By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
The Indians’ next nine games are being described as “make or break” for the team’s postseason hopes, but that might be an exaggeration.
Tonight the Tribe begins a three-game series in Atlanta against the Braves, the runaway leaders of the National League East. Following that is a three-game set at Comerica Park with the dreaded Detroit Tigers, who not only lead the Central Division but have won 13 of 16 against the Tribe.
The Indians return home next week to play three against the Baltimore Orioles, who are battling the Oakland Athletics for the second wild-card berth. The Tribe also is a contender for that spot. All three clubs are within two games of one another.
“You can never say that,” Scott Kazmir said, when asked if the next three series are do or die. “Baseball is crazy. But of course, those games definitely are important.”
Kazmir is right. Baseball is crazy. Good teams can lose 10 in a row or win 10 in a row or break even. Moreover, the Indians aren’t the only contending club with a tough schedule immediately in front of them.
The Athletics began a four-game series at Detroit on Monday night then return home for three against the Tampa Bay Rays and three against the Texas Rangers, both contenders for division titles.
The Orioles play three against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park starting tonight, travel to New York for three against the Yankees over the weekend then move on to Progressive Field.
Asked about the Tribe’s upcoming schedule, Drew Stubbs said, “These games are just as important as the ones the week after that. Every game is important now.”
The bottom line
The Indians needed all the good fortune (and good pitching) they could muster to overcome four errors and the failure to take advantage of eight walks by the Minnesota Twins, who fell 3-1 Sunday.
“We know we can’t play that way but we won the game,” manager Terry Francona said.
The Twins helped by stranding 13 runners and going 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
“I don’t care that we didn’t play a good game,” Michael Bourn said. “We won. Our pitching was strong today. Everybody threw the ball well.”
Hurtin’ for certain
The Braves have one of the lengthier disabled lists in the majors: right-handers Tim Hudson and Cristhian Martinez, left-handers Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty, outfielders Jason Heyward and Reed Johnson, infielders Tyler Pastornicky, Dan Uggla and Ramiro Pena.
Kazmir is 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA in four starts against the Twins. … Jason Kipnis is batting .414 with 21 RBI in 15 games against the Twins. … The Tribe has won five of its past six games.
Joe Martinez gave up one run and five hits in seven innings, striking out seven, in Columbus’ 2-1 win over Gwinnett in 11 innings in Class AAA. … Joe Wendle hit his 15th home run of the season and tripled, as Carolina lost to Salem 6-5 in Class A. … Robel Garcia and Josh McAdams each had two hits and one RBI in Mahoning Valley’s 5-1 win over Batavia in Class A. Caleb Hamrick (2-5, 3.55 ERA) gave up one run and three hits in six innings.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.