With Chris Sale out of the picture and Carlos Carrasco back in it, the Cleveland Indians have a chance to start stringing ever-important wins together.
After pounding Chicago's ace, the Indians look for Carrasco to continue his climb back from the disabled list as they try to draw closer to a wild-card spot against the White Sox on Saturday night.
Cleveland (73-73) used a Carlos Santana grand slam in a six-run third inning off Sale to win the opener 12-1, but the Indians have traded wins and losses in their last six games. There is barely any wiggle room left as they trail Houston for the AL's second wild card by three games and sit behind two others with 16 to play.
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A big boost would be a late surge at the plate from Santana, who hit his first home run since Aug. 23 and 16th of the season to go with 72 RBIs and a .237 batting average.
''We've all waited for that one real hot streak,'' said manager Terry Francona, whose team totaled five runs while being swept in four at home against Chicago in July. ''He's always had that. In this last 16 games that would really be something to get him hot.''
Cleveland has a shot at its 16th win in 23 games if Carrasco (13-10, 3.62 ERA) can avoid pitching the way he has against the White Sox and instead do what he did in his second start back from a right shoulder injury on Monday.
After returning with a dismal start against Chicago, Carrasco found his old form in an 8-3 win over Kansas City. He held the Royals to one run in six innings, striking out nine, to pick up his first win since Aug. 21.
But the right-hander is 3-7 with a 6.08 ERA in 12 career starts against the White Sox, including a 1-3 mark and 10.03 ERA in four this season.
Carrasco came back from the DL with his second-shortest outing of the year, allowing four runs in 2 2-3 innings of a 7-4 loss to Chicago on Sept. 8. His only shorter one came against the White Sox on April 14, when he was forced to leave without recording an out after giving up two runs and taking a line drive off the side of his face.
Carlos Rodon (7-6, 3.94) earned the win against Carrasco earlier this month after limiting the Indians to one run in seven innings, improving to 2-0 and lowering his ERA to 1.64 in three starts and a relief appearance against Cleveland in his rookie season.
The White Sox (69-77) skipped Rodon's latest turn in the rotation, giving the left-hander a breather since his 135 2-3 combined innings between the majors and minors are a career high.
"I don't know if he necessarily needed it, but I think with what we have within the rotation, you're able to give him that break," manager Robin Ventura told MLB's official website.
Carrasco was held to 58 and 82 pitches in his first two starts back from the DL, respectively, but will not have a pitch count Saturday.