A consistent stream of quality starts has eluded both the Twins and Indians for most of the season. But lately, the clubs were on both sides of sweeps, with starting pitching the biggest reason to credit or blame.
Cleveland starters combined for a 2.84 ERA in the team's sweep of Detroit May 22-24. But the Tribe's rotation recorded a combined ERA of 11.89 in being swept by Chicago and dropping two of three to Kansas City.
Indians manager Manny Acta will hand the ball to right-hander Josh Tomlin on Saturday, looking for a performance similar to Derek Lowe's in Friday's series opener. Lowe limited Minnesota to one earned run on five hits over 6 1/3 innings.
"It's part of the game," Acta said. "It's just like a hitter going through a bad week or a bad month. I can't expect every one of these guys to give us 30 quality starts. That's how it goes. Hopefully, things will turn around."
The Twins completed their first three-game sweep of the season over Oakland May 28-30. Two Minnesota starters -- Francisco Liriano and Cole De Vries -- did not allow a run in their outings, while Scott Diamond limited the A's to three runs.
But Twins starters combined for a 9.00 ERA in their series against Detroit on May 25-27, leading Minnesota to fall victim to a sweep.
Luckily for Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, P.J. Walters is slated to toe the rubber for Saturday's game against Cleveland. Walters has added some stability to the Twins' staff since being called up from Triple-A Rochester last month, recording a 2-1 record and 2.96 ERA in four starts.
"It's all about pitching," Gardenhire said. "If you have pitching, you have an opportunity. We had some good come-from-behind wins and some performances on the mound. And that's why you have opportunity. If a guy throws the ball well, you have a chance."
Twins: Not overlooking Cleveland despite injuries
• The Indians were in sole possession of first place in the American League Central not long ago, but have dropped five of their last seven. A number of injuries -- including those to Travis Hafner and Carlos Santana -- contributed to that slide.
But that's not fooling Gardenhire, who would gladly trade Minnesota's last-place standing with Cleveland's second place.
"They're going through some injuries," Gardenhire said. "We've seen that on the reports, but it's still a very good baseball team. I'd rather be in their situation than ours. We're looking up at them, so they're still doing pretty good. They've got a tough team and they always play well in this ballpark."
• Joe Mauer has drawn 33 walks this season, tied for the fifth-most in baseball entering Friday's game. The Twins catcher is also two walks away from the 500th free pass of his career.
Indians: Acta expects Santana to return next week
• After taking batting practice in the cages on Friday, Cleveland catcher Carlos Santana appears closer to returning to the lineup after suffering a concussion. Santana is slated to catch a bullpen session on Saturday, run the bases, and take batting practice on the field, Acta said.
Santana, who owns a .360 on-base percentage with five home runs and 24 RBIs this season, sustained the concussion when he took a foul ball off his mask during Cleveland's game against the White Sox on May 25.
• Outfielder Michael Brantley extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a single against the Twins on Friday.
• After Friday's 7-1 victory, Cleveland has now won 11 of its last 12 games against Minnesota, dating back to last season.