|Indians face White Sox in 'win regardless' mode|
Bidding to climb the standings and secure a berth in the postseason, the Cleveland Indians expect to receive a boost when they open a three-game series against the host Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night.
Third baseman Jose Ramirez likely will be activated from the injured list before Tuesday's game, Cleveland manager Terry Francona said Sunday, returning to the lineup from a fractured hamate bone in his right hand about one week ahead of schedule.
Cleveland (92-64) entered Monday trailing the first-place Minnesota Twins by four games in the American League Central with six games remaining. The Indians, however, were tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for the second AL wild-card spot, two games behind the Oakland Athletics.
The Rays were set to host the Boston Red Sox on Monday, with the Indians, Twins and Athletics all idle until Tuesday.
Ramirez sustained the injury Aug. 24 and underwent surgery two days later, with the club setting a recovery timetable of five to seven weeks. After progressing through checkpoints, including taking ground balls and hitting in the batting cage, Ramirez faced live pitching Saturday.
"The only issue the medical people had was that the wound had to be closed," Francona said. "Well, that's been closed. No, he's OK."
Assured of their seventh successive winning season, the Indians sense the urgency as they push for their fourth-straight playoff appearance. Francona has implored players not to lose focus on their own task while monitoring the Twins.
"We're at that point of the year where we've got to win regardless," Francona said. "I'd be lying if I said I was rooting for them to win, but we're at a point where we better win every game we can."
Minnesota reduced its magic number to clinch the division - and end Cleveland's run of three straight Central titles - to three with Sunday's win against the Kansas City Royals.
Indians right-hander Mike Clevinger (12-3, 2.54 ERA) is set to start against the White Sox (68-87). In 14 second-half starts, Clevinger is 10-1 with a 2.02 ERA.
Clevinger is 3-2 with a 2.54 ERA in nine career appearances against the White Sox, including seven starts. He has two no-decisions and a 1.29 ERA against Chicago this season, scattering two runs and 21 strikeouts over 14 innings.
The White Sox took two of three games from the host Detroit Tigers over the weekend to snap a skid of four consecutive series losses since splitting a four-game set in Cleveland to open the month.
Chicago remains optimistic about its emerging young core and burgeoning offense. Shortstop Tim Anderson entered Monday as the leading hitter in the AL with a .334 batting average, while first baseman Jose Abreu was tops in the AL RBI race.
"I like what we have been doing in September," Abreu told reporters through an interpreter. "I truly believe this is the foundation for next year. All the guys are improving. They are trying to push themselves to finish the season as strong as possible and just build on that for next year."
Left-hander Hector Santiago (1-1, 5.65 ERA) was set to oppose Cleveland for the first time this season as he makes his third start and 18th appearance of 2019, a campaign he began with the New York Mets.
Santiago, who is in his third stint with the White Sox, is 3-4 with a 4.73 ERA in 25 career appearances against the Indians, including 11 starts.
--Field Level Media