September 2, 2014

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Indians notes: Nick Swisher scoffs at critics of “soft” schedule

MINNEAPOLIS — Much has been made about a soft schedule at the end of the season benefitting the Indians’ quest for their first postseason berth since 2007.
First baseman Nick Swisher thinks it’s a bunch of nonsense.
“I would just say as a direct quote to everybody else, no one was (griping) about the schedule when we lost 96 games last year,” said Swisher, whose team has played 16 of its last 22 games against teams under .500 and finished off with 10 straight games against clubs with losing records. “That’s enough of that schedule stuff, for real. We still had to win the games. No one was talking about scheduling when we’re playing the Yankees, Boston, Detroit, back-to-back-to-back. No one said anything about it then.
“You would like to think a lot of people would be excited for an organization like us. We’re kind of rejuvenated. We’ve got ourselves a new thing. But if people want to hate on us for the last scheduling part, we can’t control that. We didn’t do the scheduling.”
The Indians have done what’s expected of a contending team playing weaker opponents, winning 20 games in September for the first time since 1948 — the year of Cleveland’s last World Series title.
“But no one’s talking about that. Everyone’s talking about the scheduling,” Swisher said. “That’s shocking to me. You still gotta go out there and win the ballgames. Just because we’re in this spot and other teams aren’t, maybe the coin flipped in our favor this year, maybe. Either way, we’re going to keep going out there and giving everything we got until this thing’s over.
“A win in April is the same as one in September, correct?”
Rotation roundup
Terry Francona didn’t plan on holding back today’s scheduled starter, Ubaldo Jimenez, for a possible tiebreaker or wild-card game. But the manager wasn’t emphatic.
“I think he’ll pitch (today),” Francona said of Jimenez, who has been dominant since the All-Star break with a 1.86 ERA in 12 starts.
If Jimenez does start today, hard-throwing phenom Danny Salazar’s turn is next. The rookie right-hander likely will pitch a potential tiebreaker or wild-card game. Right-hander Corey Kluber would also be a candidate.
Just a cramp
Veteran slugger Jason Giambi left Saturday’s game with cramping in his left forearm, but told reporters afterward that he was fine.
Giambi sustained the injury on a swing in the fifth inning and said that he took himself out of the game.
“That’s the thing that I’ve been preaching to these kids — ‘Don’t be selfish. Pass it on to the next guy and be ready for (today),’” Giambi said.
Hometown pride
The Indians could host the American League wild-card game, and that’s the scenario Francona would prefer, but not just for obvious reasons.
“To be honest with you, with all we’ve been through, I’d love to play a game in Cleveland,” he said. “I think that would be really rewarding for the fans. I think that would be really cool.”
The Indians’ attendance average ranked near the bottom of the majors all season, but they drew more than 25,000 for each of their final three games at Progressive Field.
“I think it’s getting better and I think the fans that have come have loved it,” Francona said. “I think I said the day I got hired, one of the things we wanted to do was make people that are Cleveland Indians fans proud, and I hope that’s what we’re doing. We’re trying.”
Francona’s relationship with Cleveland fans is already a better one than he had in Boston, despite winning two World Series titles.
“Hate mail is way down this year,” Francona said. “It’s not gone, but it’s way down.”
Twin killing
Second baseman Jason Kipnis has thrived against Minnesota this season, entering Saturday with a .418 (28-for-67) batting average, six doubles, four triples and four home runs.
Kipnis had driven in 23 runs against the Twins through Friday, which accounted for 28 percent of his RBI total in 147 games.
Roundin’ third
The Indians have set franchise records in strikeouts, both pitching and hitting. The pitching staff entered Saturday ranked second in the majors behind Detroit with 1,350 strikeouts, while the hitters had struck out 1,269 times through Friday — the fourth-most in the AL.
** With a win today, the Indians would be the first team to sweep seven four-game series in one season since the Cardinals accomplished as much in 1943.
** Cleveland entered Saturday with the second-best record (32-20) in the AL in day games.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him
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