The Cleveland Indians won three of four from the Minnesota Twins at Target Field last month to briefly move into a tie atop the American League Central.
The Indians have since dropped 13 of their next 23 contests to lose ground on the surging Twins heading into Friday's opener of a three-game series in Minneapolis.
Although Minnesota has won 16 of its last 22 contests to move 6 1/2 games ahead of Cleveland, Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis isn't counting his team out.
"We've got to go in there thinking we're going to win the games. Otherwise what are we doing?" Kipnis said after Cleveland split its four-game series against the Chicago White Sox following a 7-1 setback on Thursday afternoon.
"You give Minnesota credit, too. They've gotten hot and played a little better baseball than we have since that series. If we want to play into October and play as a playoff baseball team, we've got to start playing like it," Kipnis said.
Indians president Chris Antonetti told SportsTime Ohio he believes the team is prepared to work past its current troubles.
"It's easy when things go as planned. It's a sign of a team is how you overcome adversity," Antonetti said. "What we've seen time and time again this year is that we have a group of guys that are willing to persevere through whatever obstacle they face."
Kevin Plawecki recorded the Indians' lone hit on Thursday with an RBI double in the second inning. The 28-year-old is 5-for-15 with a home run and four RBIs over his last five games heading into a tilt with Minnesota's Friday starter, Michael Pineda (11-5, 4.11 ERA).
Pineda won his fourth straight start and fifth consecutive decision after yielding two runs on five hits while striking out nine in six innings of an 8-3 victory at Detroit on Sunday.
The 30-year-old right-hander owns a 1-0 record with a 3.60 ERA and an 0.90 WHIP in two career starts versus Cleveland. He allowed one hit over four scoreless innings in a no-decision on March 31.
Eddie Rosario saw his eight-game hitting streak come to a halt on Thursday. However, the left fielder fired a one-hop strike to the plate to get Rafael Devers for the final out in Minnesota's 2-1 win over Boston.
Willians Astudillo had the go-ahead RBI single in the seventh inning for the second hit of the contest for the Twins, who finished a 10-game road trip with an 8-2 mark.
"That's what we come out expecting to do," said Twins right-hander Tyler Duffey, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning. "We've obviously had some stretches here and there, but I think we're playing our best baseball. That's where we want to be. Heading home with a hot streak like this, we can't ask for anything else."
Cleveland right-hander Adam Plutko (6-4, 4.53) will get the nod on Friday aiming to avenge a tough outing in his last trip to the mound. Plutko allowed four runs and walked four batters in 4 1/3 innings of an 8-2 setback at Tampa Bay on Sunday.
The loss was the 27-year-old's first since he permitted four runs on nine hits -- including two homers -- in six innings of a 4-1 defeat at Minnesota on Aug. 10. He is 0-1 with a 4.73 ERA in three career appearances (two starts) versus the Twins.