The Twins (87-61) currently hold the AL wild card and lead the Chicago White Sox by three games in that race, but also are just two games behind the division-leading Detroit Tigers with 14 games remaining.
Torii Hunter homered and Luis Castillo went 3-for-5 on Saturday as Minnesota beat Cleveland 4-1 for its seventh win in the last nine contests. The Twins bounced back from Friday’s 5-4, 10-inning defeat.
“(Friday) night was a tough game, but that’s one of the great things about this team,” said Twins backup catcher Mike Redmond, who went 3-for-4 with three RBIs filling in for starter Joe Mauer, who had the day off. “We always respond and we always bounce back.”
Mauer, hitting .344 with 11 homers and 79 RBIs, figures to be a mainstay as the Twins make their final push for a playoff berth.
“He could be in there the rest of the way,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Saturday’s victory was the 19th in the last 26 road games for the Twins, who opened the season 9-24 away from the Metrodome. The Twins are 2-1 on their final road trip of the season, which will also take them to Boston and Baltimore.
Regardless of Sunday’s outcome, Minnesota has now clinched the season series with Cleveland, which it leads 10-8. The Indians have taken five of nine meetings at Jacobs Field, however.
The Indians (69-78) fell to 1-4 with one game remaining on their six-game homestand, and have lost nine of their last 13 overall.
“We’ve had our struggles this homestand,” said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge, whose club had won 11 of 12 games at Jacobs Field prior to the current slide.
Indians right-hander Paul Byrd (9-7, 4.83 ERA) looks to improve to 3-0 against the Twins this season when he takes the mound for the series finale. The right-hander is 6-2 with a 3.79 career ERA against the Twins, and 2-0 with a 3.98 ERA in three outings this year.
Byrd pitched his only complete game of the season at the Metrodome on Aug. 17, when he limited the Twins to seven hits and did not walk a batter in a 3-2 victory.
“I guess we just got outpitched today, bottom line,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said after that contest. “He pitched very, very well. He changed speeds. He knows what he’s doing.”
Byrd failed to get the decision in his last start on Sept. 8, when he allowed four runs and nine hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 7-6 loss to the White Sox.
Twins right-hander Scott Baker (4-8, 6.72) tries to avoid his fourth loss in five starts when he faces Byrd. The right-hander has compiled a 1-3 record, 9.16 ERA and .329 opponent batting average in his last four outings, a stretch which began with an 11-0 defeat at Cleveland on July 22.
Baker allowed five runs and nine hits—including two homers—in five innings in his last start, a 7-2 defeat to the Tigers on Sept. 7.
He is 0-3 with a 6.64 ERA and a .341 opponent batting average in four career starts versus Cleveland. Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore, who went 2-for-4 with a run scored Saturday, is 6-for-11 in his career against Baker.