Baseball resumes on Friday and the Cleveland Indians look to keep pace in the American League Central, as they visit Target Field to open a three-game series with the Minnesota Twins.
The Indians (51-44) are 1 1/2 games behind division leader Detroit, and they sit three games off the pace in the wild card race. The Tribe entered the All- Star break riding a four-game winning streak after sweeping the third-place Kansas City Royals.
"What we've done in the first half makes the second half potentially really exciting," Indians manager Terry Francona said.
Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana each had three hits in Sunday's 6-4 victory over the Royals. Cleveland took the lead on Cabrera's two-run double in the sixth inning, and Jason Kipnis tacked on another run with his second RBI. Kipnis has gone 12-for-24 with three doubles, three triples and 12 RBI over his last six games.
Minnesota has sputtered of late, although the team did snap a six-game slide by winning two straight over the New York Yankees prior to the break.
The Twins got to CC Sabathia early and often in Sunday's 10-4, series- clinching victory. All told, they racked up 14 hits to beat the left-hander for the first time since 2007. Sabathia had gone 9-0 in his previous 10 starts against Minnesota.
Still, those back-to-back wins over New York may be too little, too late for the Twins. Taking into account where his team currently stands, general manager Terry Ryan said he will listen to offers from other teams as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches.
"We're not into respectability, we're into winning," Ryan said. "If you're just talking about finishing the year on a positive note, I don't think so. We're talking about winning and getting into the postseason. That's more important than trying to polish something up."
Making Friday's start for Minnesota is Mike Pelfrey, who is 4-7 with a 5.55 ERA on the season. The veteran right-hander has picked things up of late, lasting at least six innings in his last five starts and posting a 3.73 ERA in that span. However, he lost his last decision at Tampa Bay after giving up three runs on eight hits.
While the offense has been the main reason behind Cleveland's success this season, the starting rotation boasts a 2.41 ERA over the last eight games, and the entire staff has not allowed a home run in 60 innings. Scott Kazmir will try to keep that going when he grabs the ball in Friday's series opener.
Kazmir boasts a 2.32 ERA over his last five starts but has only two wins to show for his efforts. In his last outing, Kazmir held Kansas City to two runs on four hits over 6 1/3 innings, striking out six and walking three.
The Tribe has won four of six meetings thus far in the season series with Minnesota.