With just 24 games remaining and trailing first-place Cleveland by 3 1/2 games in the American League Central, the Minnesota Twins will try to avoid a three-game sweep by the Guardians on Sunday in Minneapolis.

It won’t be easy for Rocco Baldelli’s Twins.

Shane Bieber (9-8, 2.96 ERA), winner of the AL Cy Young Award in 2020, will start for Cleveland (72-65), while Josh Winder (4-3, 3.77) will make just his seventh career start for Minnesota (69-69) in a matchup of right-handers.

Bieber is 5-1 with 3.54 ERA in 14 career appearances and 13 starts against the Twins, including 2-1 with a 3.21 ERA in seven games (six starts) at Target Field.

Winder, a seventh-round draft pick out of the Virginia Military Institute in 2018, has faced the Guardians once. On June 28, he allowed four hits while tossing six shutouts innings in a 6-0 win in Cleveland.

“We know where we are right now, so we’ve just got to play hard,” Twins infielder Jose Miranda told twincities.com. “We’ve got a good team. I’d still say we’ve got to take it day by day. We know we still have (24) more (regular-season) games, so game by game right now.”

The Twins still have five games over a four-day stretch next weekend in Cleveland. But a win on Sunday and a 2 1/2-game deficit would make catching the Guardians much more doable than trying to make up a 4 1/2-game deficit.

Minnesota has gotten off to bad starts in the first two games of the series.

The Twins gave up four first-inning runs and trailed 7-0 midway through a 7-6 loss on Friday. They trailed 5-0 in the first four innings of a 6-4 loss on Saturday.

The Twins scored four times in the bottom of the ninth and had the tying run in Miranda on first when Max Kepler grounded out to end the game against closer Emmanuel Clase.

“We’ve got to start hot, we’ve got to do something early because it’s obviously hard coming back — and Shane Bieber’s a very good pitcher,” Miranda said. “It’s going to be a good game. We just have to grind every at-bat and try to do our best.”

Cleveland improved to 8-5 in head-to-head games with Minnesota this season as Triston McKenzie scattered six hits over seven shutout innings and Amed Rosario hit a two-run homer in the first on Saturday.

“We’ve got a lot of must-win games coming up in division,” McKenzie told cleveland.com.

The Guardians head into Sunday with a 1 1/2-game lead over second-place Chicago and have four games remaining with the White Sox, including a makeup game on Thursday in Cleveland after a three-game series with the Angels.

“We play the White Sox after we play L.A. at home, and then we have the Twins again and then the White Sox immediately after again,” McKenzie said. “Those are the teams we’re in contention with, and I think second place in this division doesn’t make the playoffs, so that’s all that’s on our minds.”

–Field Level Media