The Cleveland Indians led the AL Central in late June and were in contention through most of July, making it difficult to understand the collapse that has them on the verge of being in last place.
A loss in the finale of this four-game set with the host Minnesota Twins on Monday night would tie the teams at the bottom of the division with the worst record in the AL.Cleveland was 37-33 and held a half-game lead in the Central on June 23. An 11-15 July -- ending with a three-game sweep at the hands of the Twins -- and a 5-24 August has contributed to the Indians (59-81) being one loss away from being tied at the bottom of the Central.Only three teams in major league history have held a division lead after 70 games and finished in last place -- the 2006 Colorado Rockies, the 2005 Washington Nationals and the 1991 California Angels.Cleveland blew a 4-0 lead in Sunday's 8-7 loss to Minnesota."We did a very good job on taking advantage of the walks earlier and moving guys over and scoring them," manager Manny Acta said. "Still, you can't be giving up eight runs and be expected to win ballgames."Minnesota could give itself some company at the bottom of the league with a win Monday.Justin Morneau hit a walk-off homer to go along with his two-run shot in the third inning Sunday for the Twins (58-82), who are 5-4 this month while closing out another disappointing season."The last couple years have been a little frustrating, but hopefully this is the start of good things to come in September," Morneau said. "Hopefully we get off to a better start as a team next year and give ourselves a little better chance to play pennant-chase baseball in September."Minnesota has won nine of the last 11 meetings with Cleveland and seeks another victory with help from Samuel Deduno, who has pitched well over his last two outings.Deduno (5-3, 3.66 ERA) allowed two hits in seven innings of a 10-0 win over Seattle on Aug. 29 before yielding two runs in six innings of a 4-2 loss to the White Sox last Monday."He has great stuff," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He can throw a breaking ball over just about any time and his fastball moves all over the place."The right-hander allowed one run and two hits in seven innings to beat Justin Masterson 12-5 at home on July 28, then didn't earn a decision after giving up four runs in four innings of a 7-5 loss at Cleveland on Aug. 7.Masterson (11-12, 4.84), who has been up and down for most of the second half, will oppose Deduno again Monday. He gave up seven runs to Oakland on Aug. 19 and eight in a rematch with the Athletics on Aug. 30, taking the loss in each outing.The right-hander mixed in a solid performance to beat the Yankees on Aug. 25 and allowed two runs and four hits in six innings of a 3-2 win over Detroit on Tuesday during his inconsistent stretch."He's a guy we look to every five games to do just what he did (Tuesday) because he has the stuff to do it," Acta said.Masterson is 1-2 with a 6.27 ERA in three starts versus Minnesota this season, last allowing two runs in seven innings of a 6-2 victory Aug. 8.