June 30, 2016

Partly sunny

Tribe: Francona, team staying grounded

CLEVELAND — Indians manager Terry Francona is confident his team is entering a make or break stretch in the right frame of mind.

“We’ve done a good job of staying in the moment and not getting ahead of ourselves,” said Francona, whose club sat a half-game out of the American League’s second wild-card spot through Wednesday. “If I have to go in there and give these guys a rah-rah speech, we’re probably not where I thought we were. Baseball’s not like a lot of other sports. You can’t push a button and hit better.

“We have to pay attention to detail. We’re tackling a tremendous challenge. Certainly, hustle and those things count for a ton. You’re going to win some close ones and you’re going to lose some close ones, but if (we) give (ourselves) a chance every night, we’ll be OK.”

If the Indians are fortunate enough to claim one of the wild-card berths and participate in the one-game playoff, Francona said he has yet to consider who would be his starting pitcher or whether he would juggle his rotation at all.

Ace Justin Masterson is recovering from a strained left oblique and his status is uncertain.

“There’s so much to determine,” Francona said. “We have to get there first.”

Masty on mend

Masterson is scheduled to throw a bullpen session today at Progressive Field, but Francona would not predict whether the right-hander would pitch again this season.

“We’re trying to be fair to Masty,” Francona said. “He’s done such a good job of getting to this point. I think it’s been 16 days. That’s absurdly quick. We’re just trying not to make expectations unfair to him.

Running on empty?

Jason Kipnis entered Thursday in an 0-for-11 skid, with just four hits in his last 21 at-bats.

“I think he might be a little bit tired,” Francona said. “He skipped BP (Wednesday) with my blessing. He plays pretty hard and he’s pretty hard on himself. He just got a little worn out. He’ll be fine.”

Roundin’ third

Ubaldo Jimenez entered his outing Thursday with a 2.52 ERA over his last 20 starts since May 27, which ranked second in the American League and sixth in the majors over the span.

• Trevor Crowe, the Indians’ first-round draft pick (14th overall) in 2005, started in center field and batted third for Houston.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.