Last weekend, Cleveland was swept in a three-game home series by Tampa Bay. The series called into question whether the youthful Indians had the experience necessary to perform under the duress of a pennant race.
Cleveland bounced back by taking two of three at home from Texas heading into this series. The Indians are in the midst of playing six straight series against opponents without winning records and are looking to take full advantage.
Last season, Cleveland pulled within one game of the AL Central lead before being undone by a nine-game losing streak.
“When we made that run last year, we got all up and down with our emotions,” Cleveland outfielder Coco Crisp said. “Now, we’re not overly intense. We’ve learned a lot.”
Crisp, Jhonny Peralta and Grady Sizemore all had three hits in Cleveland’s 9-4 win over Texas on Thursday. Peralta belted his 19th homer to pass Lou Boudreau’s team record for home runs by a shortstop.
Sizemore had been mired in a 2-for-14 slump before going 3-for-5 with three runs scored. The 23-year-old is batting .292 (107-for-366) with 11 homers, 50 RBIs and 67 runs in 86 games as the leadoff hitter.
“I’m not doing anything different than what I would do hitting lower in the order, but if I can get things going, get on base and maybe use my speed to get my teammates more fastballs to hit, then that is all fine,” Sizemore said.
The Indians pulled within 2 1/2 games of idle AL wild card leader Oakland.
Baltimore enters after a surprising three-game sweep at Oakland in which it surrendered only seven runs. Orioles starters had a 1.39 ERA in the series.
Rafael Palmeiro has played just twice in seven games since being reinstated following his 10-day suspensions for steroid use. Palmeiro suffered a sprained right ankle Tuesday and did not see action in Wednesday’s 5-3 win.
“That’s what I get for not playing two weeks, I guess,” Palmeiro said. “I was ready to come back out today (Wednesday). I don’t think it’s anything serious.”
X-rays were negative on the ankle and Palmeiro is expected to play first base Friday.