The Indians and Twins have both enjoyed recent turnarounds from their respective starting rotations. Cleveland sinker-baller Justin Masterson and Minnesota righty Kevin Correia will look to continue the trend in the finale of this four-game series on Thursday
Tribe manager Terry Francona hopes his club can continue to feature a rotation that is solid from top to bottom.
"We don't want it to be rare," Francona said. "This is probably over-simplifying it, but when ... you see the pitching matchups, the teams that are good teams, the pitcher always seems like it's a guy that they think is going to win. As you continue to get good starts, that's a good way to play."
Heading into Wednesday's game, Cleveland ranked third in the American League and fourth in the Majors with a 3.02 ERA, dating back to April 23. That type of performance continued Wednesday, when Danny Salazar held the Twins to three runs in 6 1/3 innings of work.
Over the past eight starts at Progressive Field, the Indians rotation has combined for a 1.63 ERA (10 earned runs in 55 1/3 innings) and a .203 (41-for-202) opponents' average with 61 strikeouts against 11 walks. The last five games have included a 1.29 ERA (five earned runs) from the starting staff in 35 innings.
In his last outing on Saturday, Masterson went 7 1/3 innings against the White Sox, allowing no runs on four hits with six strikeouts and one walk. The right-hander has fashioned a 2.96 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings across his past four starts for the Tribe.
Twins starters have given up 12 earned runs in their past 40 1/3 innings for a 2.68 ERA over six outings. That includes Correia's start Saturday, when he went seven innings against the Orioles, giving up just one earned run en route to a win. Correia had gone 0-3 with an 8.57 ERA in his previous four performances.
"I think I was able to command my pitches a little better than previous start," Correia said. "That's what I'm used to doing when I go out and pitch. If I don't have that, it's going to be a rough night, because I'm not a strikeout or a power pitcher."
Correia added that Minnesota's rotation has turned a corner after an uneven April.
"We didn't get off to a good start," Correia said. "We thought coming into this year we had a lot of talent and experience in this rotation. I think it's starting to show right now."
Twins: Escobar excelling
Entering Wednesday, Eduardo Escobar was hitting .406 (13-for-32), including the game-winning home run in Monday's win over the Indians, dating back to April 20. Escobar, who started in left field on Wednesday, has become indispensible for a team dealing with multiple injuries. Escobar was subbed in at shortstop in Monday's win and he started at third base Tuesday.
"For me, I think I am ready [for] whatever position," Escobar said. "When I can play, I'm going to play. I can play left field, center field, infield, catcher, too. That's OK. I like to play."
Indians: Bourn to return?
Center fielder Michael Bourn, who exited Saturday's game due to left hamstring tightness, ran the bases at Progressive Field on Wednesday to further test his leg. Bourn reported that he felt fine after the workout and he expressed confidence in his ability to rejoin Cleveland's lineup for Thursday's matinee against the Twins.
"I'm going to go out there and try to play," Bourn said. "They think it's ready and I think it's ready. When you first get out there, of course you're a little careful with it, because you don't want to hurt it again. At the same time, you've got to be aggressive, because it's part of playing the game."
• Twins first baseman Joe Mauer remains day to day after leaving Sunday's game against the Orioles with back spasms. Mauer played catch on Wednesday in Cleveland, marking his first baseball activity since exiting with the injury.
• Twins hitters Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe have enjoyed some success in their respective careers against Masterson. Against the sinkerballer, Dozier has hit .500 (6-for-12) with two extra-base hits and Plouffe has hit .294 (5-for-17) with one home run.
• Cleveland entered Wednesday's game with an American League-leading 295 strikeouts as a pitching staff (fourth in the Majors). The Indians staff was averaging 9.22 strikeouts per nine innings, which ranked second to only the Nationals (9.34) in baseball.