A successful road trip gave a boost to the Cleveland Indians’ playoff hopes.
The Indians will try to end their recent woes at Progressive Field during a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins that begins Friday night.
Cleveland (69-58) moved within 2 1/2 games of Oakland in the race for the AL’s final wild card berth by going 6-3 on its trek. The Indians completed the trip with Wednesday’s 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels to cap a three-game sweep and push them past last season’s 68 victories.
“We’ve got guys in here that want to be in the playoffs,” first baseman Nick Swisher told the team’s website.
Cleveland started its trip by winning two of three over Minnesota (56-70) after going 1-6 on a homestand. The Indians had won their previous 11 in Cleveland.
The Indians have a 7-5 lead in the season series and have won four of six matchups at Progressive Field.
The Twins head into Cleveland after taking two of three from AL Central-leading Detroit. A 7-6 win Thursday cut the Indians’ deficit in the division to five games.
Ubaldo Jimenez (9-7, 4.00 ERA) takes the ball trying to build on a 7-1 win over Oakland on Saturday. The right-hander allowed his only hit in the sixth inning and struck out eight before leaving with two outs in the frame.
Jimenez, though, also matched a season high with five walks and threw 105 pitches.
“However he gets there, he finds a way,” manager Terry Francona told the team’s website. “When he gets to that sixth inning, that’s the inning that’s been tough for him to get through. Regardless of how many pitches he has or doesn’t have, he seems to kind of run into a little bit of a wall there. But if it happens and he’s given up one run, we’ll take it.”
Jimenez, who has given up two earned runs or fewer in five consecutive outings, is facing Minnesota for the first time this season and is 2-2 with a 3.25 ERA in four matchups.
The Indians have won seven of Jimenez’s last nine starts at Progressive Field and appear to have a good chance in the opener with Minnesota giving the ball to the struggling Samuel Deduno (7-7, 3.82).
The right-hander, who has been dealing with tendinitis in his pitching arm, is 0-3 with a 7.02 ERA in his last three starts, including a 5-2 loss to Cleveland on Aug. 13. Deduno gave up five runs over six innings in that game and is 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA in two matchups this season.
Deduno said he had no problems in a bullpen session Wednesday.
“I felt pretty normal,” he told the team’s website. “I didn’t feel anything. I just want to keep my mind strong.”
The Twins won’t have Joe Mauer for this series as he’s on the seven-day concussion disabled list. Mauer was batting .378 in his last 65 games against the Indians.
Jason Kipnis is batting .447 (21 for 47) with 10 extra-base hits and 18 RBIs against Minnesota this season, but is 1 for 9 with five strikeouts all-time against Deduno.