIS: Ben Revere and Denard Span have UZR/150′s of 17.9 and 18.1, respectively. Revere is a rookie, and while UZR has rated Span highly in the past (5.0 UZR/150) it’s never put him anywhere near this high. Are they really this good in the field or is this just UZR’s volatility?
JOSHUA CASEY: I really feel that both players are that good, and I’m not just saying that because I cover the Twins, if you watch both players on the field you’ll see why they have such UZR’s. Span and Revere’s defense is just another case of two solid defensive players being overlooked because of the simple fact that they play on a horrible team. It’s similar to the NL Cy Young, Clayton Kershaw leads the NL in strikeouts and wins but Roy Halladay leads the NL in ERA. Now although Kershaw has probably been more dominant this season, don’t be surprised if Halladay wins the Cy Young. Halladay plays on a team that has the best record in the league while Kershaw plays on the lowly Dodgers.
LEWIE POLLIS: Who’s taking the mound for the Twins this weekend, and what should Indians fans know about them?
JOSHUA CASEY: In the first of the three game series against the Indians the Twins send Kevin Slowey to the mound who, to put it bluntly, has sucked this season. He is 0-5 with a 6.07 ERA. The Indians should have no problem in Game 1.
In the second of three games the Twins send out Anthony Swarzak. Now although Swarzak does have a 3-6 record and a 3.88 ERA he hasn’t pitched all that badly. Swarzak has consistently gone 6-8 innings and pitched very well, but every time it seems like the Twins just can’t get anything going offensively. If the Twins can get off to a quick start offensively, they have a good shot to win Game 2.
In the last of the three game series the Twins send out Scott Diamond. Diamond is another one of those guys who pitches well, but never gets bailed out by his team. In his last outing against the Tigers Diamond allowed just two runs, one earned, while allowing only seven hits, and four walks in six innings of work. It was the third straight start where Diamond allowed three runs or less. In time I believe that Diamond can really be an effective starter for the Twins.
LEWIE POLLIS: What’s your prediction for the series?
JOSHUA CASEY: Indians win Games 1 and 3, Twins win Game 2.