By Stephanie Storm
Beacon Journal sports writer
MINNEAPOLIS: It’s late September, and with the Indians entering Saturday riding an eight-game winning streak and having moved into a first-place tie with Tampa Bay for an American League wild-card berth with just two regular-season games to go, life is good for Tribe fans.
Even manager Terry Francona seems to be enjoying the moment — the little bit he’ll let himself, at least — as he mused on a variety of odd subjects before Saturday’s game against the Minnesota Twins.
And why shouldn’t the Tribe’s first-year skipper enjoy the moment? For the seventh time in his 13-year managerial career, Francona has guided his team to 90 wins, tying him for 15th in all-time major-league history and tying him for second among active managers.
Francona has his team “playing meaningful games in September,” as he’s said many times lately. Now, Indians fans hope their team’s big run down the regular-season stretch parlays into meaningful games in October as well.
In a tribute to Francona, here are a few of his best one- and two-liners of the day: (For those interested in the whole spiel, Deadspin tweeted out a link to the video).
• Francona on the possibility of a wild-card game in Cleveland: “For all we’ve been through, I’d love to play a game in Cleveland. I think that would be really rewarding for the fans.”
• Francona on his scooter rides to and from Progressive Field in Cleveland: “I don’t need a helmet. There’s already damage done, man.”
• Francona on the difference between Cleveland and Boston fans: “Hate mail is way down this year. It’s not gone, but it’s way down.”
Kipnis finds swing
When Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis finished a home run short of hitting for the cycle in Friday’s 12-6 win, it marked the eighth time in his major-league career (spanning just three seasons) that the All-Star just missed the prestigious baseball mark.
But just getting back on track and helping lead the way in the Tribe’s 17-hit attack against the Twins was all that mattered to Kipnis. Before finding his swing over his last five games (over which he’s batting .450 with four extra-base hits and three RBI) entering Saturday, Kipnis was mired in a .194 30-game slump.
“Those first two at-bats were two of the best swings he’s taken in a while,” Francona said of Kipnis’ triple and single that led the way for a 3-for-5 effort Friday. “He hit the triple and the line drive to right field. Those balls kind of clicked off his barrel. We’ve all seen what he can do when he gets hot.”
Indians center fielder Michael Bourn was back in the lineup in his usual spot leading off after missing the last three games with a sprained right wrist. Bourn went 2-for-4 with a two-run triple in the Tribe’s three-run fifth inning.
“It was good to have him back and he obviously looked healthy, getting that big hit for us,” Francona said.
Indians designated hitter Jason Giambi left Saturday’s game after going 0-for-2 with left forearm cramping after hitting a ball to the center field wall in the fifth inning. Lonnie Chisenhall pinch hit for Giambi in the sixth inning.
“I was just sitting there and it starting cramping up on me, starting getting tight,” said Giambi after the game. “I was talking to the trainer, we did a few things and I hit off the tee. After like three or four swings and it was starting to tighten up again. So I just went and told [Francona] it wasn’t worth it. We’re up 5-1 and it’s the thing I’ve been telling these young kids, don’t be selfish. Just pass it on to the next guys and be ready tomorrow.’ ”
With the Indians already owning 22 more wins than they had last season, the 2013 season marks the Tribe’s second-largest year-to-year improvement in franchise history. The biggest jump — a 24-game improvement — happened from the 1985-86 seasons.
Get your tickets
During Saturday’s game, tickets for the Indians’ possible wild-card tiebreaker game (if needed) Monday at Progressive Field went on sale at http://Indians.com/tiebreaker.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.