Series Preview #52: Chicago White Sox (62-94) at Cleveland Indians (86-70)
Bob Toth | On 24, Sep 2013
Cleveland picked a good month to play some better baseball. They are in full control of their playoff future, thanks to posting the third-best record in all of baseball in the month of September.
The Indians (86-70) completed their sixth four-game sweep of the season on Sunday, becoming the first team since the 1961 New York Yankees to accomplish the feat. With a 15-6 record in the month, Cleveland has played itself into the second American League Wild Card spot. They trail the Wild Card-leading Tampa Bay Rays by a game and are a game up on the Texas Rangers. While it may be too little, too late, they have gained four games on the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central this month as well.
The White Sox (62-94) will be the last team to come to Progressive Field for the 2013 regular season and may be glad to leave Cleveland for the year when the series ends on Wednesday night. They have won just two of the first 17 contests against the Indians this season and were victimized three different times by four-game sweeps. They have been outscored 106-51 by the Tribe this year and have the third-worst record in all of baseball.
Ubaldo Jimenez (12-9, 3.39 ERA) will make what could be his final start of the regular season in Tuesday’s 7:05 PM ET start. His 1.77 ERA since the All-Star break is the best in the AL and the third-best amongst starters with at least ten appearances in all of baseball (Miami’s Jose Fernandez, 1.32; Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw, 1.70). Hector Santiago (4-9, 3.53) will take the mound for Chicago. He lasted four innings in his last start, a loss to Cleveland on the 13th.
Rookie Danny Salazar (1-3, 3.09) will toe the rubber to wrap up the series up at 7:05 PM ET on Wednesday. Salazar eclipsed the 80 pitch mark in his last start in Kansas City, but allowed four runs in six innings and took the loss. Dylan Axelrod (4-10, 5.72) will throw for the Sox. After ten straight appearances in relief, he started Friday against Detroit and was battered for seven runs on ten hits and could not finish the third inning.
Both games will be broadcast on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio. Chicago’s broadcast of the Tuesday game will air on WCIU, with the finale showing on Comcast Sportsnet. Hear the calls of Tom Hamilton and Jim Rosenhaus on the affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network.
Chicago made a quick trip home for a makeup game with the Toronto Blue Jays after losing two of three in Detroit to the Tigers.
The first Major League home run of Marcus Semien and a solo shot from Avisail Garcia gave Jose Quintana his ninth win of the season, as the White Sox defeated the Blue Jays, 3-2, on Monday. Semien’s two-run home run to left was the first of his career. After a Blue Jays’ solo home run cut the lead in half, Garcia’s solo shot in the bottom half of the fifth inning got the run right back. Quintana allowed two runs over seven and one-third innings while striking out six. Addison Reed successfully saved his 39th game of the year.
Jeff Keppinger has a five-game hitting streak coming into Cleveland, with eight hits in that span and three runs driven in. The journeyman is batting .253 this season for the White Sox with 40 RBI. He is a lifetime .154 hitter against Jimenez with a pair of hits in 13 career at bats.
Like Keppinger, Garcia has a five-game hitting streak of his own. He has nine hits in those games with a pair of home runs and six runs driven in. He was acquired from the Tigers as part of the three-team trade that sent Jake Peavy to Boston and Jose Iglesias to Motown. He had three hits in 12 at bats (.250) with a pair of strikeouts the last time he faced the Indians.
Adam Dunn has seen his batting average plummet in the last month. Since his average climbed to .241 in mid-August, he has struck out 47 times in the 29 games that followed while batting .120. In the last ten, he has hit .138. He has 16 strikeouts in 35 career plate appearances against Jimenez and has hit .172 with one home run and one run batted in.
The Indians swept baseball’s worst team in a four-game set over the weekend, despite some quieter-than-expected offensive contributions.
It took eleven innings on Thursday, but a bases-loaded, two-out single from defensive replacement Matt Carson gave the Indians a 2-1 walk-off victory over the Astros. Jimenez pitched seven innings and allowed a run on six hits and struck out nine Houston batters. Nick Swisher was a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate with three singles and a double and scored Cleveland’s first run in the first on Jason Kipnis’s RBI-single. Carson drove in the winning run with a sharp single through the hole on the right side of the infield.
One night after playing extras, both teams got a reprieve on Friday as Mother Nature limited the Indians and Astros to seven innings in a 2-1 victory for Cleveland. Zach McAllister (9-9) pitched into the sixth inning and allowed four hits, including a solo home run to Brandon Laird. Mike Aviles drove in a run in the second on a fielder’s choice groundout and the go-ahead run scored in the fourth on a throwing error by Chris Carter. Bryan Shaw was credited with his first save of the season. Brett Oberholtzer allowed a pair of unearned runs in six innings and took the loss.
Three first inning runs paced Cleveland to a 4-1 win on Saturday over Houston. A sacrifice fly from Kipnis in the first scored Michael Bourn. A few batters later, Michael Brantley delivered a two-run home run to right. Scott Kazmir (9-9) pitched seven scoreless innings, gave up four hits, and struck out ten. Asdrubal Cabrera had three hits on the night.
The Indians’ offense woke up in a big way in the middle innings and overcame a two-run deficit with nine unanswered runs in a 9-2 win on Sunday afternoon. Kipnis and Brantley each had three hits. Brantley, Bourn, Carlos Santana, and Mike Aviles all had two RBI each. Santana hit his 19th home run of the season in the eighth. Corey Kluber (10-5) gave up two runs on six hits in five and one-third innings of work. Eight pitchers in total appeared in the game for manager Terry Francona.
Several bats in the Indians lineup have awakened in the last week.
Brantley is hitting .409 in his last six games with nine hits and five RBI. Cabrera hit .400 in the last week with eight hits and four walks, providing him a .500 on-base percentage.
Bourn is tied for the Major League lead in triples in September with three. He has five total three-baggers on the season. Santana is second in the AL in September with 16 walks.
Kazmir’s ten strikeout performance pushed him past the 150 mark on the season, giving the Indians three pitchers to surpass that total (Justin Masterson, Jimenez). The Indians enter play with the Twins with a franchise record 1,291 strikeouts. It is the fourth time in Indians history that they have had three pitchers with 150 or more strikeouts in the same season and the first time since 2000.
Masterson threw a 24-pitch simulated game after Sunday’s ball game. The team still intends to use him as a reliever while stretching him out over the course of the final week of the regular season.
After completing their final two home games of the regular season, the Indians will wrap up the 2013 campaign with four games in Minnesota against the Twins. They are 9-6 this season against Minnesota, including splitting three games a piece in the Twin Cities.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images