For the Cleveland Indians, their first playoff berth in six years is slowly becoming more of a reality.
The surging Indians look for their 15th win in 18 games, and will try to increase their AL Central lead on Tuesday night when they continue their three-game series with the woeful Chicago White Sox.
Cleveland (84-60), looking to reach the postseason since 2001, starts play with a six-game lead over second-place Detroit. The Indians and Tigers have one more series remaining in the regular season, starting Sept. 17 in Cleveland.
Rookie Asdrubal Cabrera hit a tiebreaking two-run homer in the seventh inning on Monday to lead Cleveland to a 6-2 win in a game that included a rain delay of 2 hours, 23 minutes. Cabrera, a second baseman recalled on Aug. 7, has a nine-game hitting streak this month in which he’s batting .371 (13-for-35).
“The reports were great on him all year from Double-A. In the short period of the time he was in Triple-A he had great reports too,” Cleveland manager Eric Wedge. “He has done a fantastic job. He’s been in the middle of everything in the short period of time he’s been here.”
Chicago (61-83), meanwhile, has lost 21 of 28 and is tied with perennial doormat Tampa Bay for the majors’ worst record.
White Sox designated hitter Jim Thome singled and scored in the first, but still is two homers shy of becoming the third player this year and 23rd in major league history with 500 homers. Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees and Toronto’s Frank Thomas already reached the milestone in 2007.
Thome is hitting .348 (8-for-23) with a homer and seven RBIs in his career against Paul Byrd (14-6, 4.34 ERA), who will make his fourth start of the year for Cleveland against the White Sox, but his first in Chicago.
On Sept. 1, the right-hander improved to 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA against the White Sox after tossing a four-hitter for his second complete game this year in Cleveland’s 7-0 win. Byrd hasn’t allowed a run in either of his wins over Chicago in 2007.
He will be making his first start at US Cellular Field since Sept. 8, 2006, and is 3-0 with a 3.54 ERA in four career starts there.
Byrd also will try to avoid losing consecutive starts for the first time this year. On Thursday, he gave up five runs and eight hits in 4 2-3 innings of a 10-3 loss to the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels.
White Sox rookie John Danks (6-13. 5.41) will try to end two long streaks— and avoid a dubious mark in team history—as he makes his first appearance in nearly two weeks after skipping a start to avoid being overworked.
The right-hander has lost his last six starts and is winless in eight since defeating Cleveland on July 16 at Jacobs Field. Since 1920, no White Sox rookie pitcher lost seven straight starts in one season.
Pitching against the Rangers on Aug. 30, the Texas native tied a career high with eight strikeouts over 5 2-3 innings But he was tagged for five runs, only two of which were earned thanks to three throwing errors by fellow rookie third baseman Andy Gonzalez, and seven hits in a 5-1 loss
“I think Danks threw the ball real well. He deserved a little bit better than that,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said after his team dropped 20 games under .500 for the first time since 1989.
Danks has gotten just seven runs of support during his losing streak and only 10 in his winless stretch. He’s 1-2 with a 4.76 ERA in three starts against Cleveland this season, including a home defeat on Aug. 7 when he fanned eight over six innings.