Even when the Cleveland Indians have played some bad baseball over the last few weeks, the stars seem to align to allow them to stay right in contention in the American League Wild Card picture.
While the Indians (77-68) dropped two of three to the hard charging Kansas City Royals at the beginning of the week, they somehow lost little ground, as Texas was swept by Pittsburgh, Tampa dropped a pair to Boston, and Baltimore lost two of three to New York.
The White Sox (58-87) are 25.5 games out in the AL Central. Of their division rivals, they have had the biggest problem solving the Indians, as they have dropped eleven of 13 matchups this season with Cleveland, including a 1-5 record at home. They have six total games remaining on the 2013 slate.
John Danks (4-12, 4.45 ERA) gets the nod for the White Sox in the series opener at 8:10 PM ET on Thursday. The left-hander allowed one earned run in six innings of work in a no-decision against Cleveland at the end of July. Corey Kluber (8-5, 3.54) won in his return from the 15-day disabled list with five innings of work against the New York Mets his last time out.
Hector Santiago (4-8, 3.44) and Danny Salazar (1-2, 2.92) will match up in Friday’s unusual 2:10 PM ET start. Santiago has won just one time in his last 13 starts, starting with a no-decision in Chicago’s 19-10 loss to Cleveland on June 28th. Salazar will make his first career start against the White Sox. He struck out eight in four innings against the Mets in his last outing.
Andre Rienzo (2-1, 4.50) will make the 7:10 PM ET first pitch for Robin Ventura’s Sox on Saturday. He earned a no-decision in a loss to Cleveland in his Major League debut, surrendering three earned runs while striking out six in seven innings. Ubaldo Jimenez (11-9, 3.62) has a 1.94 ERA since the All-Star break, despite a 4-5 record.
Chris Sale (11-12, 2.90) and Zach McAllister (7-9, 4.11) will conclude the series beginning at 2:10 PM ET on Sunday. Sale has a season-worst 8.31 ERA in three starts (all losses) against Cleveland this season. By comparison, he is 3-1 with a 2.27 ERA against Detroit in 2013. McAllister has struggled in three straight outings after winning three straight in August. He has given up 13 runs in his last 13 1/3 innings.
All four games will be broadcast in the Cleveland market by Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio. Three of the four games will be shown on Comcast SportsNet in the Chicagoland area, with the exception of Saturday’s game, which will be broadcast on WGN. Radio broadcasts of the series can be heard on the affiliates of both the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and the Chicago White Sox Radio Network.
With an opportunity to gain significant ground in the AL Wild Card picture, the Indians dropped the final two games of their homestand against the Kansas City Royals.
The Indians won Monday, 4-3, behind another strong outing from the surprising Jimenez. The Indians previously distrusted starter pitched seven innings and struck out ten. He allowed just one run on seven hits and did not walk a batter. Cleveland got on the board with a solo homer from Asdrubal Cabrera in the second. Jose Ramirez scored all the way from first on a groundout by Drew Stubbs, as his hustle extended the play and a wild throw from Eric Hosmer allowed the rookie to score. Yan Gomes and Carlos Santana added solo home runs and the Indians withstood eighth and ninth inning rally efforts by the Royals.
Cleveland could not figure out Jeremy Guthrie on Tuesday night, as the Royals claimed a 6-3 victory. McAllister pitched into the sixth inning but allowed four runs on six hits. The former Indian Guthrie gave up nine hits, but only one run scored during his six innings of work. A two-run double by Michael Bourn in the seventh cut the deficit to two at the time, but the Indians would climb no closer.
James Shields stymied the Indians on Wednesday, allowing a pair of singles in the first and ninth innings, as the Royals defeated Scott Kazmir and the Indians, 6-2. Kazmir (8-8) gave up four runs on nine hits in four-plus innings for the loss. Shields pitched two batters into the ninth inning, allowing two runs on four hits while striking out seven for his eleventh win of the year. Greg Holland closed out the ninth when Shields exited for his 42nd save. Michael Brantley scored the Indians’ only runs with a two-out single in the first inning.
Carlos Carrasco is expected to rejoin the team sometime during the series with Chicago after leaving the team to tend to a personal matter.
Brantley has been one of few Indians to hit well against Quintana in his career, with five hits in eleven at bats (.455) and two RBI.
Ryan Raburn has six hits in 16 career at bats against Sale with five RBI. Five of the six hits have been for extra bases (three doubles, two home runs). He has just one hit in nine plate appearances against Quintana. Limited during the homestand while dealing with problems stemming from his strained left Achilles tendon, Raburn is expected to see playing time against the White Sox lefties during the four-game series, including a start on Thursday against Danks.
Five different Indians have batting averages below .143 in their career against Sale – Lonnie Chisenhall (.143), Brantley (.125), Mike Aviles (.083), Bourn (.000), and Matt Carson (.000). Brantley has struck out in eight of his 18 plate appearances.
The Indians have the second-fewest hits in the American League in September with 73. Three different starters are hitting below .200 in the month, including Bourn (.154 – six hits), Stubbs (.111 – three hits), and Cabrera (.103 – three hits).
The Indians pitching staff has accumulated the third-highest number of strikeouts in all of baseball this month with 91. Their 3.40 team ERA is third-best in the AL.
The White Sox made things interesting with the Detroit Tigers during the week, despite losing two of three games.
Sale outdueled Max Scherzer on Monday as the White Sox defeated the Tigers, 5-1, on Monday. Scherzer lasted just four innings and allowed five runs on six hits in earning his third loss of the year. Sale pitched eight innings, allowing one run on four hits with eight strikeouts while dropping his ERA to 2.90. Paul Konerko drove in a pair in the first with a single. Chicago added three more runs in the fourth, courtesy of Dayan Viciedo and Josh Phegley. Miguel Cabrera and manager Jim Leyland were both ejected in the first inning for arguing a checked swing called strike.
Rick Porcello threw a complete game and the Tigers struck for nine runs, five of which were unearned, as Detroit knocked off Chicago 9-1 on Tuesday. Porcello allowed one run on seven hits. Erik Johnson (0-2) retired two batters in the fourth, but had allowed six runs by that point. Only two of those runs were earned. Konerko and Conor Gillaspie each had two hits.
Anibal Sanchez and Jose Quintana engaged in a pitchers’ duel on Wednesday, but Sanchez came away victorious as the Tigers scored one run in the eighth to pull out the 1-0 win. Reliever Matt Lindstrom (2-4) allowed the go-ahead single to Omar Infante to score Prince Fielder. Rookie second baseman Leury Garcia, acquired in the Alex Rios trade, had three of the White Sox’ five hits.
The nine White Sox players who have batted against Jimenez in their career have combined to hit .306 against him with three home runs and 21 RBI.
Adam Dunn has struck out four times in eleven plate appearances against Kluber. He has hit .143 for his career against McAllister.
Jeff Keppinger has six hits in twelve career plate appearances (.600) against McAllister. Gillaspie has just one hit in eight at bats.
Quintana has limited hitters on the Indians’ roster to a .198 batting average over the last two seasons.
As a team, the White Sox have the second-worst batting average (.220) and on-base percentage (.269) in the month of September in all of baseball. Their 28 RBI in the month is the second lowest in the AL.
The Indians will head to Kansas City to play their final three games against a team with a winning record, the Royals, starting on Monday. The White Sox will host the Minnesota Twins for three games beginning Monday as well.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images