CLEVELAND — Hoping that second baseman Jason Kipnis might be emerging from his season-long slump, the Cleveland Indians will host the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night at Progressive Field in the first game of a three-game series.
It’s a welcome return home for the Indians, who have played 13 of their last 16 games on the road. The last of those was a 12-5 win on Sunday at Kansas City, a victory that was sparked by a rare offensive outburst by Kipnis.
The two-time All-Star, who has had a dreadful 2018 season, erupted for four hits, including a double, an inside-the-park home run and four RBIs.
Indians manager Terry Francona, who has stuck with Kipnis despite his season-long slump, is hopeful that his second baseman’s four-hit game is a sign of better things to come.
“What a lift that would give us,” Francona said. “We’ve seen him do it, and he’s shown periods of it (this year). If he could get hot like that, it would help us so much.”
Even with four hits Sunday, Kipnis is batting just .223 for the season and just .167 in his last 11 games. His average hasn’t been above .230 since April 1.
Kipnis says he made some mechanical adjustments in his swing that he used for the first time Sunday.
“It (the four-hit game) gives me a breath of fresh air,” he said. “I’m excited to see where it goes from here.”
Kipnis may be catching a break Tuesday when he faces Twins left-hander Kyle Gibson, a pitcher Kipnis has done very well against during his career. Kipnis has a .419 career batting average vs. Gibson (13-for-31) with two doubles, a home run and 10 walks.
Gibson (7-10, 3.63) has made 17 career starts against Cleveland and is 3-8 with a 5.28 ERA. His last start this year came Aug. 22, a 7-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox in which he pitched 4 2/3 innings and allowed seven runs (four earned) and seven hits, three of them home runs, with five strikeouts and four walks.
Tuesday will be Gibson’s fifth start of the season against the Indians. In the first four, he was 1-2 with a 3.80 ERA.
Gibson’s last start against Cleveland was a 10-0 loss on Aug. 6. In that game, he pitched five innings, allowing six earned runs (four earned) and seven hits with three strikeouts and three walks. He gave up two home runs, to Yonder Alonso and Brandon Guyer.
Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.55) will start for Cleveland. Carrasco’s last start did not go well, a 10-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Aug. 22, in which he only pitched 3 2/3 innings, giving up six runs (five earned) and eight hits with six strikeouts and one walk.
Tuesday will be Carrasco’s sixth start of the year against the Twins. It will also be his third start of the month vs. Minnesota. His last start against the Twins was a 3-2 loss on Aug. 7 in which he pitched 6 1/3 innings and gave up three runs and 10 hits with eight strikeouts and one walk.
In 22 career appearances against Minnesota, Carrasco is 6-9 with a 4.00 ERA.
Minnesota is the only team in the AL Central that Cleveland hasn’t dominated this year. The Indians are 8-8 vs. the Twins and 30-11 (.732) against the rest of the division.