Coming off a road sweep in Anaheim earlier in the week, the Cleveland Indians turn their attention to the Minnesota Twins on Friday for the opener of a three-game set at Progressive Field.
Cleveland's pitching was the key in Anaheim, allowing a total of only four runs for the series. Nick Swisher hit a two-run home run and Justin Masterson pitched 6 2/3 strong innings in Wednesday's 3-1 victory to complete the sweep.
Masterson's performance was a timely one after the bullpen had pitched 8 1/3 shutout innings in Tuesday's 4-1 win that lasted 14 innings. The relievers came through with 2 1/3 more scoreless frames after Masterson exited, as they stranded 24 of 25 inherited base runners over the course of a nine-game road trip.
Wednesday's win wrapped up a 6-3 trip for the Indians, who went just 1-6 on their previous homestand and appeared in danger of slipping out of the postseason hunt altogether. Instead, they entered Friday 2 1/2 games out in the American League Wild Card race and five games behind Detroit in the AL Central.
Meanwhile, Minnesota has lost seven of its last 10 outings but is coming off Thursday's 7-6 road win over the Tigers. In fact, the Twins helped out the Tribe by taking two of three in Detroit.
On Thursday, they beat Tigers ace Justin Verlander for the first time in 10 tries, as they plated six runs in seven innings. Ryan Doumit delivered a three-run homer in the fifth to break a 2-2 tie.
Samuel Deduno will start Friday's series opener for the Twins, and he is seeking his 10th quality start of the season. However, things have not gone so well lately for the right-hander, who has posted a 7.02 ERA over his last three turns and is battling right biceps tendinitis.
"I felt pretty normal," Deduno said after tossing a pain-free bullpen session on Wednesday. "I didn't feel anything. I just want to keep my mind strong."
"We have extra pitchers, so if (Deduno) struggles or gets hurt or doesn't feel right, we're covered," Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony told the team's official website. "But it's a relief. Hopefully, he goes out there and pitches a good game."
Ubaldo Jimenez eyes up his 10th win of the season for the Tribe. The veteran right-hander limited Oakland to just a single hit in 5 2/3 innings last Saturday. He struck out eight but also walked five and hit a batter.
"However he gets there, he finds a way," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Jimenez, who has yielded two earned runs or fewer in each of his last five starts. "When he gets to that sixth inning, that's the inning that's been tough for him to get through. Regardless of how many pitches he has or doesn't have, he seems to kind of run into a little bit of a wall there. But if it happens and he's given up one run, we'll take it."
These teams met up last week in Minnesota, where the Tribe won two out of three and clinched the three-game set with a 9-8 victory in 12 innings. Cleveland owns a 7-5 edge in the season series.