MINNEAPOLIS — The Cleveland Guardians are slated to start a three-game series in Minnesota on Tuesday night against the Twins with first place in the AL Central on the line.
That’s not a sentence that many expected to read on the first day of summer, but it’s a true one, too.
Entering the series, the Guardians trail the Twins by just one game in the American League Central Division, a group that was expected to be easily taken by the Chicago White Sox. Instead, the Twins have held the top spot in the division since April 24. Cleveland trailed Minnesota by as many as 7.5 games but the 15-4 mark since May 30 has pushed the Guardians to just one game back.
The next two weeks will go a long way in determining whether or not this is a tight race throughout the summer. In winning 15 of their last 19, the Guardians have feasted on less than stellar teams before taking two out of three from the Dodgers in Los Angeles this past weekend. Between now and June 30, the Guardians and Twins will play eight times, with just a three-game set at home against Boston this coming weekend to break up the two teams. If the two teams are close in these games, it could make for an exciting summer of Guardians baseball in the division. If not, eyes may shift to the Wild Card race.
The Guardians deserve a ton of credit for getting to this point in a season in which many didn’t think competitiveness was part of the equation. Cleveland entered the year with a projected win total set at just 76.5. At this current pace, the Guardians are on track to win 89 games in what would certainly be one of the more surprising seasons since manager Terry Francona took over back in 2013.
Here's the rundown for the three-game set in Minnesota
Game 1 – Tuesday, June 21, 7:40 p.m. ET
RHP Aaron Civale (2-3, 7.84 ERA in seven starts) vs. RHP Joe Ryan (5-3, 2.81 ERA in nine starts)
Game 2 – Wednesday, June 22, 7:40 p.m. ET
RHP Triston McKenzie (4-5, 2.96 ERA in 12 starts) vs. RHP Sonny Gray (3-1, 2.09 ERA in eight starts)
Game 3 – Thursday, June 23, 1:10 p.m. ET
RHP Zach Plesac (2-4, 4.41 ERA in 12 starts) vs. LHP Devin Smeltzer (3-1, 3.52 ERA in seven starts)