The Cleveland Indians have won four in a row to build steam heading into Friday's opener of their pivotal three-game series against the visiting Minnesota Twins.
The Indians (86-61) aim to continue their ascent in the American League Central Division when they open their nine-game homestand versus the first-place Twins (89-57), against whom they have won nine of 16 meetings -- including five of the last seven.
Cleveland is 3 1/2 games behind division-leading Minnesota and a half-game behind Tampa Bay for the second wild-card spot.
"I think we've kind of earned the right to be able to look at the scoreboard," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "It's fun to look at the scoreboard. It's (more fun) when the other teams are losing, but if we win, we're gonna end up where we're supposed to. I think that's how we look at it."
Cleveland rookie right-hander Aaron Civale (3-3, 1.93 ERA) will get the nod for the series opener having yielded two earned runs or fewer in each of his eight starts this season.
Civale received a no-decision in his lone career outing against Minnesota on Aug. 11 after allowing one run on four hits in six innings.
While the 24-year-old Civale is getting the start, it's possible that right-handed reliever James Karinchak could be called upon to close the game, with multiple outlets reporting that the prospect is expected to be summoned from Triple-A Columbus. The need for the 23-year-old Karinchak comes as a direct result of All-Star closer Brad Hand dealing with a tired arm.
"He just hasn't been bouncing back," Francona said of Hand, who has a 9.00 ERA in his last 10 appearances. "And he's been getting lower on his lower arm slot. We can't treat the guys right when it's convenient. You gotta do the right thing, regardless of the time of year."
Karinchak has posted a 1-1 record with two saves and a 4.67 ERA in seven appearances with the Clippers this season.
Minnesota right-hander Jake Odorizzi (14-6, 3.60 ERA), who provides the opposition on Friday, improved to 3-4 with a 4.34 ERA in 13 career appearances against the Indians after posting a 2-0 mark with a 1.61 ERA in four starts against them this season.
Odorizzi settled for a no-decision versus the Indians on Saturday despite striking out 10 in 5 1/3 innings.
While Francisco Lindor (9-for-25, two homers) has flustered the 29-year-old, the same cannot be said for Roberto Perez (0-for-10, three strikeouts) and Carlos Santana (2-for-15, five strikeouts).
Lindor has gone deep in back-to-back games and four of his last six, with his two homers last weekend against Minnesota boosting his season total to five versus the club.
Nelson Cruz and Jonathan Schoop each homered on Thursday for Minnesota, which fell for the fifth time in eight contests with a 12-6 setback against the Washington Nationals.
Cruz, however, is just 8-for-36 with 17 strikeouts in the season series against the Indians, while Schoop is 6-for-36 with 12 nstrikeouts in the season series versus Cleveland.
Minnesota played without regulars Max Kepler (shoulder), Miguel Sano (back) and Marwin Gonzalez (oblique) on Thursday, but manager Rocco Baldelli expects them to be involved against the Indians.
"We have been playing this day-to-day for a while now, and that's what we are going to continue to do," Baldelli said. "We're getting closer and closer. ... I'm not sure when we are going to have the entire group back out there playing at the same time. Hopefully, it's a matter of days."