Mets-Indians Preview

The Associated Press

No contending team has an easier remaining schedule than the Cleveland Indians.

They've begun to take full advantage this weekend.

Cleveland looks to win its fifth straight and complete a three-game sweep of the visiting New York Mets on Sunday.

Chasing their first playoff berth since 2007, the Indians (76-65) may have the easiest road there with only six of their final 21 games against teams currently above .500. Those six contests are against Kansas City, which visits Progressive Field for a three-game series starting Monday.

The Indians close the regular season with four games against major league-worst Houston, two with the White Sox, losers of nine straight, and four at Minnesota.

Since dropping Monday's series opener to fellow wild-card hopeful Baltimore, Cleveland has totaled 27 runs and 36 hits during a four-game win streak. Asdrubal Cabrera hit a three-run homer and Nick Swisher also went deep in Saturday's 9-4 victory over the Mets.

"This is such a great opportunity for us and we're starting to get to the middle of September,'' manager Terry Francona said. "Every time we win, we're getting closer to where we want to be. It's a great chance for this team to shine and I think they're enjoying that.''

Cleveland, which hasn't won five in a row since a season-best eight-game run July 24-Aug. 1, was 6 for 12 with runners in scoring position. The Indians are 15 for 39 (.385) in such situations the past four games after going 5 for 43 (.116) in the previous seven.

"This is the push,'' Swisher said. "It's been a while since this team's been in this opportunity. This is where it really counts.''

The Mets (63-77), who had four rookies in Saturday's starting lineup, have lost five of six overall and five straight interleague games.

Juan Lagares - one of those first-year players - is batting .370 during a 12-game hitting streak.

Corey Kluber gave the Indians five-plus strong innings Saturday and the team's starters have posted a 2.20 ERA in six games this month. Danny Salazar (1-2, 3.00 ERA) will try to continue that run and build on the best of his six major league starts.

The right-hander limited Detroit to six hits over six innings with five strikeouts and no walks before leaving without a decision in a 4-0 victory last Sunday. He has surrendered three runs in his past 15 1-3 innings.

The Indians are being cautious with the 23-year-old Salazar, who is three seasons removed from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and has already worked a career-high 126 innings between the minors and majors.

New York could have a difficult time avoiding the sweep with struggling Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-3, 10.95) on the mound.

It's been a very rocky start for the right-hander since joining the Mets, as he's been tagged for 15 runs and 19 hits over 12 1-3 innings in three outings. He had his worst performance Monday in a 13-5 loss at Atlanta, yielding six runs and seven hits in three innings.

"You guys saw the results. I'm very disappointed in myself,'' Matsuzaka said through a translator. "The difference between my good pitches and my bad pitches was too big and that's something that's needs to change.''

Matsuzaka made 19 starts for Cleveland's Triple-A team this season before he was released at his request last month.

He is 5-3 with a 3.28 ERA in eight starts - including playoffs - against the Indians, but hasn't faced them since 2011.

Jason Kubel - mired in a 5-for-31 slump - is 7 for 13 against Matsuzaka.

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