The Cleveland Indians likely will receive a bit of clarity following the conclusion of Sunday afternoon's rubber match of their three-game series against the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis.
After all, a victory in the finale would move the Indians within 51/2 games of American League Central-leading Minnesota with a pivotal three-game set in Cleveland looming next weekend.
Now, should the Twins emerge victorious on Sunday, the Indians likely will turn their attention toward the two wild-card spots over the final 19 games remaining on the schedule.
"I don't think we needed to sweep, but that's what everyone wanted," Cleveland's Jason Kipnis told reporters following Saturday's 5-3 setback to Minnesota. "Mathematically it's still possible. But we need to win the series. That makes Sunday an important game."
Yasiel Puig had an RBI double and scored on Kipnis' single on Saturday, but those positives came after a significant negative when he elected against running out a grounder to the pitcher.
"That's obviously not what we're looking for, and he knows that.That won't happen again," Indians manager Terry Francona told reporters after the game.
Cleveland right-hander Mike Clevinger (10-2, 2.71 ERA), who will get the nod on Sunday hoping to continue his torrid stretch in which he was won nine straight decisions with another solid start last Tuesday.
Clevinger allowed two runs on as many hits in seven strong innings of a no-decision against the Chicago White Sox in that one, a game the Indians ultimately lost 6-5.
The 28-year-old improved to 3-2 with a 2.87 ERA in 12 career appearances (nine starts) against Minnesota after permitting two runs on three hits in seven innings of a 7-5 win on Aug. 8.
Clevinger would be wise to keep tabs on Mitch Garver, who capped his fifth career multi-homer performance with a go-ahead, three-run shot in the seventh inning on Saturday.
Garver's solo shot in the first inning was his 27th of the season,eclipsing Earl Battey's 1963 franchise record for homers in a season by a catcher. Garver's blast in the seventh pushed him past Gary Sanchez of the New York Yankees for most as a catcher in the majors this season.
"He's come through many, many times. He doesn't get swayed or offtrack in any way," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "... It doesn't matter who we've been facing, the situation or how things have been going. He's generally been there and has picked us up often."
The Twins, who did not name a starter, are expected to use an opener and then turn to left-hander Devin Smeltzer (1-2, 4.00 ERA)or right-hander Randy Dobnak (0-0, 0.00) in the series finale.
Smeltzer, who last pitched on Aug. 15, has been clobbered by Cleveland in two occasions this season. The 24-year-old surrendered five runs -- including four homers -- in a 5-2 setback to the Indians on June 4 before permitting six runs in 4 1/3 innings of a 6-2 loss on Aug. 9.
Dobnak, 24, has yet to allow a run in four career appearances (nine innings) this season, including a four-frame stint of a no-decision against Cleveland on Aug. 9.