CLEVELAND (AP)The Cleveland Indians have overcome injuries and setbacks throughout season and remained in the playoff race. The outcome will be decided in the final week.
Cleveland moved into a tie for the second AL wild card with a 10-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday night. The Indians matched the Tampa Bay Rays with six games to play. Both teams are 92-64 and two games behind Oakland, which leads the wild-card race.
The Indians, playing their final home game, took advantage of the Athletics and Rays both losing Sunday. Cleveland has an off-day Monday before the final stretch.
”We’re kind of at the point of the year where we better win regardless,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. ”I’d be lying if I said I was rooting for them to win, but we better win every game we can.”
The Indians are embracing the challenge of what lies ahead, starting Tuesday with three games in Chicago against the White Sox and three in Washington.
Rookie Oscar Mercado broke a 1-all tie in the fifth inning Sunday with a three-run homer. He’s batting .324 (25-for-77) with four homers and 16 RBIs in September.
”There’s a lot words I can use to describe these games, but each game is going to be the biggest game of the year,” Mercado said.
Carlos Carrasco made his longest relief appearance since his midseason cancer diagnosis and Yasiel Puig had a three-run double in the seventh when the Indians scored six times.
The Phillies (79-75) are six games out in the NL wild-card chase with eight games left. They open a five-game series at Washington on Monday night. The Nationals and Brewers are tied for the top spot.
Fielding errors by starting pitcher Vince Velasquez (7-8) and shortstop Jean Segura made the three fifth-inning runs unearned.
”In order for us to win big games we have to take the outs that they give us and we didn’t play our best defensive game,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. ”I don’t think there is any way you can spin it.”
Carrasco (6-7) relieved starter Adam Plutko with two on in the fifth and got All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto to hit into an inning-ending double play. Carrasco, in his ninth appearance since leaving the club in June to treat leukemia, struck out three and allowed one hit in 2 2/3 scoreless innings.
”To come in at that point in the game and get that double play,” Francona said. ”And then to go two-plus. I mean, that was the hope, but that’s a big ask. He did a great job.”
Mercado’s 14th home run gave Cleveland the lead. Puig’s double and a two-run homer by Franmil Reyes put the game away.
The Indians also received good news before their final home game of the season. Third baseman Jose Ramirez is expected to return Tuesday night in Chicago after missing a month with a broken right hand. He was injured Aug. 24 and had surgery two days later for a broken hamate bone.
Cleveland, which is 63-34 since June 4, is still without Corey Kluber, who broke his right arm after being hit with a line drive May 1 and then strained an oblique muscle. Second baseman Jason Kipnis, who broke his right hand last week, will have surgery Tuesday.
Francisco Lindor and Mike Freeman also drove in runs for Cleveland, which has won six of seven.
Realmuto’s RBI double put Philadelphia ahead in the third.
The Indians took advantage of sloppy play in the fifth, which paid off with Mercado’s drive into the bleachers in left field on an 0-2 pitch.
Segura couldn’t come up with a bare-hand grab of leadoff hitter Greg Allen’s grounder. Velasquez fielded Roberto Perez’s bunt with his bare hand but dropped the ball, putting two runners on.
Kapler realizes the Phillies have a difficult road to stay in the playoff chase.
”Certainly we are going to have to win every game,” he said. ”We understand that is a tall task.”
The Indians drew 1,738,642 fans in 79 home dates, an average of 22,008 per game. Cleveland’s attendance last season was 1,926,701 in 80 dates.
Phillies: RHP Juan Nicasio (tendinitis in right rotator cuff) threw batting practice Saturday and could return in the season’s final week. He hasn’t pitched since Aug. 23.
Indians: LHP Brad Hand played catch before the game. He struck out the side Saturday in his first appearance since Sept. 8 because of a fatigued arm.
Phillies: RHP Zach Eflin (9-12, 4.00 ERA) will start Monday against Washington LHP Patrick Corbin (13-7, 3.10 ERA).
Indians: RHP Mike Clevinger (12-3, 2.54 ERA) will face LHP Hector Santiago (1-1, 5.65 ERA) when Cleveland plays the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports