CLEVELAND -- The Indians have six weeks left to turn the page on their recent struggles. It has been a damaging stretch for a Cleveland club that was in contention only a month ago, but the players understand there is time left to shift their focus.
That said, Indians closer Chris Perez does not think the team can completely erase what has taken plan over the past four weeks.
"I don't think you can wash it all away; it was too stinging," Perez said. "To be right there and then not lose because of injuries or stuff like we did last year, it's tough to take. At the same time, we've got 35 games to find out what we have for next year. Guys can step up and impress our staff.
"We've got some young guys in the rotation that need to show them what they've got, trying to get a spot for next year. It's the same with position players. ... There's a lot of stuff we can do moving forward, looking at next year."
Cleveland sat 3 1/2 games out of first place in the American League Central on July 26 but then suffered losing streaks of 11 games and nine games in a 26-game span. Now, entering Sunday's game with the Yankees, the Indians faced a 15 1/2-game hole in the division and was only four games ahead of the Twins for the worst record in the AL.
"I'll never forget about this season for the rest of my career," Perez said. "For me personally, yeah, this is going to go back into my bank. I'll be like, 'I don't ever want to get there again. How did it get to this? How did it get to 11 in a row? How'd it get to nine in a row?' Me personally, yeah, it'll help me out in the future.
"As a team? I don't know. It's hard. Because you're in the middle of a streak, it doesn't mean you come to the park trying to do something different. You try to win every game. We were losing all different ways -- bad starting pitching, bad hitting, bad bullpen, errors, walks. Everything. Home runs. You name it, and we found a way to lose.
"If anything, if we come out here and have a good September, we can say, 'Look, we went through the worst you can go through, and we bounced back and we're professionals.' At the end of the day, that's our job."
Tribe thrilled to see Brantley blossoming
CLEVELAND -- The Indians have enjoyed watching Michael Brantley turn in a career year during this trying season. Unfortunately, the young center fielder has had trouble enjoying it himself due to the team's performance.
"There's no such thing as personal success if we're losing, in my opinion," Brantley said. "None whatsoever. This game is about wins and losses as a team. We lose as a team and we win as a team."
Brantley has experienced personal success, though, making him one less player for Cleveland to worry about as it looks ahead to next season and beyond.
"It's very satisfying for us," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We feel that we've got a very good player in Michael."
Entering Sunday's game with the Yankees, the 25-year-old Brantley was hitting .292 with six home runs, 34 doubles and 55 RBIs through 122 games. Along the way, he has scored 52 runs, stolen 12 bases and posted a .341 on-base percentage.
In Saturday's 3-1 win over New York, Brantley provided all the offense with a three-run home run off Hiroki Kuroda in the first inning.
Brantley -- whose season ended prematurely in late August last year due to a right hand injury -- got off to a rough start this year, hitting just .233 in his first 28 games. Since then, however, the center fielder has hit at a .311 clip with a .361 on-base percentage.
"It's been great to see," Acta said. "Last year, his season was cut down with the injury and he tailed off a little bit at the end, obviously, because he was hurt. So it was going to be interesting to see Michael's consistency coming into this season. He started a little slow, but, man, he's been the most steady hitter we've had."
Citing balance, Masterson finding a rhythm
CLEVELAND -- All Justin Masterson is looking to achieve over the remainder of the regular season is consistency. It has been a year filled with too many peaks and valleys for the Indians sinkerballer.
"That's been the tale of this season," Masterson said. "It's not like, 'What team is going to show up?' but 'What Justin, at times, will show up?' But the last three or four have been good. ... Overall, I like where we're at."
In Saturday's 3-1 victory over the Yankees, Masterson worked 6 2/3 innings and limited New York to one run on seven hits. The result was a win that halted Cleveland's nine-game losing streak.
It was the kind of performance the Tribe believes Masterson should be able to provide on a more consistent basis.
"If you split his season," Indians manager Manny Acta said, "I think the second half, he's been more consistent than the first half. I think he will be able to continue to get out there and give us an opportunity to win every five days. The stuff is there; it's just a matter of being able to do what he did [on Saturday]."
Overall this year, Masterson has gone 10-11 with a 4.60 ERA out of the top spot in Cleveland's rotation. The right-hander has gone 8-7 with a 4.23 ERA in his last 16 outings, compared to 2-4 with a 5.14 in his first 11.
Masterson said that remaining balanced in his delivery is his main focus right now.
"[If] I get better balance, I stay back, I drive through the ball a little bit better," Masterson said. "[It's about] staying balanced and letting the ball do the work."
Quote to note
"He needs to step up his bag game. He has a lot of inventory, but he needs to restock. They don't make them like they used to."
-- Perez, asked to evaluate how rookie Cody Allen has handled his bullpen snack bag duties this season
Perez entered Sunday with 33 saves in Cleveland's 55 victories this season. That represented the highest percentage of team wins saved (60 percent) in the Major Leagues. Baltimore's Jim Johnson ranked second with saves in 56.5 percent (39 of 69) of the Orioles' wins this year.
The Indians entered Sunday in search of a second win in as many games. Cleveland has won back-to-back games just twice in its past 44 games. The Tribe has not pieced together a three-game winning streak since July 3-5.
Saturday's win over the Yankees marked just the second time this season that the Indians won a game with four hits or fewer. It was the first time a Cleveland club defeated New York with four hits or fewer since a 2-1 win on April 25, 1987.