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Smoke signals

• The Indians find themselves in the favorable position of hosting the American League Wild Card Game after reeling off 21 wins in 27 September games and closing the regular season with a 10-game win streak. Seventeen games in the season's final month -- including each of the last 10 -- came against teams that finished with losing records, leading some to say that Cleveland unfairly benefited from a schedule that wasn't challenging enough.

"I couldn't care less," Francona said. "That's just like when I get asked about the last road trip, or the last 10 days, or the last month. What counts is your record. We played the same schedule as everybody else. And we went through a monster stretch earlier and I didn't hear anybody saying it then. And we survived. We didn't necessarily play anybody out, but we kept ourselves afloat. Everybody plays the same."

• There's no denying the added significance that accompanies postseason games. Francona believes maintaining consistency is key, so he will not put his oratory skills to use in a motivational effort before Wednesday's win-or-go-home game against Tampa Bay or Texas.

"I don't think we need to have a meeting. I think that sets off a red flag," Francona said. "They understand what's going on here. They just played 162 games and they've done a heck of a job. I think the best thing I can do is be consistent. If I do that, they're going to go play. I'll just sit right down where I sit at the end of the bench and pat them on the back, and tell them to keep going. They don't need a speech this time of year."

• Tribe starter Ubaldo Jimenez, who matched a career high with 13 strikeouts in Sunday's crucial win over Minnesota, was named the AL Pitcher of the Month for September. In six outings, Jimenez went 4-0 with a 1.09 ERA. Over 41 1/3 innings, he logged 51 strikeouts and issued just seven walks. This is the third time that Jimenez has won the monthly award. While with Colorado, he earned National League Pitcher of the Month honors in April and May 2010.

Mark Emery is an associate reporter for
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