Facing the Chicago White Sox seems to bring out the best in the Cleveland Indians.
Looking to continue its playoff push, Cleveland goes for a 10th consecutive win over the last-place White Sox on Friday.
The Indians (78-68) had been limited to 10 runs during a 1-3 funk before breaking out with a 14-3 rout in Thursday’s opener. Ryan Raburn and Nick Swisher both went deep and drove in a combined eight runs for Cleveland, which remains 1 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay for the AL’s second wild-card spot.
The Indians also moved within six games of AL Central-leading Detroit, which was idle.
“We’re trying to get into that playoff regardless of however we do it, whether it’s wild card or division,” said Swisher, batting .320 with three homers and nine RBIs in his last six games. “We’re going to keep fighting until the last out.”
Cleveland has dominated the White Sox (58-88) this season, taking 12 of 14 matchups, including nine straight by a 72-36 margin. That winning streak is the Indians’ longest in the history of the series dating to 1901.
Chicago has also dropped 12 of 14 overall, a stretch during which it has hit .216 and been outscored 77-38. Adam Dunn is mired in a 4-for-47 slump (.085), and leadoff hitter Alejandro De Aza is 4 for his last 31 (.129). Catcher Josh Phegley has also struggled, going 7 for 39 (.179) in his last 13 games
The White Sox now face Indians rookie Danny Salazar (1-2, 2.92 ERA), who has struck out 45 over seven starts spanning 37 innings while holding opponents to a .209 average. The 23-year-old right-hander allowed one run and struck out eight Sunday against the New York Mets, but was removed after throwing 80 pitches. Cleveland went on to lose 2-1.
“The good thing was that he was strong, but maybe he was too strong,” manager Terry Francona said. “He had a real hard time keeping the ball down. Because of that his pitch count was high.”
The Indians may continue to play it safe with Salazar, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010 and has already pitched a career-high 130 innings between the minors and majors. Friday marks his first appearance versus the White Sox, who counter with Hector Santiago (4-8, 3.44).
The left-hander has allowed one or two earned runs in nine of his last 12 starts, but is 1-3 over that stretch thanks in part to receiving an average of just 2.54 runs of support.
Santiago gave up two runs in five innings Saturday in a 4-3, 10-inning loss at Baltimore.
Santiago has managed to escape without a decision despite compiling a 12.71 ERA in two home starts versus Cleveland. He surrendered five runs in 2 1-3 innings - the shortest start of his career - in a 19-10 loss June 28.
Santiago will need to be careful against Raburn, who is batting .400 with four homers and 16 RBIs in 10 games versus Chicago this year. He is hitting .333 against southpaws, significantly higher than his .252 mark against righties.
“We said coming into the series that Raburn would play a big part because we’re going to face three lefties,” Francona said. “He not only gets his, but he gives us a lot of production for a guy that plays maybe half the year.”
Jason Kipnis is batting .423 with a homer, 11 RBIs and eight walks during an eight-game stretch against the White Sox.