The Cleveland Indians look to bounce back from a rare loss and finally clinch their first AL Central title in six years Sunday afternoon when they close out a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics.
Cleveland (91-63) had its four-game winning streak snapped and suffered just its sixth loss in 27 games Saturday, falling 9-3 to the Athletics (75-81).
The Indians, who defeated Oakland 4-3 in Friday’s series opener, clinched at least a tie for the division after Kansas City Royals beat second-place Detroit 7-4, but allowed the first six runs in their contest Saturday and could not recover.
“It sure would have been nice to be in here watching the Tigers game end,” Saturday’s starter Paul Byrd, who gave up six runs in 4 1-3 innings, said in a somber Cleveland clubhouse. “I felt a hunger to get it done. But it wasn’t meant to be.”
“You want to get it over as soon as you can,” said Indians third baseman Casey Blake, who went 2-for-4. “But you have to look at it like it just wasn’t meant to be. We’re going to lose games. Maybe it was good for us to get our butts kicked so we come out with the energy we need.”
The Indians have lost back-to-back games just twice since Aug. 15. Sunday is their last home game of the regular season before they finish the year with a four-game series at Seattle and then a three-game set at Kansas City.
With either a Cleveland win or another Detroit loss, the Indians would clinch the Central.
“To be able to do it at home would be special,” Byrd told the Indians’ official Web site.
The Indians will look to Jake Westbrook (5-9, 4.41 ERA) to close out the series and the division race. Westbrook, though, is 0-2 with a 4.56 ERA in four starts since beating Minnesota on Aug. 28. He allowed four runs - three earned - and 12 hits in five innings of a 7-4 win over the Tigers on Tuesday, but didn’t factor in the decision.
Braden’s last start was Sept. 11 against Seattle, when he allowed four runs and eight hits in 4 1-3 innings of a game Oakland went on to win 7-4. The left-hander has thrown 3 1-3 innings of scoreless relief over two appearances since then.
Braden is 0-1 with an 8.44 ERA in one start and one relief appearance against the Indians. In the start on May 12 in Oakland, he allowed four runs - three earned - and six hits over four innings of a 6-3 defeat.