July 25, 2014

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Tribe notes: Focus on road trip, not big lead

CLEVELAND — No one’s perfect.
The Indians failed to complete a three-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox on Sunday, but it only served to put a negative cap on an otherwise positive homestand in which they won six times in seven games to strengthen their lead in the Central Division.
“We had a great homestand,” said pitcher Jake Westbrook, the loser in Chicago’s 8-0 victory Sunday. “Coming off a good road trip, to continue on and play as strong as we did, was great. We can’t be displeased with that.
“We’ve got to carry the way we’ve been playing into the road trip.”
On the road is where the Indians will be for the next 10 days, traveling to Minnesota, Los Angeles and Chicago in what could be a pivotal stretch. The Indians hold a 51/2-game lead on second-place Detroit. They’ll face legitimate competition on the first two legs in the Twins and first-place Angels.
“It’s a tough trip,” said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge. “We’ve got our work cut out for us. But the guys have been playing some pretty good baseball. They’re toughened up.”
And with just under a month left in the regular season, they won’t go in thinking they’ve got a big enough cushion in the division standings.
“We’ve still got a lot of games left,” Westbrook said. “I don’t think we can relax. I think we have to continue to play the way we are right now.
“The Detroit Tigers are definitely a good team and they’re capable of putting together a good string, just like we’re on right now.”
The Indians have won 13 of their last 17 games to reclaim first place from Detroit and have put themselves in position to control their own destiny. If they keep winning, it doesn’t matter what the Tigers do.
“It feels good to know that if you take care or what you need to take care of, it makes it harder on the other team,” Westbrook said. “I’d much rather be in the position we’re in, instead of trying to catch somebody.”

Slowing down?

Though Ryan Garko’s second-half batting average is still above .300, he has been scuffling as of late, with a lack of power accompanying the slide.
Garko is hitting .257 (28-for-109) in his last 29 games with just one homer and eight RBIs over the span. His last homer — a solo shot against Texas — came on July 31.
Garko’s season average (.297) is under .300 for the first time since July 13.

Complete control

The Indians have tossed 21 complete games over the last two seasons, the most by a Cleveland pitching staff over a two-year span since it worked 23 from 1995-96 with the likes of Charles Nagy, Orel Hershiser and Dennis Martinez.
The Indians have eight this season to rank second in the American League after leading the majors with 13 last year.

Next up

The Indians hit the road for the next 10 games, beginning a three-game series with the Twins today (2:10 p.m.) at the Metrodome.
C.C. Sabathia (15-7, 3.37) opens the set for Cleveland, opposing left-hander Johan Santana (14-10, 3.06).
Aaron Laffey (2-1, 5.01) and Fausto Carmona (14-8, 3.31) are the scheduled starters Tuesday (8:10 p.m.) and Wednesday (1:10 p.m.). Minnesota has yet to name a starter for Tuesday, but will go with right-hander Scott Baker (8-6, 4.06) in the series finale.
The Indians have handled the Twins all season, winning 11 of 15 meetings, which includes four victories over Santana. The two-time Cy Young Award winner hadn’t lost to a team three times in one season before this year.

Minor details

Ryan Mulhern’s RBI double in the 10th inning Saturday lifted Triple-A Buffalo to a 6-5 victory over Rochester (Orioles), a win that kept the Bisons’ playoff hopes alive.
Buffalo trails Richmond (Braves) by 1½ games in the International League wild-card race and would have to win its last two games, with Richmond losing theirs, to qualify for the postseason.
Jeremy Sowers (4-5, 4.10) started for the Bisons, allowing five runs on 10 hits through six innings.
Buffalo’s Adam Miller, Cleveland’s top pitching prospect, has been effective since leaving the disabled list, entering Sunday with a 2.45 ERA in six games
(10 strikeouts in 71/3 innings). Of his six appearances, five are scoreless.
Class A Kinston routed Myrtle Beach 17-4 Sunday behind an 18-hit attack that included multihit games from seven of the nine players in the lineup.

Roundin’ third

Paul Byrd is one of just three AL pitchers to have tossed two shutouts this season. The other two are Seattle’s Jeff Weaver and Los Angeles’ John Lackey. Toronto’s Roy Halladay leads the majors with six complete games, while Sabathia leads the Indians with three.
Cleveland has been outscored 66-42 in the ninth inning.
Planes from the air show at Burke Lakefront Airport made a number of passes over Jacobs Field, with the noise from the jets halting play on a few occasions, but drawing ovations from the 37,718 fans in attendance.