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CHICAGO (AP) — The Cleveland Indians’ upcoming six-game road trip may not make or break their season, but they still know it’s a critical stretch.
Before visiting the AL Central leaders, the second-place Indians look to end their struggles against the third-place Chicago White Sox starting with the opener of a three-game series Tuesday night.
Cleveland (60-57) is chasing Detroit, but it also has to focus on the surging team right behind it. The Indians are only 1 1/2 games up on Chicago, winner of eight of 10 overall and 12-2 in the last 14 meetings between the teams.
The White Sox have also beaten the Indians four straight times at U.S. Cellular Field.
“Those games are very important to us,” manager Manny Acta told the Indians’ official website. “And going forward, every one of them is, but especially because this is a road trip where we’re going to be playing those two teams. We won’t need to be doing any scoreboard watching this week.”
Acta’s club heads to Detroit for a weekend series, and will have six games remaining with the Tigers and eight against Chicago after this week.
Cleveland has won four of five, having taken the first two games of its series against Minnesota before Sunday’s finale was rained out.
One of the key players in the division race will likely be Ubaldo Jimenez (1-0, 3.46 ERA), scheduled to make his third start for the Indians on Tuesday.
Jimenez gave up three unearned runs in eight innings of a 10-3 win over Detroit on Wednesday. He struck out six and allowed five hits.
“I’ve been there before, especially in the playoffs,” Jimenez said of being part of a postseason race. “So I know how it’s just an unbelievable experience. You come to the stadium every day expecting to win. Everything counts.”
The right-hander faced the White Sox on June 29 with Colorado, allowing two runs and four hits in seven innings of a 3-2 loss. He didn’t get a decision.
The White Sox (60-60) kept rolling Sunday, defeating Kansas City 6-2. Brent Lillibridge hit a three-run homer in the first inning and Paul Konerko extended his hitting streak to 11 games, going 3 for 3 with two walks and a run.
Konerko hasn’t played in the field since July 31, when he was hit by a pitch near his right knee, but he could be back at first base Wednesday.
By then, the White Sox hope they’ll have a winning record for the first time since April 15, when they were 7-6.
“We have to finish ahead of Cleveland and Detroit,” left-hander John Danks said. “If that puts us above .500 so be it. Our focus is more on being ahead of them and being in first than being above .500.”
Gavin Floyd (10-10, 4.53) is 3-5 with a 7.06 ERA at home, but he’ll be bidding for his third win in as many starts against Cleveland this season. He allowed one run in 14 2-3 innings over the first two outings.
The right-hander is coming off a 4-3 victory at Baltimore last Tuesday, allowing three runs in 6 2-3 innings.
Designated hitter Adam Dunn could return Tuesday after missing the Royals series for personal reasons. Dunn, batting .161 with an AL-leading 146 strikeouts, has batted .320 (8 for 25) with eight RBIs against the Indians.
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