Comeback victories against the Twins and Mariners moved the Tribe's home record to 31-29.
By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
CLEVELAND -- The Indians couldn't have picked a better time for another miracle comeback.
Tuesday's victory over the Minnesota Twins was the Tribe's first of 16 consecutive games against A.L. playoff contenders.
The victory improved their record at Jacobs Field to 31-29 and was only the Tribe's sixth win in the past 16 games.
Although the Indians are just 17-16 since the All-Star break, they have gained 71/2 games on the former first-place Twins.
"All the games are big," Cleveland shortstop Omar Vizquel said, "but especially the ones against the Twins. We have to do something to bury these guys."
Bob Wickman, who gave up two runs in the ninth inning before pitching a scoreless 10th, said he expects the Twins will bounce back after blowing a 7-4 lead in the ninth.
"They have a good, young ballclub over there and I would expect nothing different [today] other than [for them] to come out and play the way they have the whole season," Wickman said.
Big wins: The Indians are two games above .500 at home, but only because of two spectacular rallies in their past three games at Jacobs Field. On Aug. 5, the Indians trailed Seattle 14-2 in the seventh inning before winning 15-14 in the 11th.
"That was an incredible comeback," said Wickman of the Seattle win, "but tonight, that was an incredible comeback, too. Two outs, nobody on base and we score three to tie and we had two more runners in scoring position -- that was a great game for us tonight. But it is a long season."
The scariest moment for Indians fans came in the fifth inning when Luis Rivas hit a line drive off the left shin of Indians starter Bartolo Colon.
Scary moment: The ball ricocheted to third baseman Travis Fryman, who threw out the speedy Rivas. The next batter, Chad Allen, worked Colon for a full-count before he was retired on a groundball to Thome, who flipped to a hustling Colon for the putout.
Colon said he stayed in the game because the throbbing pain quickly subsided. He went on to pitch eight innings, leaving with a 4-3 lead.
Colon benefited from two pickoffs. In the first inning, Rivas was nailed trying to steal second base after a pitchout. Three innings later, Colon picked off Torii Hunter with a strike to Thome.
Ellis Burks, the Indians designated hitter who has been struggling since coming off the disabled list two weeks ago because of a broken thumb, said winning the opening game of this series was crucial for the struggling Indians.
"Throughout the summer, after a day off, we've come back sluggish on every opening game of a series," Burks said. "We have to show Minnesota we're not going to go out easy. Those guys are struggling right now -- they lost four in a row to Tampa Bay. They [came] in here expecting to get their composure back."
Struggling: Since coming back, Burks is 6-for-36 with three doubles and 12 strikeouts. He's 0-for-5 with the bases loaded.
"It's still bothering me," the 36-year-old outfielder said of the broken thumb that sent him to the DL on June 21. "I'm still feeling [pain]. Maybe I came back a little early, I don't know. I've got to get another X-ray on it."
After a weekend series with the Anaheim Angels, the Indians will travel to the West Coast for four games against the Oakland Athletics and three against the Seattle Mariners.
"We've been playing pretty [well] on the road and this next road trip is definitely going to be important for us considering what those two teams did to us in here," Burks said.
The Athletics and Mariners won five of seven games at Jacobs Field from July 31 to Aug. 6.
"We definitely have to improve our record at home," Burks said. "I've never seen a team with a bad record at home and a better record on the road. We definitely have to play a lot better on our home turf."
"A sweep would be a plus for us and could catapult us to new level and help our play out."