Chicago ace and All-Star Chris Sale has looked almost super human much of this season. The Indians, however, have proven to be his kryptonite.
Cleveland had roughed up Sale twice earlier in the year heading into Tuesday afternoon’s matchup with the White Sox at Progressive Field. The Indians continued to be a thorn in Sale’s side Tuesday, getting to him for five runs in five innings en route to a 6-1 victory.
The win was the Tribe’s eighth in a row, completing a four-game sweep of Chicago. At 60-48, Cleveland is now 2 games behind idle Detroit for first place in the AL Central Division. The Indians now stand a full game ahead of Baltimore for the second wild card spot. The Orioles play Houston this evening. The four-game sweep was Cleveland’s fourth of that variety this year and second time the Tribe has done it to the Sox. It’s the first time in 53 years that the Indians have scored two four-game sweeps of the same team in one season.
Sale’s biggest problems came against Ryan Raburn, Cleveland’s super sub who filled in at right field against White Sox lefty. Raburn collected a two-run home run and RBI single against the Chicago starter. He later added a solo blast against reliever Dylan Axelrod. It was the third multi-homer game of the season for the utility player who now has 13 homers and 37 RBI on the season.
Raburn’s three hits led a Cleveland 14-hit attack. Drew Stubbs and Carlos Santana also had a trio of hits, while Yan Gomes had a pair. Raburn’s two blasts were the only extra base hits as the Indians bludgeoned Chicago with singles.
Indians manager Terry Francona said he continues to be impressed with Raburn’s production off the bench.
“The role he’s in, he does a great job,” Francona said. “We’re fortunate because he can play when a starter’s down, he can play 3, 4, 5 days in a row. If a left hander is pitching it doesn’t bother him. (Other teams) have to respect his bat because he’s a threat.”
As for handing Sale, a pitcher with a 2.92 ERA, a third bad outing, Francona said he is not sure what the secret to his team’s success is.
“When you think you’ve got an answer, you probably don’t,” the Indians skipper said. “A lot of teams bench their lefties when he pitches. A lot of times he’s not facing your “A” lineup. We rested two guys (Jason Kipnis and Michael Bourn) and (Mike) Aviles got a hit and Raburn had a few hits. We match up well because we can send up pretty good right-handed hitters.”
Unlike his counterpart, Tribe ace Justin Masterson had little trouble carving up the White Sox for a fourth time this season. He breezed through the first six innings before struggling in the seventh and giving way to a bullpen that held strong. He went 6 and 2/3 frames, allowing one earned run, striking out seven and walking three. He is now 13-7, hitting a career high for wins, with an ERA of 3.33.
“He had a real good sinker and, on a day when the ball was really flying to right field, it was a good day to have sink,” Francona said of his No. 1 starter. “He had real good movement on that and it sort of set everything else up.”
It was the Indians who struck first, plating the game’s initial run in the second inning. Santana and Gomes singled. With two out, Mark Reynolds delivered a base hit to give Cleveland the early edge.
Raburn’s first long ball of the day came in the third and gave the Tribe a cushion at 3-0. The blast drove home Stubbs.
Cleveland scored its final two off Sale in the fifth. Raburn singled to again allow Stubbs to score. Cabrera added a sacrifice fly, closing the book on Sale’s tough day. Raburn picked up the second bomb in the seventh to end the scoring.
Masterson got in some trouble in the seventh, loading the bases with one out. He struck out Tyler Flowers for a huge second out, before Francona lifted him in favor of the left-handed Rich Hill. Hill was brought in to face lefty Alejandro De Aza who struck out.
Hill added a perfect eighth inning, while Joe Smith had a 1-2-3 ninth to complete the home win.
The Indians will now hit the road to visit the Miami Marlins for a three-game weekend series. It will be an interleague affair against the National League’s worst team, record-wise. The set will kick off Friday night at 7:05 p.m. with Ubaldo Jimenez taking the mound for Cleveland against Miami’s Jose Fernandez.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images