The Minnesota Twins have not had much success this season against the Cleveland Indians. Even ace Johan Santana hasn't been able to find the winning formula.
Santana tries to beat the Indians for the first time in five starts this season and help the Twins avoid a sweep at the hands of the AL Central leaders on Wednesday night.
The Twins (67-65) entered this series riding a season high-tying five-game win streak that pulled them within 5 1/2 games of the Indians (74-57). An 8-3 loss in the series opener and Tuesday's 6-5 defeat have dropped Minnesota 7 1/2 games off the pace.
Now the Twins will turn to Santana (14-9, 2.97 ERA) as they try to avoid getting swept at Jacobs Field in a three-game series for the second time this season.
Santana, though, is 0-3 with a 3.67 ERA in four starts this year against the Indians. He will be matched up against Cleveland ace C.C. Sabathia for the second time this month. In the previous meeting at Minnesota on Aug. 3, Santana gave up five runs -- three earned -- in six innings of a 5-2 loss while Sabathia went six strong innings to get the win.
Santana wasn't at his best Friday in a 7-4 victory at Baltimore, but still managed to win his second consecutive start and third straight decision. He gave up four runs and eight hits in seven innings with one walk and seven strikeouts. The left-hander allowed three home runs, only the second time in 27 starts he surrendered more than two.
Santana is 6-5 with a 3.07 ERA in 18 career starts against the Indians. He is 0-3 in his last five starts at Cleveland, where he hasn't won since April 15, 2005.
Travis Hafner hit a two-run homer and Grady Sizemore added a solo shot Tuesday for the Indians, winners of four straight and six of seven.
Cleveland has moved 3 1/2 games ahead of second-place Detroit in the Central -- its largest lead since June 5.
Joe Borowski gave up two runs in the ninth before striking out Justin Morneau with the tying run on second for his 38th save. He has a 10.00 ERA over his last 10 appearances.
"I've come to the realization that statistically I'm going to have to wear it," said Borowski, 2-5 with a 5.64 ERA and five blown saves this season. "But as long as we save it, that's all I care about."
Hafner's homer was his first since Aug. 6 and his 125th as Cleveland's DH, matching Andre Thornton's club record.
Jason Tyner tied a career high with four hits for the Twins, who are 4-10 this season against the Indians.
"We have to figure out a way to get a win," said manager Ron Gardenhire, who was ejected for the sixth time this season on Tuesday. "Last night was a terrible ballgame. They pounded us. Tonight we battled and had a chance to win. You can cry over it or do whatever you want, but you've got to keep playing."
Twins catcher Joe Mauer missed his third straight game with a strained hamstring, and is not expected to play Wednesday.
Sabathia (14-7, 3.38) hopes for improved run support from his teammates. The left-hander has won only once in his last seven starts despite a 2.13 ERA because the Indians have scored a total of 18 runs in those games.
"I'm not frustrated," Sabathia said. "That's just baseball."
Sabathia was sharp again Friday in a 2-1 loss at Kansas City, yielding two runs -- one on a groundout and the other on a sacrifice fly -- in eight innings. He walked two and struck out six.
He has been outstanding in three starts this season against the Twins, going 2-1 with a 1.66 ERA. He is 9-8 with a 3.45 ERA in 24 starts versus Minnesota.