CHICAGO -- Justin Masterson gave the red-hot Cleveland Indians just what they needed on Sunday afternoon.
After allowing six runs and taking a loss in his last start, Masterson was masterful against the Chicago White Sox in a 4-0 complete-game shutout win at U.S. Cellular Field. Cleveland swept a four-game series against the Sox and has now won 10 of its last 13 games.
Combined with the Detroit Tigers' loss at Tampa Bay, the Indians (44-38) pulled even for first place in the American League Central as they head to Kansas City for a three-game set that starts on Tuesday.
It was the fifth straight defeat for Chicago (32-47), which has lost 13 of its last 17 games and 23 of its last 30 and continues to languish in last place of the AL Central 10 1/2 games back of the Indians and Tigers.
Before the game, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn met with reporters and expressed hope that an extended winning streak would keep him from selling off desirable parts of the team prior to the trade deadline in exchange for valued prospects.
There was no winning streak started in this game, though. Masterson (10-6), who came into the game with a 2.47 ERA in 21 career games against the White Sox, outdueled Chicago ace Chris Sale on a sun-soaked, windy afternoon. Masterson scattered five hits, walked one, struck out eight and needed only 112 pitches to go the distance.
Masterson also got the White Sox to hit into four double plays, including three after Cleveland scored the only runs of the game in the fourth and fifth innings. He also struck out Alex Rios looking to end the game with runners on first and second.
Catcher Yan Gomes led the way offensively for Cleveland, going 3-for-4. Left fielder Michael Brantley went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and Drew Stubbs finished 2-for-5 with an RBI double in the ninth.
Sale (5-7) took the loss but was nearly as impressive. The hard-throwing left-hander struck out 10 and lasted eight innings by throwing 80 of his 123 pitches for strikes. He only walked one and allowed seven hits -- but five of those hits were part of Cleveland's rallies in the middle innings.
The Indians also tacked on a run off three hits in the ninth against three Sox relievers for insurance.
Cleveland took a 2-0 lead on three hits off Sale in the fourth -- highlighted by Ryan Raburn's RBI double -- and extended it to 3-0 an inning later on two hits and a fielder's choice grounder that scored Brantley.
Until those two innings, Sale was nearly untouchable.
Sale set down the first nine hitters he faced in order and struck out five in the process while walking none.
A perfectly placed bunt by Stubbs down the third-base line to lead off the fourth, however, gave the Indians their first hit and base runner. It also sparked a two-run rally during which Raburn doubled Stubbs home before scoring on a single by Carlos Santana.
Gomes doubled in Brantley, who led off the fifth with a single, and Masterson suddenly had a somewhat comfortable lead to protect.
NOTES: Hahn said of growing speculation that the White Sox are a seller a month before baseball's trade deadline: "As we sit here right now, our strong preference is that we start rattling off a winning streak that gets us right back in the thick of this thing," Hahn said. "We feel the talent's there and the upside remains there. Stranger things have happened. If that does happen, then we're going to return to our accustomed role at the deadline, and that is looking to add guys and continue that run." ... White Sox 1B/DH Paul Konerko didn't start for the sixth straight game with back soreness, but after the team's day off on Monday he plans to play Tuesday against the Baltimore Orioles. ... Cleveland didn't have starting CF Michael Bourn on Sunday. He flew home to be with his expectant wife, who's close to giving birth. Bourn is also expected to miss Tuesday's game against the Royals in Kansas City before rejoining the team. The Indians recalled LHP Nick Hagadone to take Bourn's spot on the roster.