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Indians hope to continue charge against Twins

(SportsNetwork.com) - In terms of opposition, the Cleveland Indians are going from the penthouse to the outhouse.

Fresh off winning three of four games from the American League Central leaders, the Indians will attempt to follow up on Monday night at Target Field as they begin a three-game set with the last-place Minnesota Twins.

Cleveland has won six straight games in Minnesota and its 11-5 record in July has helped a climb back within 5 1/2 games of the top spot in the division. The Indians could have closed the gap to 3 1/2 games by finishing off what would have been a sweep of the Tigers on Sunday, but they dropped a 5-1 decision.

Nonetheless, the Indians have led the majors with 22 home runs so far this month and are batting .279 as a team while averaging better than five runs per game.

"It was a great series for us," Cleveland pitcher Josh Tomlin said. "Took three games from them, but I came up short."

The Indians have hosted all seven games with the Twins so far in 2014, winning four of them. They won the final six games played in the series at Target Field last season.

Minnesota, meanwhile, has lost four in a row overall at home.

Lefty Kris Johnson gets the start for the hosts while again seeking his first win in the majors.

He went four innings and was shelled for five runs and eight hits in a July 11 outing at Colorado, which ended in a 6-2 loss while he was replacing injured teammate Ricky Nolasco.

In three career starts, including a stint with Pittsburgh last season, he's 0-2 with an 8.71 earned run average.

Minnesota scored just six runs while losing three in a row over the weekend against Tampa Bay.

"We've got a hot Cleveland team coming in here, in our division, the whole package," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "So it's not going to get easier."

Cleveland starts lefty T.J. House, who allowed eight hits and three runs in 4 2/3 innings of the Indians' 9-3 defeat of the New York Yankees on July 10.

In his last two road starts, though, his ERA is a respectable 2.38.

On Sunday in Detroit, Torii Hunter hit a two-run homer, Drew Smyly threw seven solid innings and the Tigers avoided a four-game sweep by beating the Indians, 5-1, at Comerica Park.

The Indians scored 20 runs through the first three games, but Detroit's Drew Smyly (6-8) held them to a run on four hits. He struck out six and walked two.

Cleveland starter Tomlin (5-7) gave up four runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings.

The Indians were looking to win six straight on the road for the first time since 2008.

In Minnesota, James Loney drove in a pair of runs as the Rays grabbed a 5-3 win over the Twins to complete a sweep.

Josh Willingham drove in two runs for the Twins, who had won five of six prior to the series with the Rays.

Kevin Correia (5-12) gave up four runs on seven hits in four innings of work to take the loss.

07/21 10:55:46 ET