CLEVELAND -- The Indians have based their season to this point around resilience. They have overcome losing streaks, injuries and plenty of deficits -- both in games and in the standings. On Sunday afternoon at Progressive Field, Cleveland needed to overcome itself.
Drew Stubbs launched a solo home run into the bushes beyond the center-field wall in the eighth inning, helping the Indians pull off a 3-1 victory over the Twins at Progressive Field. A solid showing from starter Scott Kazmir and the Tribe bullpen, combined with the late offense, helped Cleveland overcome a quartet of errors to seal a series win over Minnesota.
The Tribe snuck away with this one.
"I felt like we were trying every way we could to give it away," Stubbs said. "We hung in there, we battled and were able to do enough to win. An ugly win is as good as a pretty win."
They all count the same, and now the Indians (71-59) have collected five wins in their past six games -- and eight in the last 11 -- heading into Monday's off-day. Approaching on the horizon is a critical nine-game stretch that could go a long way toward determining Cleveland's chances of locking down a postseason spot.
Beginning on Tuesday, the Indians -- six games out of first place in the American League Central and only 1 1/2 games back of the A's for the AL's second Wild Card spot -- will take on a trio of playoff contenders in the Braves, Tigers and Orioles. It starts on the road with a two-city swing through Atlanta and Detroit, and continues when the Tribe returns home to host Baltimore next week.
Indians manager Terry Francona does not want his players looking too far ahead.
"I hope we view it as, 'Tuesday night's a big game,'" Francona said. "That's the best way I know how to do it. I know where we're going, just because you have to pack for two cities. Other than that, there's no sense concerning yourself about a team that's on the next homestand. We need to play well Tuesday."
The Indians also need to clean some things up, in light of Sunday's showing.
"We know we've got to do better," Francona said. "But I'd rather talk about it after a win."
Consider the mixture of miscues that took place.
Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera fumbled a catch and botched a throw on a rundown play between second and third base in the fourth inning. In the fifth, Kazmir made an errant throw on a pickoff attempt to second base. Reliever Cody Allen also misfired on a pickoff to first in the seventh, and second baseman Jason Kipnis could not come up with a catch on a soft line drive by Justin Morneau in the eighth.
"You make four errors," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, "[and] you're not supposed to win."
Those were only the official errors.
In the seventh inning, first baseman Nick Swisher threw a ball into left field after Allen's wild pickoff attempt, and collided with Doug Bernier while trying to field a bunt up the first-base line. Swisher opted not to throw home on an earlier bunt by Bernier in the fifth, leading to Minnesota's only run in Kazmir's six innings.
On the offensive side, Cleveland had just one run -- courtesy of an RBI single by Kipnis -- against righty Mike Pelfrey, who issued six walks in five innings.
"It's not always pretty, fellas," Swisher said with a laugh. "We've got a scrappy squad. We had a couple blunders out there -- myself included on a couple. But just to have our pitchers pick us up in those situations, that's what you've got to have."
Kazmir, who was working on extra rest after giving up 10 runs in eight innings combined over his past two starts, limited the Twins (57-72) to just the one run, scattering seven hits and piling up eight strikeouts along the way.
With runners on the corners and one out in the fourth, he reached back and retired the next two batters -- including a three-pitch strikeout of Chris Colabello that ended with a 95-mph heater. In a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the fifth, Kazmir induced a lineout off the bat of Trevor Plouffe. The lefty breezed through three hitters after giving up a leadoff double in the sixth.
"I felt fresh out there, I did," Kazmir said. "Especially with runners in scoring position, I felt like I was able to kick it up a little bit and just throw quality pitches. That was my main goal."
Allen followed Kazmir's lead, pulling off a Houdini trick in the seventh inning.
After issuing a leadoff walk, making his throwing error and giving up a bunt single, Allen settled down, focused and set down the next three Minnesota batters in order. Josh Willingham popped out to Kipnis, and then the hard-throwing reliever did the rest by striking out Ryan Doumit and Plouffe.
Setup man Joe Smith and closer Chris Perez (21 saves), respectively, finished the job over the eighth and ninth innings.
"We put our pitchers in multiple situations where it was difficult," Francona said. "Kaz pitched out of it, and Cody, [too]. They had runners on base all day, and we're throwing the ball all over the field -- and we kept them off the scoreboard, except for the bunt to first. That says a lot about our pitching."
The pitching bought the offense time to mount the decisive rally.
Stubbs' ninth home run of the season -- a solo shot with two outs -- ignited Cleveland's final push, which was extended when Michael Bourn followed with a double. Swisher then used an RBI single to provide the Tribe with some much-needed insurance -- a cushion big enough to net an unlikely win.
"If you would've told me," Francona said, "that after all is said and done we'd be up, 3-1, I'd say, 'Go straight to the casino.' There was a lot happening out there."