A second straight appearance in the wild-card round is looking bleak for the Cleveland Indians, and they didn't do themselves any favors by letting the series opener with the Minnesota Twins slip away in the late innings.
Cleveland turns to rookie starter T.J. House as it looks to bounce back Saturday night at Target Field.The Indians (79-74) are tied with the New York Yankees and trail Seattle, Oakland and Kansas City in the wild-card standings with nine games to play, giving them few opportunities to make up ground.They led by one run heading into the ninth inning Friday, but the Twins tied the game before Trevor Plouffe's RBI single in the 10th gave Minnesota a 5-4 victory. Cleveland had won three straight, but it has lost five of eight on its 10-game trip."Nobody's going to quit," manager Terry Francona said.House (3-3, 3.42 ERA) will try to help the Indians get on track by shutting down Minnesota again.The left-hander didn't pitch seven full innings in any of his first 13 starts, but he's worked exactly that many in each of his last three while going 1-0 with a 0.86 ERA. He allowed four hits and struck out eight in a 2-0 win over the Twins in his most recent outing Sept. 11.House had his next start pushed back to this contest after the Indians decided to go with all right-handers in their four-game series with Houston earlier this week."He's done a really good job. But basically, so has everybody else (in the rotation)," Francona told MLB's official website. "We're at that point in the season where we're trying to win every game we can."Cleveland seems to be in good shape to pick up a victory considering House is 2-0 with a 1.56 ERA in three starts against the Twins. He'll be opposed by fellow rookie Trevor May, who also has won three straight starts but has posted a 4.50 ERA in that span.After giving up two runs and walking four in five innings of a 4-3 win over the Indians on Sept. 9, May (3-4, 7.71) allowed three runs and struck out 10 in six innings of a 6-4 win over the Chicago White Sox on Sunday."I've always kind of been a strikeout guy," May said. "Getting those first couple of strikes and then giving them some of my best stuff has translated into swings and misses."The right-hander has 34 strikeouts in 35 innings over seven starts and one relief appearance, but Sunday's outing was the longest of his short career. May looks to deliver another solid outing for the Twins (66-87), who are doing their best to play spoiler.Minnesota won the final two of a three-game series with AL Central-leading Detroit before Friday's comeback victory. Oswaldo Arcia went 3 for 4 with a homer and two RBIs while Kennys Vargas added a solo shot."We're just trying to continue to play good baseball," Plouffe said. "We know we're out of it, but this is the time for a lot of guys to show they can play in a situation like this, against these good teams late in the season."The Twins will have to play the rest of the season without closer Glen Perkins, who was shut down Friday due to a strain and secondary nerve irritation in his left forearm.Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis sat out the series opener with a sore right hamstring, though Francona hopes he can play in this contest.
Corey Kluber has been as effective as any pitcher in MLB this year with his curveball, ranking first in strikeout percentage (57.8), swinging strike percentage (22.9), swing percentage (56.3) and chase percentage (46.5). The Twins have the fourth-lowest swing percentage against curveballs this season.