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Indians eye playoff spot, sweep of Twins at Target Field
(Sports Network) - The Cleveland Indians' hot streak has put their playoff destiny in nobody's hands but their own.
Currently the holders of the AL's first wild card spot, the Tribe can punch their first ticket to the postseason since 2007 on Sunday afternoon with their first ever four-game road sweep of the Minnesota Twins.
The Indians have rattled off a season-high nine wins in a row, their longest string of victories since a 10-game run from Aug. 17-27, 2008. Their 5-1 win over the Twins on Saturday put them a game ahead of Tampa Bay in the wild card race.
The Rays lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, falling into a tie with the Texas Rangers for the second wild card berth. It also gave Cleveland a magic number of one to lock up home-field advantage for the wild card game and assured the Tribe no worse than a regular-season tiebreaker for the final playoff spot.
A loss on Sunday and things could get messy for the Indians. That would create a three-way tie for the two playoff spots if both the Rays and Rangers win today. That would set up two tiebreakers to be played on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. Cleveland would host Tampa Bay on Monday, with the winner advancing and the loser playing at Texas for the second spot.
Ubaldo Jimenez will try to prevent the Indians from having to worry about tiebreakers and looks to stay unbeaten this month. The righty is 3-0 with a 1.04 earned run average and 38 strikeouts in five September outings this year.
Jimenez did not get a decision last time out versus the Chicago White Sox, scattering two runs on five hits and three walks over 6 1/3 innings. He also fanned seven and is 12-9 with a 3.38 ERA in 31 starts this year.
It has been a nice bounce back season for the 29-year-old, who lost 17 games and had a 5.40 ERA in 31 starts last year with the Tribe.
Jimenez has faced the Twins once this season and took a 5-1 loss on Aug. 23, though he only allowed two runs and fanned 10 over six innings. He is 2-3 against them lifetime with a 3.21 ERA in five meetings.
Scott Diamond will probably look forward to putting this season behind him today. The Minnesota lefty went 12-9 with a 3.54 ERA in 27 starts last year, but is 6-12 with a 5.54 ERA in 23 outings in 2013 ahead of Sunday's start.
Diamond has won just once since June 26, losing six of seven decisions. He is coming off a 4-2 setback to Detroit on Tuesday, giving up all four runs on nine hits and a walk in 6 1/3 innings.
The 27-year-old is 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA in six lifetime encounters with the Indians, giving up five earned runs over 4 2/3 innings of a loss in his only meeting with them this year.
In Saturday's meeting, Scott Kazmir struck out 11 over six innings of one-run ball, while Carlos Santana hit a two-run homer in the victory for Cleveland.
"It's exciting. It's fun," Twins manager Terry Francona said. "I know I'm supposed to come up with some stuff to say, but it's just, you show up and play. We need to be one run better tomorrow and we'll go from there."
Cole De Vries went five innings in his second start of the season and gave up five runs, six hits and a walk for Minnesota. The right-hander's seven strikeouts came in the first four innings.
"It's frustrating and flustering," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We haven't played good and it has not been fun. I wish I could have all the answers, but the guys are out there and they're not feeling too good right now. They were pushing to try to win a ballgame.
Minnesota has lost five in a row and nine of its last 10 games, assuring that Gardenhire will not reach 1,000 career wins this season. The Twins' manager since 2002, Gardenhire is not under contract for next season and is expected to meet with the club after the end of the season to decide his future.
Cleveland is 12-6 versus the Twins this season.
09/29 09:41:06 ET