CLEVELAND — Baltimore beat Detroit on Sunday to trim Cleveland’s deficit to 2½ games in the Central Division standings, but the weather sure isn’t doing the Indians any favors these days.
Rain postponed another game at Progressive Field, ruining the series finale with Minnesota and the opportunity for Cleveland to record the three-game sweep of the Twins, while gaining even more ground on the Tigers.
The Indians were at least on the positive side of getting that done, leading the Twins 1-0 on a Shin-Soo Choo single, and with starting pitcher David Huff yet to allow a baserunner (four strikeouts), when rain halted the start of the third inning.
Following a 2:55 delay, the game was postponed.
“The only thing that’s worse (than the rainout) is the amount of games we’re piling up toward the end of the season,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “I know we’re going to have a full house with the September call-ups, and with Grady (Sizemore) back, but that’s still the most disappointing thing to us.”
A host of rainouts at Progressive Field has put a scheduling crunch on the contending Indians, who, provided their regular season finishes in 162 games, will play 45 times over the final 44 days, beginning Tuesday against the White Sox in Chicago.
Cleveland’s schedule is especially brutal at the end of the final month of the season, when the Indians play nine times in seven days before finishing the year with what could be a pivotal three-game series in Detroit.
The nine-game trek begins with a makeup game against Seattle on Sept. 19, followed by the second of the Indians’ three home doubleheaders over the remainder of the season on Sept. 20 to kick off a four-game series against the White Sox.
The postponed game Sunday is expected to be made up as a doubleheader during a four-game series (Sept. 23-25) against the Twins to wrap up the week.
Cleveland’s first of the three doubleheaders is scheduled for Aug. 23 against Seattle.
Acta isn’t planning any new approach for the tough stretch, other than giving position players some days off. With the Indians in a pennant race, he said he would not consider employing a six-man rotation.
“In the situation we’re in, I think we have to have our best guys go as many times as possible,” Acta said.
Huff will remain in the rotation for at least another start, Saturday against the Tigers in Detroit. Then the Indians will have to decide between him and Carlos Carrasco, who is on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation and still needs to serve a six-game suspension.
Huff has pitched well in a brief stint this season, going 1-1 with a 0.51 ERA in three starts. He was looking good again Sunday before the rains came.
“We’ve been very encouraged by the way he’s throwing the ball,” Acta said. “Every one of his pitches are better. It would have been nice to see him continue to pitch (Sunday).”
Though he is pitching well, it’s been a bit of a frustrating big league experience for Huff this year. He has had two starts rained out and was on the losing end of Ervin Santana’s no-hitter for the Angels on July 27.
“It’s one of those things you can’t control,” Huff said. “It (stinks) but, oh, well. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
The Indians’ focus will now shift from rain and scheduling nightmares to staying in the division race during their upcoming six-game road trip that takes them through Chicago and Detroit. The third-place White Sox trail the Indians by 1½ games.
“It’s very important but we can’t forget there’s a month and a half of the season left,” Acta said. “But it’s extremely important because we’re playing the two teams that are closest to us (in the standings).”
“It’s big,” Huff said. “We’re going to Chicago and Detroit. We need to get some wins there.”