Indians-Twins Preview

While the Minnesota Twins try to remain in the wild-card race, the Cleveland Indians are doing their best to become part of it.

The AL Central rivals begin a pivotal three-game series Tuesday night at Target Field, where the Indians look to continue their late playoff push and the Twins attempt to show they've put their recent struggles behind them.

Minnesota (76-73) has lost ground by going 2-5 thus far on a 10-game homestand but enters the final leg with momentum after halting a five-game losing streak with Sunday's 8-1 win over Los Angeles, one of several teams chasing New York and Houston in the wild-card standings along with the Twins and Cleveland (74-74).

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''I still feel good,'' Twins manager Paul Molitor said. ''I think with 13 games to go, I think we have a good chance to win our fair share and, hopefully, a little bit more than that going down the stretch. You know you just can't control if it's going to be enough when you're chasing.''

The Indians are further back in the race but making a hard charge, having gone an AL-best 16-8 since Aug. 25. They're hitting .296 and averaging 5.45 runs over a 7-4 stretch and collected 12 hits in Sunday's 6-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox.

''Because of how we played earlier, we have to make up ground,'' manager Terry Francona said. ''We've played well enough where these games are so meaningful.''

Cleveland will pit its surging offense up against a Minnesota staff that produced a 5.47 ERA during the five-game skid. Rookie Tyler Duffey provided a boost with seven scoreless innings Sunday, however, and Ervin Santana (5-4, 4.55 ERA) enters on his best run of the season.

Santana has a 1.55 ERA over his last four starts and won the first three before holding Detroit to two runs in seven innings of Wednesday's 7-4, 12-inning loss. He's worked at least seven innings in each of those games.

The veteran was rocked for eight runs and 10 hits in 2 1-3 innings of a 17-4 loss at Cleveland on Aug. 8, though, and is 3-10 with a 4.69 ERA in 18 starts against the Indians - easily Santana's worst winning percentage versus an opponent.

Conversely, Danny Salazar (13-8, 3.48) has been dominant in two prior season meetings with Minnesota. After fanning 10 and allowing two runs across six innings in a 4-2 win at Target Field on April 18, he struck out 11 while yielding only Brian Dozier's solo homer through seven innings of an 8-2 home victory May 10.

Salazar earned his 13th win by holding Kansas City to a run and four hits over seven innings Wednesday in a strong bounce-back effort. He had gone 1-2 with a 6.23 ERA and surrendered four homers in his previous four starts.

Dozier is 8 for 15 with two home runs against Salazar, but he's homered once in his last 93 at-bats while hitting .194.

Minnesota owns a 7-5 edge in the season series and has won four of six meetings at Target Field. The teams play a four-game set in Cleveland from Sept. 28-Oct. 2.