video thumbnail

HOU@CLE: Kazmir fans 10 in dominant start vs. Astros

The Indians are tied with the Rays at the front of a tight American League Wild Card race, and the chase continues on Saturday with just two regular-season games remaining.

The Indians beat the Twins on Friday night to win their 90th game of the season; it's the first time since 2007 that they have reached that mark.

That year the Indians beat the Yankees in the AL Division Series, 3-1, then took a 3-1 lead over the Terry Francona-led Red Sox in the AL Championship Series, which they eventually lost in seven games.

Now at the helm of the Indians, Francona has his team in the driver's seat in the race to take part in the Wild Card Game, a one-and-done elimination format with which Francona is unfamiliar.

"You know what?" Francona said. "I guess our hope would be that we get a chance to test it out."

The Indians and Rays hold a one-game lead over the Rangers following Friday's games. If there ends up being a three-way tie, two tiebreakers -- one on Monday and one on Tuesday -- will be played ahead of Wednesday's AL Wild Card Game.

The Indians would host the Rays on Monday, with the winning team earning one of the berths. The losing team would play at Texas on Tuesday for the second. That schedule is the result of the Indians having the best combined record (7-5) against the Rays and Rangers, and therefore earning the right to host the first game.

"If you win 93 or 94 games, and then you have to bank on this one game, it is hard," said Michael Bourn, who played in the National League Wild Card Game with the Braves last fall. "It's tough. But that's how they made it. There's no way around it. You can't change the rules. You can sit here and talk until you're blue in the face about it, but you're still going to have to play the game."

The Twins have long been out of contention for the postseason, but manager Ron Gardenhire has his team primed to play spoiler.

"We're playing a team in the pennant race here," Gardenhire said earlier in the week, "so there's going to be a lot of intensity coming from their dugout. Hopefully, we can join in with it. There's a lot to play for, because all of baseball is watching this series. I'm hoping our guys are going to want to get after it and play the game the right way and give these guys a run for their money and make them earn it."

On the mound for the Indians on Saturday will be Scott Kazmir, who is 2-0 with a 1.44 ERA against the Twins this season. He has struck out 32 over 22 innings over four September starts, posting a 2.86 ERA.

The Twins will be giving 28-year-old Cole De Vries another look. De Vries has spent most of the last seven seasons in the Minors, posting a 4.12 career ERA. In his first Major League start of 2013, last Sunday, he lasted just two innings while allowing six runs.

"I wish I had an answer," De Vries said. "That's the first time it has ever happened to me. I was cruising along, feeling great, then all hell broke loose. It was awful. I started missing by a little bit, and then tried a little too hard, and that didn't help. It was a mixed bag. I couldn't get an out there to save my life. It's rough when it happens that quickly."

Indians: Bourn resting injured wrist
Bourn was out of the lineup on Friday because of a sprained right wrist, an injury he sustained on Tuesday, though he has been available off the bench as a pinch-runner.

Francona feels fortunate to have serviceable bench players to fill the void.

"That's how it's been most of the time this year," Francona said. "I've always felt like, whenever something happened, because we have [Ryan] Raburn, [Mike] Aviles, [Yan] Gomes -- not that you ever want guys to get hurt -- but those guys are always sitting there waiting to play, and they're ready to play."

Twins: Arcia returns
Oswaldo Arcia returned to the lineup on Friday for the first time since bruising his right knee during batting practice on Monday. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.

"He was fine [on Thursday]," Gardenhire said. "He swung good in the cage and felt great during [batting practice] and ran around the bases."

Arcia, just 22, has impressed in his rookie season, posting a .742 OPS with 14 homers through his first 96 games.

Worth noting
• Michael Brantley enters Saturday with an 11-game hitting streak.

• The Twins passed the 2012 A's and moved into fourth place on Major League Baseball's all-time single-season strikeout list this season.

MLB.com Comments