Indians eyeing playoff positioning as they face Pirates

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The Cleveland Indians likely will be pulling double duty on Friday.

No, the Indians (33-24) don’t have a doubleheader on tap. Rather, they will set their sights on the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates for their final series of the regular season while also casting an eye on the out-of-town scoreboard.

After all, Cleveland’s four-game sweep of the White Sox moved it within one game of second-place Chicago and two in back of American League Central-leading Minnesota with three to play.

“Unbelievable, right now it’s a great run right now, the guys are locked in and focused and trying to win games,” Indians interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr. said.

Right-hander Zach Plesac took it a step further after seeing his team record its fifth straight victory with a 5-4 win over the White Sox on Thursday.

“We know how special this group is, we know we’re going to win and it seems like a dream right now,” Plesac said. “It’s completely new to a lot of guys, and it’s coming down to where we are going to stay present and enjoy the moment because we don’t know when it’s going to end.”

Jose Ramirez ripped a go-ahead, two-run double to cap a four-run seventh inning to continue his torrid play at the plate. Ramirez is hitting a robust .483 (14-for-29) with six homers and 18 RBIs in his last eight games.

“Man, he’s next level. He really is next level,” Plesac said of Ramirez. “… If there’s anyone you want up at the plate when it’s a big situation it’s him right now.”

A trendy American League MVP candidate, Ramirez had a series he’d rather forget against Pittsburgh earlier this season by going 0-for-12 with five strikeouts. Cleveland, however, outscored the Pirates by a 14-4 margin to sweep the three-game set on Aug. 18-20.

The Pirates (18-39) likely would like to forget the entire season, as they sport the worst overall record and fewest road wins (five) in the majors. With that said, they secured their third straight win over the National League Central-leading Chicago Cubs after pounding out 14 hits in a 7-0 romp on Thursday.

“The thing that’s encouraging and we have to continue to talk about is, obviously our record is not where we want it to be, and to come in and play the team that’s leading our division and win three or four, I think it speaks a lot to this group,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said.

Pirates rookie right-hander Mitch Keller (1-1, 3.24 ERA) had a lot of people talking about him after he held St. Louis without a hit for six innings on Saturday. The 24-year-old was removed from the game due to pitch count, however (84 pitches).

Keller will be opposed by Cleveland right-hander Carlos Carrasco (3-4, 2.90), who has posted a 1-1 record with a 1.41 ERA and 35 strikeouts in last five outings (32 innings). He fanned a season-high 11 batters at Detroit on Sunday.

Carrasco, 33, owns a 1-0 mark with a 3.38 ERA in two career appearances versus the Pirates. He permitted three runs on five hits in 4 1/3 innings of a no-decision at Pittsburgh on Aug. 18.

–Field Level Media

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