CLEVELAND -- If there is anything left to play for this season beyond pride for the Indians, it is finding a way to avoid finishing the year in the American League Central cellar. That will require outplaying the Twins over the next two weeks.
On Thursday, the Tribe took a step in that direction, claiming a 4-3 win in 10 innings over Minnesota thanks to Casey Kotchman's walk-off single at Progressive Field. The victory ended Cleveland's one-day stay alone at the bottom and pulled the club into a fourth-place tie alongside the Twins with 12 games left on the slate.
The Indians need to use the remaining days to give playing time to certain players, provide days off for others and evaluate those who might fit into the 2013 picture. When the smoke clears on this season, though, Cleveland does not want to be living in the basement.
"You have to prioritize things," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We need to see some guys, but no one wants to finish last. When the season starts, everybody wants to finish first. At the end of the season, no one wants to finish last.
"That's pretty much it. It's a pride thing. It just doesn't sound good."
Dating back to Aug. 14, the Indians have gone a Major League-worst 8-26, compared to a 12-23 mark for the Twins. Neither record is anything to boast about, but Cleveland's struggles have allowed Minnesota to march toward fourth place.
None of this is to say the Indians -- hitting the road for a six-game swing through Kansas City and Chicago -- are focusing too much on the standings. At this point, Cleveland is trying to finish as strong as it can so the team can head into the offseason on a positive note.
"I don't think we're really looking at the standings," Kotchman said. "The objective is the same each and every day for us. Whether you're in first place or last, you're trying to win.
"Unfortunately, the last month and a half, two months, it hasn't happened a whole lot. But that doesn't change the objective of why we show up each and every day."
Kotchman -- mired in a down year at the plate -- played hero on Thursday afternoon.
Shin-Soo Choo ignited the Indians' decisive rally in the 10th by slicing a pitch from Anthony Swarzak off the wall in left-center field for a leadoff double. Later in the frame, with one out and the bases loaded, Kotchman chopped a pitch up the middle and into center for the game-winning single.
It was the second walk-off win in the past four games for the Indians, who have fought to find the win column for the better part of the past two months. Cleveland has won two games in a row just twice over the past 53 contests, during which the team has posted a 13-40 record.
"You kind of let things slip away," Kotchman said. "You're in it for so long and then you just hit that rough spell."
Rookie starter Corey Kluber turned in a quality start for the Indians (62-88), but walked away with a no-decision for his effort. The right-hander held the Twins to three runs on five hits over six innings, striking out five and walking one along the way.
Minnesota struck for one run in in the fourth inning, when Ben Revere singled, stole second base and later crossed home plate on a wild pitch from Kluber. Denard Span added a run-scoring double in the fifth and Trevor Plouffe belted a solo home run off Kluber in the sixth to give the Twins a 3-2 lead.
"I thought, overall, it was solid," Kluber said of his outing. "There were a couple instances where I fell behind some guys and they put good swings on it, but all in all I think I'll take the positives from it."
That slim advantage proved short-lived for the Twins, though. In the home half of the sixth, Jack Hannahan pulled the game into a 3-3 tie with an RBI single to center field against reliever Kyle Waldrop. The run was charged to Twins starter Esmerling Vasquez, who yielded three runs on six hits in his 5 2/3 innings.
Cleveland also plated a pair of runs in the fourth during a rally that began with back-to-back walks to Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana. Kotchman and Brent Lillibridge took advantage, delivering consecutive RBI singles to give the Tribe a temporary 2-1 lead.
From the seventh through the 10th inning, the Indians blanked the Twins behind the strong relief quartet of Cody Allen, Vinnie Pestano, Chris Perez and Esmil Rogers. That bought time for Cleveland's offense to rally.
"It was nice to see those four power arms," Acta said, "back-to-back-to-back-to-back to shut them down at the end and give us an opportunity to win the game."
After his double, Choo moved to third base on a groundout from Kipnis. At that turn, the Twins opted to intentionally walk both Santana and Michael Brantley to load the bases, creating a potential double play in all directions.
That set the stage for Kotchman, who was signed to a one-year contract over the winter, but has hit just .231 in a disappointing showing as the Tribe's regular first baseman.
"I didn't hold up my end of the bargain," he said of his season.
Kotchman did, however, deliver on Thursday.
"It's just nice to get on this flight with a win and have some fun," Kotchman said. "Winning makes everything a little bit better."