MLB

Twins-Indians Preview

The Minnesota Twins continue to hang tight in the AL wild-card race as they seek their first playoff berth in five years, even as a virus takes its toll on their clubhouse.

The death knell may have already sounded for Cleveland Indians' slim postseason chances.

The Twins will look to keep pace as they aim for a seventh victory in nine games Tuesday night at Cleveland.

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Phil Hughes was scratched from his start in Monday's opener of this four-game series because of a virus that has also affected third baseman Trevor Plouffe and relievers Brian Duensing and Kevin Jepsen. Tommy Milone filled in admirably in his place, yielding two runs over 5 2-3 innings in a 4-2 victory.

Plouffe hit his 22nd homer after sitting out Sunday's win in Detroit.

Minnesota (81-75), which has allowed two runs or fewer in 13 consecutive victories dating to Sept. 2, trails Houston by 1 1/2 games for the league's second-wild card spot.

"The games are dwindling and we're trying to play catch-up, but I think the guys' focus is good," manager Paul Molitor said.

The Indians (77-78) have fallen to five games behind the Astros and their elimination number is down to two. The Cleveland fans don't seem too optimistic, either, based on Monday's 10,007 paid attendance figure.

"We could have come out with more energy and I think we could have done a better job all along in the game," said Jason Kipnis, who hit his seventh triple. "The energy was low in the crowd and there wasn't much energy in our dugout, either. We can't have that."

Kyle Gibson (10-11, 3.96 ERA) gets another shot at Cleveland after getting tagged for six runs and seven hits over a season-low 2 2-3 innings in Thursday's 6-3 loss. Gibson, who fell to 0-2 with a 14.73 ERA in his last three meetings, had been 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his first three career matchups with the Indians.

The right-hander gave up a homer on the third pitch to Kipnis and another in the third to Carlos Santana after not allowing any in six consecutive outings. He's 8-5 with a 2.54 ERA in 16 starts when not giving up a home run this year.

"The team's relying on me to go out there and put up a couple zeros and give the team a chance to get a lead," Gibson said. "When you don't do that right off the bat after the first batter, it's pretty frustrating."

Cody Anderson (6-3, 3.31) pitched opposite Gibson and won his fourth straight start, having posted a 1.38 ERA during his winning streak. It was much better than his first encounter with the Twins, in which he gave up six runs and five hits over 2 2-3 innings in Cleveland's 10-9 home loss Aug. 7.

Anderson surrendered 10 hits in last week's meeting but was able to limit the damage, aided by the fact that he didn't walk a batter for the first time in nine starts.

"They're just playing great defense behind me, getting some runs for me. I've been pitching with the lead a lot," he said. "I'm just trying to keep the team in the game and win games as much as I can."

Yan Gomes, who is batting .357 during a seven-game hitting streak, is 6 for 11 off Gibson with two home runs and a double.