Indians postseason hopes rest on final two games

BY foxsports • September 28, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS -- One more game, one more win, one more step closer to a playoff spot.
That’s the end result of the Cleveland Indians' romp over the Twins Friday night.

The Indians avoided the issue of bullpen juggling the best possible way -- by jumping on top early and finishing with a 12-6 win.

Cleveland started the game with seven runs in the first inning, pretty much erasing any lingering nervousness or angst from the previous night’s near ninth-inning meltdown. The Twins fought back, but the Indians never trailed and won going away.

With Tampa Bay’s loss in Toronto, Cleveland now is tied with the Rays atop the AL wild-card standings -- a game ahead of the Rangers.

“Whatever,” said manager Terry Francona. “I just want to keep playing. I don’t want to go home. I don’t care where we play, when we play. I just want to keep playing.”

A win Saturday ensures the Indians at least will take part a 163rd game, a one-game playoff on Monday. One Indians win and one Texas loss and the Indians are in.

It’s that close, that tangible.

“I ought to just sit here and stay in my uni,” Francona said. “Because I’m probably not going to sleep a whole heck of a lot.”

The Indians are ending the season with a flair.

They have won eight in a row, nine of 10 and 13 of 15.

Their 19-6 record in September is the team’s best since 1952, and the eight-game winning streak the best in September -- when the games count the most -- since 1954. The only hiccups in the streak were Chris Perez’s two bad ninth innings, but that issue has been addressed as Perez will no longer close games.

Cleveland has won 90 games this season, 22 more than a year ago. If they win out, not only will they finish with 10 wins in a row, they’ll have matched the best season-to-season improvement in team history (not counting seasons affected by labor disputes).

“We’ll have time to reminisce when the season’s over,” Francona said. “We got to show up in about 10 hours and try to get to 91.”

Friday was this Indians team at its best, and it left them in good shape for the final two games. Six players had two hits. Five relievers followed Corey Kluber, and combined they allowed one hit. None was named Allen, Shaw or Smith -- so Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith are all available Saturday and Sunday.

“We continue to play good baseball, and we look up with two games to go and we’re right where we need to be,” Drew Stubbs said. “We just got to finish off these last few days strong.”

Scott Kazmir starts Saturday, Ubaldo Jimenez is scheduled to start on Sunday.

Many scenarios remain. If the Indians lose two and Texas wins two, the Indians have to hope Tampa Bay also loses two to force a 163rd game.

But if the Indians win two, they assure themselves a postseason spot.

 “It’s everything you hope for when you go to spring training,” Francona said. “You can’t let yourself get ahead. The fact that everybody’s tired and can’t wait to get back here tomorrow, that’s what we’re here for.”

Francona even admitted to peeking at the scoreboard during his game to see what Tampa and Texas were doing. It was mentioned to him he couldn’t control the scores in those games.

“I was trying to,” he said. “You try managing three games at once. It’s not easy.”

After 160 games, the Indians' postseason plans rest on the final two games.

“It’s a good nervous,” Francona said. “It’s excitement. You can’t wait for the game to start. Everything’s so meaningful.”

The Indians have done almost everything that’s been asked of them this season. They have not beaten Detroit, but they’ve beaten losing teams with authority.

And in the final month, they have taken advantage of the schedule the league gave them.

They’ve played hard, they’ve cared and in the month that matters most they’ve put up their best record.

All that remains to finish the job are two stinking games.

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