The Indians are finally in prime position. But now they have to keep it.
Cleveland holds the second American League Wild Card slot and sits a game behind Tampa Bay for the first one, setting the stage for the season's final six days. The Indians own the league's best record (50-18) against sub-.500 teams and play against struggling teams the rest of the way.
The Indians, who have won eight straight games against teams that are currently below .500, will face the White Sox on Tuesday and Wednesday at Progressive Field before closing out the regular season with a four-game road set against the Twins. The White Sox -- who beat Toronto on Monday, 3-2 -- have lost nine of their last 13 games.
Cleveland will start Ubaldo Jimenez on Tuesday, and the right-hander has been in top form in the second half. The 29-year-old is 5-5 with a 1.77 ERA in 11 outings since the All-Star break, and for the season he is 6-5 with a 3.72 ERA in 15 starts at home.
Chicago has decided to counter with Hector Santiago, who has been kept off the mound since Sept. 13 primarily to rest. The lefty, who has doubled his innings total from last year by tossing 142 2/3 frames, is 4-7 with with a 2.47 ERA in 22 starts. He also has made 11 relief appearances.
The Indians and the Rays are in the lead for the AL Wild Card, but there are four teams -- Baltimore, New York, Kansas City and Texas -- within five games of the second spot. The Rangers are just a game behind Cleveland.
"We're in a fun spot," said Indians manager Terry Francona, whose club has won nine of 11 and 14 of 19. "We have to keep winning. It's a fun way to come to the ballpark. We're playing pretty good baseball, and we need to."
Cleveland is 15-2 against the White Sox and has outscored Chicago by a margin of 106-51 this season, and that tally includes back-to-back four-game road sweeps at U.S. Cellular Field. The Indians outscored the White Sox by 36-21 in a four-game sweep in June and by 32-6 in a four-game set earlier in September. The Tribe also swept a four-game series from the White Sox at Progressive Field on July 29-Aug. 1.
"We've single-handedly put them in the playoff race basically," White Sox catcher Josh Phegley said after the Indians routed Chicago on Sept. 14. "I don't know. They've got our number and it's something."
Chicago has gone 26-53 on the road this season, and it has racked up a 24-45 record against AL Central opponents. The Indians, meanwhile, are 49-30 at home and 38-32 against the division.
Michael Brantley has been red hot for the Indians of late, and he went 3-for-4 in Sunday's victory over Houston. Brantley has hit in seven straight games, batting .423 (11-for-26) over that span. Over his last 20, he's hitting .338.
White Sox: Garcia on roll with new team
• Avisail Garcia has hit the ground running in his audition with the White Sox. Garcia, acquired from Detroit as part of the three-way trade that sent Jake Peavy to Boston, has batted .317 (44-for-139) with 19 RBIs for the White Sox. The 22-year-old has six homers in 89 career games in the Major Leagues, including a solo shot on Monday.
• Adam Dunn hasn't been in the starting lineup for three straight games, but he should be back on Tuesday. Dunn, who's batting .218 with 32 homers and 83 RBIs, has looked tired, according to manager Robin Ventura, who has also sat Dunn so he can give playing time to some of the team's younger players.
Indians: Kipnis hints at offensive resurgence
• Jason Kipnis went 3-for-5 in Sunday's victory, giving the Indians hope that he will ignite in time for the playoffs. Cleveland's second baseman ranks among the league leaders in steals (28) and walks (73), but he is also hitting just .237 (50-for-211) with two home runs and 18 RBIs since July 22.
• The Indians are the first team in the Major Leagues to execute six four-game series sweeps in one season since the 1961 Yankees.
• Cleveland is guaranteed to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2007, when the Indians won the AL Central and came within a game of the World Series.
• The White Sox were 37-55 at the All-Star break and have gone 24-40 after it.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.