With their first 10 games after the All-Star break featuring a road clash with an American League Central opponent, the Indians already find themselves at a potentially pivotal juncture in 2014. Winning three of four against the division-leading Tigers over the weekend was a good start.
Considering the Indians' struggles away from home (21-29) and their last series versus Detroit, which saw them swept in three games, Cleveland's ability to reduce its deficit in the Central to 5 1/2 games and surge into second place over the weekend was nothing if not impressive. On Monday, the Indians will look to continue that second-half success when they open up a three-game series against the Twins at Target Field.
The two clubs will turn to a pair of southpaws in the opener, with Cleveland's T.J. House (1-2, 4.40 ERA) and Minnesota's Kris Johnson (0-1, 5.40 ERA) squaring off.
House, who has shuttled between Triple-A Columbus and the big leagues, has been solid in his first season with the Tribe, allowing three or fewer runs in all but two of his eight starts. Since dealing with early-season struggles from the likes of Danny Salazar and Zach McAllister, the Tribe has come to rely on House's consistency and poise on the mound.
House was recalled from short-season Mahoning Valley on Monday. Right-hander Austin Adams was optioned to Columbus to make room.
"It's funny, because he was a kid that -- before I knew him -- that was one of the things they wanted him to work on, his on-the-field poise. That's one thing he's excelled at," manager Terry Francona said of House. "He knows he's an integral part of what we're doing."
House's most recent outing saw him take a no-decision against the Yankees on July 10 after working 4 2/3 innings of three-run ball.
"I'm disappointed that I didn't go the length that I wanted to," House said. "But we won the game. I think that's the most important part."
As for Johnson, he'll be making just his third Major League start of 2014 after being recalled from Triple-A Rochester on July 11 for a start vs. the Rockies in which he gave up five runs on eight hits -- including a pair of homers -- in four innings.
"They got him early and put some points up real quick," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He hung in there, but ultimately you got to get him out of there and try to start making some moves and try to get back in the game."
Twins: Santana rusty after DL stint
Since returning from a knee injury that had kept him sidelined since June 26, center fielder Danny Santana has struggled to find his previous form in the batter's box, going a combined 1-for-9 in his first two games back with the Twins. Santana also went 0-for-11 in three rehab games with Class A Advanced Fort Myers.
The difference was pronounced enough that the Twins decided to hold Santana out of the starting lineup during Sunday's series finale vs. the Rays.
"We've seen this kid enough to know he was a little bit out of whack," Gardenhire said. "He was kind of flat-footing everything. Coming off a knee injury, you get in some bad habits. Hopefully, we can get him using his legs a little bit like he was before."
Santana had been in the midst of a fine offensive campaign before the injury, hitting .315 through 39 games. Gardenhire told reporters that Santana will work with hitting coach Tom Brunansky to try and correct some of the "bad habits" that may have returned with the missed time.
Indians: Carrasco finds new home in bullpen
Right-hander Carlos Carrasco began his season in the rotation, but his subsequent move to the Indians' bullpen has made a world of difference.
Since going 0-3 with a 6.95 ERA as the team's fifth starter, Carrasco has posted a 1.57 ERA across 20 appearances as a long-relief man. Under Francona's progressive approach to the bullpen, however, Carrasco has been used in a variety of situations -- including the eighth inning of Saturday's then-tie game with the Tigers.
"He's earned that," Francona sad. "I think he deserves to be in the mix, where [when] the game's on the line, you can pitch him. It seems like he's been pitching better like that, which is great."
Carrasco said he has felt more comfortable in the new role, as well, and his resulting success has undoubtedly contributed to a Tribe bullpen that owns the third-best ERA in the AL (3.04).
• The Twins turned five double plays during Saturday's loss to the Rays, which was one shy of a club record for a single game. Entering Sunday, the team has averaged 0.96 double plays per game, which ranked fifth best in the Majors.
• Indians outfielder Chris Dickerson was 0-for-9 in his career against Tigers starter Max Scherzer before Saturday night, when he clubbed two home runs off the right-hander. In eight games with the Tribe since being acquired in a trade, Dickerson has batted .417 and scored six runs.
Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.