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Twins, Guardians enter 4-game set after series wins


Two teams that have struggled offensively could be heating up at the right time when the defending American League Central champion Cleveland Guardians open a four-game series against the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins on Thursday night in Minneapolis

Cleveland, which ranks last in the majors with 33 home runs and is tied with Oakland for the fewest runs scored (200), enjoyed a rare batting explosion on Wednesday. The Guardians amassed a season-high 17 hits, including eight for extra bases, while matching their season-best run total in a 12-8 comeback win over the Baltimore Orioles

The Guardians took two of three games at Baltimore for their second consecutive series win after dropping three series in a row

Josh Naylor hit a two-run shot in the fourth inning to snap a streak of 264 plate appearances between home runs for Cleveland, and Josh Bell and Gabriel Arias also went deep for the Guardians. Naylor finished with a career-high four hits and drove in six runs while Andres Gimenez matched a career best with four hits

“Hopefully it keeps them going because they’ve been frustrated,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said of his team’s hitters after the club’s first three-homer game of the season. “But I’m happy for them today.”

The Guardians will start Tanner Bibee (1-1, 2.88 ERA) on Thursday, and the 24-year-old right-hander will face the Twins for the first time in his seventh career start

Bibee will be opposed by right-hander Pablo Lopez (3-3, 4.11) who has made one career start against Cleveland. That was in 2019 as a member of the Miami Marlins, when Lopez allowed just two hits, two walks and an unearned run while striking out six over 6 1/3 innings in a 3-1 victory.

Bibee comes in off an impressive no-decision in Cleveland’s 2-1, 10-inning loss against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday. He allowed two hits, including a solo homer to Brendan Donovan in the first inning, over six innings while walking one and striking out a career-high nine. He touched 97.5 mph with his fastball and kept the Cardinals off-balance with his changeup.

“I thought we saw tonight his best changeup, at least since he’s been here,” Francona said. “He has the ability to kind of go back there and reach for more with his fastball, which is good. … He was really good.”

It could be a make-it-or-break-it start for Bibee with Aaron Civale, sidelined since April 8 with a left oblique strain, returning to start Friday’s game and Triston McKenzie, sidelined since spring training with a shoulder injury, possibly returning as soon as Sunday. Bibee is vying with left-hander Logan Allen (2-2, 2.72 ERA) for a spot in the rotation.

Minnesota comes in after winning two of three road games against the defending World Series champion Houston Astros, including an 8-2 victory Wednesday. Rookie Louie Varland threw seven shutout innings in the series finale.

Donovan Solano led an 11-hit attack for Minnesota with two hits and four RBIs, while Ryan Jeffers added two hits and two RBIs.

Perhaps more impressive for the Twins was the fact they went 2-for-3 with the bases loaded. Solano’s two-run single in the third snapped an 0-for-15 drought for Minnesota with the bases loaded dating to May 13, and Jeffers added a two-run double in the fifth with the bases loaded. Minnesota entered the contest just 5-for-46 with the bases loaded, last in the majors

“(The Astros are) a good team, and I’m pleased with the way we went at them in these games,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said, according to the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. “They’re a very good team, goes without saying. But so are we, and that’s what we’re looking to do regardless of who we’re playing.”

–Field Level Media

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