CHICAGO -- The Tribe could play a key role in deciding the American League Central this season. Beginning with their matchup on Monday, the Indians will face the White Sox six times down the stretch.
Entering Monday, Chicago led the division by just one game over the rival Tigers. Cleveland plans on doing everything in its power to make the White Sox earn a trip back to the postseason.
"That's what we're doing," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We'll try to put the best team on the field. You've got to respect the game."
For the opener of the three-game set, the Indians only had four players -- right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, second baseman Jason Kipnis, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and catcher Carlos Santana -- in the lineup who were among the starting nine on Opening Day.
Veteran designated hitter Travis Hafner, who recently returned from a back injury, was on the bench. Acta noted that he did not like matching Hafner up against tough White Sox lefty Chris Sale.
Center fielder Michael Brantley was out of the lineup because of a sore groin.
"He's probably going to need a day or two," Acta said of Brantley.
Huff feeling good after strong second half
CHICAGO -- David Huff has not changed his mindset now that he has moved out of the bullpen and back into the rotation. The Indians left-hander is willing to fill whatever type of role the ballclub is willing to offer.
Huff just wants to get a chance to stick in the big leagues.
"I'm happy that I'm getting the opportunity to pitch here, first of all," Huff said. "I've still got the same mentality. Whatever they want to use me for, whether it's long relief, lefty specialist, starting, throwing right-handed."
Huff paused and laughed.
"I don't know," he continued. "Whatever they want to use me for, I'm pretty much going to do it. Just as long as it's up here and not in the Minors again."
In Cleveland's 15-4 victory over the Royals on Sunday, Huff yielded just one run on three hits in 5 2/3 innings. In four appearances (two starts) since joining the Indians earlier this month, the lefty has gone 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA, piling up 12 strikeouts against three walks across 16 innings.
Huff, who is out of Minor League options next season, said he finally is feeling like his old self, following an inconsistent showing for Triple-A Columbus this year. Overall, Huff went 7-6 with a 4.83 ERA in 25 Minor League games, but his year was marred by a rough two-month stretch between June and July (6.45 ERA).
Huff's season got off to a rough start when he injured his right hamstring at the end of Spring Training, and it took months for the left-hander to get back to a comfortable spot with his mechanics.
"It is a tough thing to get over," Huff explained. "I developed bad habits compensating for that injury. When I was done rehabbing, from about probably May until about July, it was just bad. Things went well, and then I kind of got away from what I was working on, and I fell back into it and developed bad habits again.
"My mindset was just, 'finish strong.' I thought I had a great month of August going, but whether they were going to call me up or not, I was OK with what I did in the last month of the season. But, they called me up and to be able to do it at the Major League level has been a bonus."
Acta says Triple Crown gives Cabrera edge
CHICAGO -- Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera is less than two weeks away from securing a Triple Crown. Among players with more than a dozen games against the Indians, Cabrera leads the pack in batting average, home runs and runs batted in.
More importantly, Cabrera is in the running for the American League's Triple Crown -- a feat not accomplished since Carl Yastrzemski did so for the Red Sox in 1967. Cabrera's rare push had created a national debate over his place in the Most Valuable Player discussion.
The argument mostly pits Cabrera against Angels phenom Mike Trout.
Indians manager Manny Acta weighed in prior to Monday's game against the White Sox.
"The Triple Crown takes precedent over anything else when it comes to production," Acta said. "The defensive part of it is another story. My opinion is not directly related to the metrics or original numbers. It's about not giving it to a guy because their team is not in the playoffs.
"It's the Most Valuable Player. It's not the guy's fault that the other 24 guys didn't get the team into the playoffs. It wouldn't be very nice if, just because any of those clubs don't get in the playoffs, they don't get the award."
Entering Monday, Cabrera's Tigers trailed the American League Central-leading White Sox by one game in the division standings, and were six games back in the AL Wild Card picture. Trout's Angels were 6 1/2 games behind the Rangers in the AL West and 2 1/2 games out of the Wild Card race.
Cabrera headed into Monday's action leading the AL in average (.331), tied for first in homers (42) and first in RBIs (133). The third baseman also led the league in OPS (1.010) and extra-base hits (82) in 151 games. Trout ranked second in average (.323) and had 28 homers, 78 RBIs, 46 stolen bases and an AL-leading 122 runs in only 130 games.
Trout leads the AL in WAR (wins above replacement) with a mark of 10.4, compared to 6.8 for Cabrera. Some of Trout's number accounts for his stellar defense (2.6 defensive WAR), while Cabrera (-0.3) has been underwhelming in the field.
Acta did not agree with the idea that RBIs do not mean as much as they used to in statistical debates.
"How do you win games?" Acta said. "You win games scoring runs. You need to score more runs than the other team. Runs scored and RBIs are very important to me."
Quote to note
"We've just got to continue to get better as individuals and then it will happen as a team. There is not one guy here that is responsible for everything that went on."
-- Indians manager Manny Acta
In Cleveland's 15-4 win over Kansas City on Sunday, the Indians scored all 15 runs in the final four innings. It marks only the third time, dating back to 1918, that Cleveland scored at least 15 runs with each coming in the sixth inning or later. The Tribe also accomplished the feat on Sept. 10, 1939, and July 8, 1956.
Indians infielder Jason Donald, who is currently sidelined with a right hand injury, continued to play catch and take batting practice on Monday. Donald is hopeful that he will be able to resume playing at some point during the Tribe's final homestand.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis is currently one of five players this season with at least 10 homers, 25 stolen bases and 70 RBIs. The others include Ryan Braun, Starlin Castro, Mike Trout and B.J. Upton.