Although they’ve put some life into their slim playoff chances with outstanding pitching, the Cleveland Indians could have a tough time getting their offense on track in Minnesota.
The resurgent Indians hope to keep shaving games off their postseason deficits as they go after their fourth straight victory Friday night against 15-game winner Phil Hughes and the Twins.
Cleveland (79-73) appeared to be all but done after a four-game losing streak dropped it 7 1/2 games behind Central-leading Detroit and six back of Kansas City for the second wild-card spot.
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The Indians, however, have since won three in a row behind a pitching staff that has allowed just three runs over 31 innings. Danny Salazar and seven relievers held Houston to eight hits over 13 innings in Thursday’s 2-1 victory that moved the club within five games of the Tigers and four of a wild-card spot.
”The one thing we have to worry about is ourselves,” said Mike Aviles, who drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly. ”We have to come out and play every game and try to win every game. Whatever happens, happens."
Cleveland is on the verge of its longest winning streak since Aug. 1-4 despite totaling 21 runs and hitting .196 with runners in scoring position over its last eight contests.
Hughes (15-10, 3.56 ERA) has been tough on the Indians, going 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA in four starts dating back to 2010.
The right-hander surrendered five runs for the first time in nearly two months Saturday, though only three were earned over seven innings in a 5-1 road loss to the Chicago White Sox.
He finished with a season-high 11 strikeouts, becoming the first Twin to fan at least 10 since Francisco Liriano in July 2012.
"I’ve been close a few times this year," Hughes told MLB’s official website.
Hughes, who has an MLB-best 11.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio, allowed one run with eight strikeouts and no walks over seven innings in a 4-1 home win over the Indians on Aug. 21.
Cleveland’s Yan Gomes has five home runs and 14 RBIs in the season series. He’s also hitting .366 in 13 games in Minnesota.
Second baseman Jason Kipnis, though, is day to day after leaving Thursday’s game because of right hamstring tightness.
Trevor Bauer (5-8, 4.04) did not get a decision after allowing one earned run over five innings in Sunday’s 6-4 loss at Detroit.
The right-hander is 0-2 with a 5.79 ERA in three meetings with the Twins this season. He went a career high-tying eight innings versus Minnesota on Sept. 9, allowing four fourth-inning runs and four hits in a 4-3 home defeat.
Oswaldo Arcia hit a two-run home run in that contest and is 4 for 8 with three homers versus Bauer this season. Arcia is hoping to return to the lineup after missing the past three games with back stiffness.
The last-place Twins (65-87) seek their first three-game winning streak since Aug. 21-23 after they took two of three from visiting Detroit with Wednesday’s 8-4 victory.
Danny Santana finished a home run short of his first cycle and is 3 for 5 with a triple and a double against Bauer. He could get the start at shortstop with Eduardo Escobar day to day with a shoulder injury.
The Twins have dropped eight of the last 12 meetings, including a split of the previous six at Target Field.