The Cleveland Indians made it to extra innings in the seventh game of the World Series last season but might be even better in 2017, if only because shortstop Francisco Lindor keeps improving. Lindor will try to lead the Indians to a series win when they visit the Minnesota Twins for the finale of a rain-shortened three-game set on Thursday afternoon.
Lindor extended his hitting streak to 12 games on Tuesday and recorded his first triple of the season while helping Cleveland to an 11-4 drubbing in the second game of the series. The 23-year-old is starting to get more support from former MVP candidate Michael Brantley, who is 8-for-21 with seven runs scored in his last five games. The Twins are losers of three in a row and are 1-4 on a homestand that was shortened to nine games when Wednesday's scheduled contest was rained out and rescheduled as a doubleheader on June 17. Minnesota will take the opportunity to switch up its rotation and push rookie Adalberto Mejia back in favor of Ervin Santana opposite Cleveland's Trevor Bauer, who was scheduled to go on Wednesday.
TV: 8:10 p.m. ET, ESPN, MLB Network, SportsTime Ohio (Cleveland)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Indians RH Trevor Bauer (0-2, 8.44 ERA) vs. Twins RH Ervin Santana (3-0, 0.41)
Bauer has yet to complete six innings and is coming off his worst effort of the young season as he surrendered six runs on eight hits and two walks in five frames against Detroit on Friday. The UCLA product yielded four home runs over 15 2/3 innings in those first three outings. Bauer has struggled against Minnesota over the last three seasons, posting a 1-5 record with a 5.32 ERA in 11 starts.
Santana is off to a much better start and is aiming for his fourth straight win after striking out eight in a one-hit shutout of the Chicago White Sox on Saturday. The Dominican has yet to allow more than two hits in any start and is carrying a streak of 18 straight scoreless innings into Thursday's turn. Santana went 1-1 with a 3.18 ERA in two starts against Cleveland last season but has yielded three home runs in to new Indians slugger Edwin Encarnacion in 25 career at-bats.
1. Twins CF Byron Buxton went 0-for-4 on Tuesday to drop his batting average to .085.
2. Cleveland 2B Jose Ramirez is 14-for-24 with 10 RBIs in his last six games.
3. Minnesota 3B Miguel Sano has struck out nine times in his last four contests.
PREDICTION: Indians 7, Twins 2