The Indians are serious about making some noise in the American League Central.
Fresh off a first half in which they went 51-44, the second-place Indians return from the All-Star break on Friday in Minnesota against the fourth-place Twins.
"What we've done in the first half makes the second half potentially really exciting," Indians manager Terry Francona said.
The Indians, winners of four straight heading into the break and 1 1/2 games behind division-leading Detroit, have experienced their recent success mostly because of their pitching. Cleveland's starting rotation has a 2.41 ERA in its last eight games, while the staff has a whole hasn't allowed a home run in the last 60 innings.
Left-hander Scott Kazmir looks to keep that dominance going after the All-Star break when he begins the season's second half against the Twins. Corey Kluber and Justin Masterson follow Kazmir in the second-half rotation.
"It was really just more of matchups for everybody going through for the first 15 days or so," pitching coach Mickey Callaway said of giving Kazmir the ball. "No huge rhyme or reason."
The 29-year-old Kazmir has only two wins in his last five starts, but he has a 2.32 ERA during that stretch. Going deep into games has been an issue for Kazmir as of late. He's failed to make it out of the sixth inning in two of his last three starts.
The Twins begin their post All-Star break schedule 12 games behind the Tigers and aren't simply looking to play better baseball. As the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline nears, general manager Terry Ryan said he will listen to teams who want some of Minnesota's players. The main reason, Ryan said, is because the Twins are interested in more than just three months of solid play.
"We're not into respectability -- we're into winning," Ryan said. "If you're just talking about finishing the year on a positive note, I don't think so. We're talking about winning and getting into the postseason. That's more important than trying to polish something up."
Right-hander Mike Pelfrey takes the hill in the second-half opener against Cleveland looking to continue his string of solid outings. The 6-foot-7 right-hander has worked at least six innings in his last five starts, sporting a 3.73 ERA in that span. He lost his last outing, giving up three runs on eight hits in six innings against the Rays.
Indians: Kipnis thrives as All-Star
Second baseman Jason Kipnis made his All-Star debut memorable Tuesday, hitting an eighth-inning RBI double to pad the American League's lead in the Junior Circuit's eventual 3-0 win.
"It's one thing to look at yourself and say your stats compare to the others," Kipnis said of the experience. "But once you get peer recognition, once you get in front of guys who you've only played against a couple times but they know your face and call you by your name, you start to realize, 'Hey, I kind of do fit in here, I do belong.'"
The Indians' other representative, right-hander Justin Masterson, didn't appear in the game.
Twins: GM says Gardenhire safe
• Despite recent speculation of a Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist saying it was time for the Twins to let manager Ron Gardenhire go, Ryan said no such plans have been discussed.
"There's no validity to it," Ryan said. "He and I are the leadership of this organization, and we take accountability. He is basically in the clubhouse and in the dugout, and I'm in charge of the whole operation, and we both are feeling like we're letting the people down. It's as simple as that."
Gardenhire, while admitting the club's struggles have been tough, remains optimistic about the rest of the season.
"I believe we can run off a 10-game winning streak just like we ran off a 10-game losing streak," Gardenhire said. "It would be a lot of fun to turn this thing around and that's what my goal is."
• All-Star Joe Mauer's 30 doubles were the second most by a Twins player before the All-Star break, trailing only Chuck Knoblauch's 37 in 1994.
Also, with 102 homers, Mauer is two shy of tying Jason Kubel (104) for 13th on the Twins' all-time list.
• Minnesota closed the first half by going 3-7 on its 10-game road trip.
• Twins outfielder Josh Willingham's next double will be the 200th of his career.
• Mauer has a six-game hitting streak (.478).