The Cleveland Indians try to make it a clean sweep of the Chicago White Sox on Sunday as the two American League Central clubs close out a four-game set at U.S. Cellular Field.
The first three games of the series have been filled with excitement, generated mostly by the visiting Tribe. Cleveland won the opener on Friday, the first half of a doubleheader, in a wild 19-10 display and then came back to capture a thrilling 9-8 victory in the nightcap. The dramatic play continued on Saturday as well, with the Indians pulling out a 4-3 win, their fourth in the last five outings, moving them to within a single game of division-leading Detroit.
Playing the hero for the second time in as many games, Nick Swisher singled to center in the top of the eighth inning, scoring Asdrubal Cabrera with what proved to be the winning run. Swisher, who is batting just .235 at this point in the campaign, also had a clutch hit for the Tribe in the second game of their doubleheader on Friday night/Saturday morning.
"It's that never-die attitude," Swisher said. "I just feel like we keep fighting. We keep doing our thing. This is a good squad."
Cabrera scored two of the four runs registered by Cleveland, while Jason Kipnis continued to swing a hot bat with two hits, one home run, and a pair of RBI. Kipnis now has 18 hits in the last 10 games and has reached safely in 32 consecutive outings dating back to May 26.
Cleveland starter Ubaldo Jimenez lasted just five innings after giving up three runs on nine hits and four walks, although he did strikeout eight along the way. Joe Martinez picked up the win and Chris Perez his seventh save of 2013.
"More than anything, I'm super excited for big Joe Martinez getting his first win of the year," Swisher said. "Him coming up, it's great, man. It's awesome."
Like Jimenez, Chicago's Dylan Axelrod also failed to figure into the decision as he permitted three runs on five hits -- two home runs -- and three walks over six innings. Jesse Crain was handed the loss as he gave up the late game- winner to Swisher, snapping what had been a run of 31 straight innings without allowing an earned run for the reliever.
Of the 11 hits put up by Chicago, three were posted by Dayan Viciedo, another two from Conor Gillaspie as he knocked in one run and scored once.
The Indians are set to hand the ball to Justin Masterson this afternoon as they try to make it a clean sweep of Chicago on the road. The right-hander, who broke in with Boston back in 2008, has bowed in three of his last four decisions, yet he is still shooting for his 10th victory of the campaign just the same.
On Tuesday the San Diego State product clashed with Baltimore on the road and surrendered six runs on six hits -- two home runs -- while striking out seven in 6 1/3 innings of action.
Masterson faced off against the White Sox two times during the month of April and came up with wins both times.
Despite having an ERA of just 2.75 at the moment, Chicago's Chris Sale is one game under .500 due to a recent run of bad luck. Prior to coming up with no decision against the New York Mets on Tuesday when he gave up three runs on four hits through eight innings, fanning 13 batters along the way, Sale got very little offensive support during a four-game slide.
A left-hander out of Lakeland, Florida, Sale had at one point earned four wins in as many decisions between April 25 and May 17, but then he missed time due to a mild case of tendinitis in his left posterior shoulder and has not been the same since.
Sale, who has registered at least a dozen strikeouts in three of his last six appearances, was pitted against Cleveland batters back in April and was knocked around for eight runs on eight hits in just 4 1/3 innings of action.
Chicago, which has now bowed in four straight and five of the last six outings, is all alone in last place in the division, 10 1/2 games out of contention.
With the setback on Saturday, the Sox now trail the season series with Cleveland by a 6-2 margin, a far cry from the previous two campaigns when Chicago posted 11-7 series advantages over the Indians.