White Sox-Indians preview

CLEVELAND -- After finishing an exhausting portion of the schedule with a messy loss in Kansas City on Wednesday night, the Cleveland Indians enjoyed a welcome off day on Thursday.

The brief break came after the Indians played 20 games in 20 days, ending with a 9-4 loss to the Royals on Wednesday.

The Indians went 10-10 in their 20-game endurance test that was climaxed by a 10-game trip to Seattle, Anaheim and Kansas City.

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The Indians went 4-6 on the road swing, capped with a three-game sweep by the Royals. The 9-4 loss in the final game was a team effort: poor pitching by Corey Kluber, who gave up eight runs in five innings, poor hitting by the lineup, which managed just five hits, and poor defense as the Indians committed two errors.

After the game, Indians manager Terry Francona threw himself under the bus.

"We didn't play very well and that's on me," Francona said. "We were not prepared to play tonight, and I guarantee that will change."

In getting swept in Kansas City, the American League Central-leading Indians saw their three-game lead over the second-place Royals evaporate. The Indians now return to Progressive Field for a six-game homestand, starting Friday night with a three-game series against AL Central opponent Chicago.

In the first game of the series, the Indians will send Trevor Bauer (4-2, 3.69 ERA) to the mound.

Bauer, who will be pitching with an extra day's rest between starts thanks to Thursday's off day, is coming off two strong starts on the road, pitching 7 2/3 innings in a win over Seattle and eight innings in a no-decision at Anaheim. He had a 1.72 ERA with 13 strikeouts and two walks in the two starts.

The White Sox, who were also off on Thursday, just concluded a 4-5 homestand against Washington, Kansas City and Detroit.

Chicago's offense has received a boost from manager Robin Ventura's decision to insert rookie shortstop Tim Anderson into the leadoff spot and putting center fielder Adam Eaton in the No. 2 hole.

Ventura made the lineup change at the start of the three-game series with the Tigers. Anderson and Eaton responded by reaching base a combined 16 times and the Tigers scored 23 runs in the series.

In six games since being recalled from Triple-A Charlotte, Anderson is hitting .320 (8-25), with three doubles and a triple. That includes going 5-for-16 (.375) with two doubles and a triple while batting leadoff in the Detroit series.

"T.A. brings an element there," Ventura told "You know, he's fun to watch when he gets it going. As soon as he puts it in play, you like watching him run. He's had great at-bats. I think that's the other thing. He looks really comfortable."

Jose Quintana will start Friday's game for Chicago. The White Sox have scored an average of just 2.76 runs in Quintana's 13 starts, which helps explain why he is just 5-7 despite a 2.66 ERA that ranks fourth in the AL.