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Wed, Jul 20, 2011 - 1:10 PM ET
 

Indians-Twins Preview

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A scary incident may leave the Cleveland Indians without Travis Buck, but giving the ball to Josh Tomlin may be a good way to soften the blow.

Tomlin, however, will likely need to be much better against the Minnesota Twins this time.

The right-hander looks to win his fifth straight decision and avenge last month's loss to the Twins when the AL Central rivals conclude this four-game set Wednesday.

Cleveland (51-45) fell into a tie with Detroit atop the division after wasting a ninth-inning lead Tuesday, when closer Chris Perez surrendered a two-run walkoff single to Danny Valencia in a 2-1 loss to the Twins (45-51).

While the Indians are 4-3 on this eight-game road trip, including Monday's doubleheader sweep of Minnesota, they may finish it without Buck, who's hitting .282 with nine RBIs in 13 games since his latest stint in the minors last month.

Buck was beaned in the head by a 91-mph fastball from Francisco Liriano in the fifth inning Tuesday, and he sat down in a daze as trainers rushed to his side. After a few moments, he got up and walked off under his own power.

The Indians said it was a head contusion and there were no immediate symptoms of a concussion.

"I hope he's OK," Liriano said.

Tomlin (11-4, 4.03 ERA) takes the mound looking to help the Indians reclaim sole possession of first place, and he's 4-0 with a 3.79 ERA in his last six starts.

He labored through his most recent outing Friday, allowing five runs and six hits - including a career-high three homers - in five innings of a 6-5 win at Baltimore.

"Every mistake I made, they put a good swing on it," Tomlin said. "I don't like going five, having (the bullpen) cover four innings like that."

Tomlin was also hit hard in his only previous start against Minnesota on June 6, giving up six runs and nine hits in six innings of a 6-4 loss.

The Twins are hoping Valencia can help them salvage a split of this series. The third baseman is 6 for 15 with one homer and three RBIs in his past four meetings with the Indians, but has never faced Tomlin.

Valencia is hitting .340 with three homers while driving in 12 runs over his last 12 home games.

Nick Blackburn (7-6, 3.99) gets the ball looking to continue his own success against the Indians.

The right-hander is 6-3 with a 2.40 ERA in 11 career starts against Cleveland, going 2-0 with a 1.27 ERA in the last three.

In five home starts in the series, Blackburn is 4-1 with a 2.97 ERA.

He's coming off a strong performance against Kansas City, allowing four hits in seven scoreless innings in Friday's 2-1 loss. That was a vast improvement from his three previous games when he surrendered 19 runs in 13 1-3 innings.

"Everything was just down. That hasn't been the case for probably the last four or five starts," Blackburn told the team's official website after his latest start. "(Friday) my fastball was below the knees more often than it has been in a long time."

Tagged: Indians, Twins, Travis Buck, Nick Blackburn, Danny Valencia

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