The Indians are playing to avoid a sweep on Sunday, but they didn't fall into that position because of their starting pitching.
In two straight losses, the Tribe's starters have kept Minnesota to two unearned runs across 11 innings. Over the last 10 games, the rotation has assembled a 4-0 record and 1.96 ERA while keeping opposing hitters to a .190 batting average.
The staff's ace, Justin Masterson, is scheduled to make his first start on Sunday since his first All-Star Game invite. The Twins, seeking their fifth straight win, will counter with Scott Diamond, a left-hander.
Minnesota overcame strong starts from Cleveland hurlers Scott Kazmir and Corey Kluber to come back and win a pair of 3-2 contests on Friday and Saturday. Kazmir allowed just two hits and two unearned runs during six innings of work on Friday. Kluber -- who left Saturday's start after 93 pitches because of tightness in his left hip -- tossed five shutout innings.
"I just think that Kaz answering the bell every fifth day has been a blessing," Tribe manager Terry Francona said. "I think it's not luck. He's worked hard. You can see when guys are kind of going start to start, where you're kind of putting a Band-Aid on it. He's answering the bell pretty good. He's throwing 100 pitches pretty much every time out, and holding his stuff. That's exciting.
"Ubaldo [Jimenez], it's not like he's giving us nine innings, but more often than not, we've got a chance to win that game. Masty has been a workhorse. Kluber has been a pleasure. I guess that's why I keep saying the glass seems half full. That's how I feel."
So far, Cleveland is 12-8 in games started by Masterson. His line includes a 10-7 record, a 3.72 ERA and three shutouts, tops in the Majors. Away from Progressive Field, however, Masterson is 4-5 with a 4.72 ERA.
His opponent on Sunday, Diamond, is 5-8 with a 5.32 ERA across 17 starts. He'll look to rely on a defense that enters Sunday with a .988 fielding percentage, fifth best in baseball. The Twins lead the Majors with 111 double plays and have committed just 42 errors overall -- seven in their last 20 games.
A sturdy defense is usually supported by a capable center, and Minnesota is no exception. Between catcher Joe Mauer, second baseman Brian Dozier, shortstop Pedro Florimon and center fielder Aaron Hicks, the Twins are certainly confident in their men in the middle.
"It's nice to see," general manager Terry Ryan said. "We've been playing better defense as of late, and certainly Dozier's improving his defensive side of the game. Hicks has been good for the better part of the year. The guy that's really starting to take a little bit of a step forward, or maybe even a big step forward, is Florimon.
"He's made some fantastic plays here in the last month or so. There were some episodes early where he was botching the routine plays, where now he's making the excellent plays, but he's also making routine plays. When you've got Mauer and Hicks and Dozier and Florimon up the center, that's a pretty good nucleus of defense there."
Indians: McAllister to rejoin rotation
Cleveland's rotation will receive a boost on Tuesday, when starter Zach McAllister is scheduled to make his first start since June 2. McAllister went on the disabled list with a right middle finger sprain that made it difficult to throw his curveball, but everything went well in his Triple-A start on Thursday and a bullpen session on Saturday.
"He's been great," Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. "Obviously, that's one of the things that makes him a good pitcher, is his ability to realize where he's at and what he's got and what he's doing. He did a good job throughout the rehab process of not trying to push it too much and taking advice from the trainers. He did it the right way."
Across 11 outings, McAllister is 4-5 with a 3.43 ERA. He did not throw any curveballs in his last Major League appearance, a loss to Tampa Bay.
Twins: Thielbar sidelined with groin discomfort
Minnesota announced on Saturday that rookie reliever Caleb Thielbar would be unavailable for a handful of games because of groin discomfort. In 20 appearances, the left-hander is 1-0 with a 0.83 ERA. Over 21 2/3 innings, Thielbar has allowed just seven hits and two runs, while issuing nine walks and 21 strikeouts.
In Thielbar's absence, the Twins will lean on Jared Burton and Casey Fien to set up closer Glen Perkins. The three relievers combined for 2 2/3 scoreless innings in Saturday's win.
"Casey is doing fantastic, and now we're getting stronger with Jared getting back out there," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Thielbar has a little bit of a tweaked groin, so we'll have to back off him for a few days. But those three have been throwing really well."
Perkins picked up his 22nd and 23rd saves during the current series. The closer has converted 92 percent of his save opportunities, while compiling a 1.72 ERA.
• Cleveland has committed three errors in dropping two straight one-run games to start the season's second half.
• Minnesota is 16-7 against the Tribe since June 2, 2012. The two clubs have split their first eight games of 2013.
Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.