MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins still haven't beaten the Cleveland Indians at home this season.
They have two tries left, and now both will take place on the same day.
The Twins postponed their game on Wednesday against the Cleveland Indians just 35 minutes into a rain delay, scheduling a split doubleheader to finish the series with the AL Central leaders while wet and stormy weather was predicted to persist throughout the night.
The Indians and Twins have only one common off date the rest of the season, on Sept. 25, the day the before a three-game series between the two teams in Cleveland. The Indians play in Seattle on Sept. 24, when the Twins are at Detroit.
So the Twins, who are 0-8 against the Indians at Target Field this year and 5-1 against them on the road, will play their fourth home doubleheader of 2017 on Thursday. The regularly scheduled game is at 12:10 p.m. local time, with Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco (11-5, 3.83 ERA) and Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson (6-9, 6.02 ERA) each having their start pushed back one day. The makeup at 6:10 p.m. will pit Twins right-hander Aaron Slegers (major league debut) against Indians left-hander Ryan Merritt (0-0, 3.60 ERA). Slegers will be the 26th player, summoned from Triple-A Rochester.
"We're 0-8," Twins manager Paul Molitor said, referring to his team's home record against the Indians, "and trying to hold our own here."
Rather than use right-hander Mike Clevinger in the nightcap, Indians manager Terry Francona opted to keep him in the bullpen for the doubleheader and summon Merritt as the 26th player from Triple-A Columbus. That way, Clevinger can stay on turn in the rotation next week without another shuffle necessary.
The Twins won't have that luxury. They're facing another doubleheader, their second on the road this season, at Chicago on Monday. They were already going to be forced to find a spot starter, but now they'll need two over the next five days.
The Twins trail the Indians by six games in the division race, with the Kansas City Royals in between at 5 1/2 games back. The Twins and Royals are also in the thick of the chase for the second AL wild-card spot, with the Royals one-half game behind the Los Angeles Angels and the Twins one game back.
After a slow start to 2017 coming off their crushing loss in Game 7 of the World Series last fall to the Chicago Cubs, the Indians have caught their stride entering the home stretch. Indians starters now have a league-low 3.98 ERA, after owning the league's highest rotation ERA (4.86) as late as June 9. Indians starters have held opponents to one or zero runs in nine of their last 12 games.
"I don't think you get too satisfied in the middle of August. I think we're trending in the right direction," Francona said. "But I think with those types of things, you just show up every day and keep plugging away or the trend can go the other way, until you're done. But it does feel better. When you show up and you feel like you're going to get a pretty well-pitched game, that helps everybody."
The Indians also have the lowest relief ERA (2.95) in the major leagues.
"Some of it goes to our pitchers' work ethic. Our pitchers don't seem to tire as you get into August, September. I think that helps a ton," Francona said. "I'd like to think that our clubhouse, our chemistry, however you want to say it, we don't bail on each other. We keep plugging away, and I think it's a good characteristic."
Indians: RF Lonnie Chisenhall (strained right calf) reported no trouble after playing LF in a rehab game with Triple-A Columbus on Tuesday. He has not played for the Indians since July 9.
Twins: LHP Hector Santiago will get a cortisone injection in his upper back, after being scratched from a scheduled rehab start with Triple-A Rochester. He has not pitched for the Twins since July 2.
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