Series Preview #45: Chicago White Sox (63-76) at Cleveland Indians (70-64)
Bob Toth | On 05, Sep 2014
So close, yet so far away.
After an immense boost to the morale around the club over the weekend in a statement series in Kansas City against the Royals, the Cleveland Indians came home to host the Detroit Tigers for four games. Three devastating losses later, the team will need to rebound against the Chicago White Sox or risk falling completely out of the playoff picture.
The Indians (71-67) erased all of the ground they gained over last weekend as the Tigers handled the Tribe in troubling fashion during the week. Detroit’s bats erupted against Cleveland’s ace on Monday in a 12-1 win. Cody Allen surrendered a three-run home run in the top of the ninth to blow the save and the win in a 4-2 loss on Tuesday night. The Indians offense backed a complete-game eight-hit shutout by Danny Salazar on Wednesday in a 7-0 victory. Cleveland fought back to tie the game after a four-run first inning deficit, only to allow seven runs in the eleventh inning in a 11-4 loss in the series finale on Thursday night.
Cleveland is now six games in back of the AL Central leading Royals and five games out in the AL Wild Card race.
The White Sox (63-76) will look different again to the Indians, even though the two clubs met just a week and a half ago. A pair of late August trades and September call ups have again altered the make up of the Pale Hose. Their new look squad split a pair with Minnesota during the week, winning a 6-3 final in ten innings on Tuesday night before losing an 11-4 decision on Wednesday.
A pair of southpaws will square up on Friday night at Progressive Field to open the three-game weekend set. T.J. House (2-3, 3.92) will make the game’s 7:05 PM ET first pitch. He is coming off arguably the best start of his Major League career on Sunday, when he allowed just one run to Kansas City in seven innings in a game suspended by rain. Chris Sale (11-3, 2.11) will sling for the Sox. He is the American League’s ERA leader and threw five quality outings in six August starts. He has not faced the Indians since May 27th.
Corey Kluber (13-9, 2.58) will look to squash a three-game losing skid in Saturday’s 7:05 PM ET start. Kluber has logged 36 innings more than his previous season high at any professional level. He allowed a pair of earned runs (five total in the start) in his shortest start of the season on Monday. Jose Quintana (7-10, 3.44) will oppose. The lefty was 1-3 in six August starts with a 4.58 ERA, his worst month of the season. The month included a no-decision on August 26th when he allowed six earned runs in five innings to the Indians.
Carlos Carrasco (6-4, 2.94) and Hector Noesi (8-8, 4.28) will be the pitching match up in Sunday’s 1:05 PM ET finale. Carrasco is 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA in five starts since being reinserted into the starting rotation. He struck out a career-high ten Tigers in his last start. Noesi earned the lone Sox win in the last series against Cleveland, allowing three runs on nine hits over seven innings.
Indians’ broadcast of the series will appear on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio. Comcast SportsNet will air the first and third games of the series in Chicago, while WGN will handle Saturday night’s game. The affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and WSCR 670 in Chicago will provide radio calls of the three games.
Chicago stills holds a 33-game advantage all-time against Cleveland. The Indians hold the edge in Cleveland, earning a 544-498 record against the White Sox.
The Indians pulled the season series closer to even after taking two of three from the White Sox in Chicago at the end of August. All three games were decided by two runs or less. The White Sox still hold a 9-7 edge this season. Cleveland has won four out of their last six against Chicago after losing four straight against the club in May.
The Indians acquired outfielder J.B. Shuck from the Los Angeles Angels on Friday afternoon, several days after he had been designated for assignment by the club. The 27-year-old left-handed hitter had spent the last two seasons in the Angels organization. He posted a .167 batting average in 22 games for the Halos this season, but hit .320 at Triple-A Salt Lake. He hit .293 last season in 129 games. He also played for the Houston Astros in 2011 in his first Major League action. It will be a homecoming of sorts for Shuck, who is an Ohio native who attended the Ohio State University.
Right fielder David Murphy (right abdominal strain) was activated from the 15-day disabled list and has rejoined the club. Also heading north from Triple-A Columbus is utility infielder Justin Sellers, who was with the club earlier this season. First baseman Nick Swisher will miss the remainder of the season after knee surgeries.
Utility man Mike Aviles (concussion-like symptoms) missed the final three games of the series against Detroit.
Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall has hit safely in ten of his last eleven games while batting .417. His eight-game hitting streak ended in the second game of the series against Detroit. From the All-Star break until the start of that hitting streak, he had hit just .160.
The six-game hitting streak of Carlos Santana ended on Thursday night. He extended his on-base streak to 12 straight games with a pair of walks in the loss. Three of his last seven hits have left the yard and he has driven in ten runs over the last ten games.
Yan Gomes has steadily pushed his batting average up near where it ended last season. After hitting .329 in July, he hit .349 in August and is now hitting .291 on the season, just three points short of his end-of-the-year average last season. He is hitting .368 over his last ten games and is second amongst AL catchers with 17 home runs on the season.
Michael Brantley has hit in eight straight games, batting .371 in that stretch (13-for-35). Six of the hits are doubles and he has driven in five runs.
Twenty-seven-year old Cuban rookie Jose Abreu is leading MLB rookies in almost everything offensive. The sight of Indians pitching has been a pleasant one for the Chicago slugger, as he has hit .294 on the season against the Tribe with five home runs and ten RBI. Seven of his 15 hits against Cleveland this season have been for extra bases. He is hitting .322 on the season with 33 home runs, 32 doubles, and 99 RBI.
Alexei Ramirez is hitting .328 against the Indians this season with three home runs and ten RBI. At Progressive Field, he has been a different story, hitting just .176 with three singles and no runs driven in.
September 5th was a date of great meaning to Gene Bearden.
Bearden was a left-handed knuckleball pitcher of the 1940’s and 1950’s, best known for his remarkable 1948 rookie season with the Indians. His 20-7 record and AL-best 2.43 ERA in 37 games, including 15 complete games and six shutouts, helped the Tribe to sneak into the World Series after he won that 20th game in a one-game play-in game against the Boston Red Sox. He was 1-0 in two games in the World Series against the Boston Braves, including a complete game five-hit shutout in Cleveland on October 8th, 1948, and saving the championship clinching game in Boston on October 11th, 1948.
Bearden was selected off waivers by Washington during the 1950 season, having never recovered the magic of his first full year in the Bigs. He was selected off waivers by the Tigers in April of the following season, spent 1952 with the St. Louis Browns after being traded there, and wrapped up his career in 1953 with the White Sox after another waiver claim. He pitched his final MLB game on September 5th that season, on his 33rd birthday.
In addition to his place in Cleveland Indians lore for his 1948 heroics, he was also a war hero. His cruiser, while serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, was sunk and he sustained injuries to his right leg thought at the time severe enough to prevent him from ever playing professional baseball again.
The Indians will play an afternoon makeup game on Monday against the Los Angeles Angels, who will be travelling in to Cleveland from Minnesota after an afternoon start there on Sunday. Chicago will return home for a seven-game stand, starting with four against Oakland.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images