After back-to-back defeats to the Royals, the Indians need to right their ship quickly if they want stay afloat in what's quickly becoming a deep pool of potential playoff participants. Their first opportunity to do so comes against the White Sox on Thursday night.
They'll send right-hander Corey Kluber to the mound to get them back on track. It will be Kluber's second start since returning from the disabled list, sidelined a month because of a right middle finger sprain. He got the win in his first start back, yielding just two runs on five hits in five innings against the Mets.
"He looked pretty much like he hadn't skipped a beat," manager Terry Francona said. "For a layoff like that, that was outstanding."
Despite the quality outing, Kluber lasted only 64 pitches, so he's still in the process of building his arm strength.
"I've kind of been surprising myself with how my command's been," Kluber said after the game. "It was nice to get back out there. Hopefully, I can kind of pick up where I left off."
That would suit Cleveland just fine: He hasn't lost since June 27, making eight starts in between, with a 2-0 record.
Kluber will be opposed by John Danks, who has struggled in his last two starts, giving up five runs on 11 hits to Boston on Aug. 31 and four runs on seven hits to Baltimore on Friday.
In his last start, he allowed three solo home runs and didn't get any help from the offense who have scored one or no runs in eight of his 21 starts this season. He's lost two straight starts and six of his last 10.
Indians: Wood still bringing the heat
Tuesday night, reliever Blake Wood returned to form with a fastball in the upper 90s. And it stayed there: Only two of the dozen heaters he threw registered at under 98 mph in his three-batter appearance in the ninth inning.
Wood, who underwent surgery on his elbow in May last year, pitched 26 1/3 innings in the Minor Leagues this season and issued 18 walks between stints with four Cleveland affiliates.
"You want to get physically where you want to be first, get your stuff back," Wood said. "And then you can work from there. Right now, I feel like, 'All right, my stuff is where I want it to be.' Now I need to start doing the other things better, like controlling the running game, working on command. That's going to happen with getting to pitch more."
White Sox: Manto sees progress in young hitters
Despite the team's struggles offensively, White Sox hitting coach Jeff Manto has seen some good things from his charges.
The White Sox rank last in the American League in runs scored, but he said they're making progress.
"I think we did as good of a job as we possibly could," Manto said. "We came with a lot of energy and a positive attitude. And guess what? We fell a little short, but there was a lot to build on and a lot of excitement ahead of us."
• The White Sox rank last in the American League with a .980 fielding percentage one season after leading the Majors with a franchise-record .9883 mark.
• The Indians have won 11 of 13 games against the White Sox this season including five of six at U.S. Cellular Field.
Kathleen Gier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.