The Cleveland Indians began this week by creating separation atop the American League Central from one rival. They'll look to do the same tonight behind Jeanmar Gomez in the opener of a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox.
The surging Indians have won eight of their last 10 games and are coming off a three-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers. Thursday's 2-1 victory put Cleveland six games ahead of Detroit in the standings and kept the club three up on second-place Chicago.
Justin Masterson outdueled the Tigers' Justin Verlander, giving up a run on five hits and five walks over seven innings. Vinnie Pestano tossed a scoreless eighth and Chris Perez worked around a one-out single in the ninth to record his 16th save.
"He did walk a few guys but he hung in there real tough, especially in that last inning against their two best guys," Indians manager Manny Acta said about Masterson. "He pitched like a front of the rotation guy."
Shin-Soo Choo set the tone by hitting a leadoff homer off Verlander for the Tribe, who also got an RBI single from Jose Lopez in the fourth and now sit a season-high eight games over .500 (26-18).
They'll try to tack on to that win total tonight behind Gomez, who has allowed one unearned run in two starts since getting drilled by the White Sox on May 9.
Visiting Chicago touched the right-hander for eight runs over 6 2/3 frames, doing most of its damage during a six-run fourth. Gomez allowed the first five batters of the frame to reach base, giving up two walks and three singles. A.J. Pierzynski, Alexei Ramirez, Eduardo Escobar and Alejandro De Aza all had run-scoring singles off Gomez in the frame, dropping the 24-year-old to 2-1 with a 4.79 earned run average in four career games against the White Sox, including three starts.
Gomez, though, rebounded in a no-decision against the Twins on May 14, giving up an unearned run over seven frames. He then beat the Marlins on Saturday with 6 1/3 scoreless innings of three-hit ball. He allowed only one of his six baserunners to get past first base while improving to 3-2 with a 3.19 ERA in eight games -- seven starts -- this season.
Gomez will try to keep the White Sox in the yard tonight after they uncorked five homers in Thursday's 11-8 victory over the Twins. Three of those homers came in a six-run sixth inning, a frame that saw De Aza hit his first grand slam.
"I was just trying to hit the ball as hard as I can," he said.
Paul Konerko and Alex Rios hit back-to-back solo homers to start the sixth while Dayan Viciedo and Pierzynski each added solo shots for the White Sox, who have won six of their last seven and are over .500 (23-22) for the first time since they were 12-11 on May 1.
Konerko ended with a pair of hits and is batting .559 (19-for-34) over a 10- game hitting streak with four homers and nine RBI. He has 10 homers this season and 399 in his 13-plus seasons with the White Sox, leaving him one shy of joining Frank Thomas (448) as the only players to hit 400 or more homers in a White Sox uniform.
Jose Quintana will hope that the White Sox keep swinging a hot bat this evening when he makes the first start of his major league career.
The undrafted 23-year-old made his MLB debut on May 7 in Cleveland and pitched 5 2/3 innings of relief, giving up a hit and two walks with three strikeouts. He'll get the start tonight in the pace of John Danks, who is expected to go in the disabled list due to soreness in the back of his left shoulder.
The left-handed Quintana, who was the club's exception 26th man for a doubleheader when he made his debut, is 1-3 with a 2.77 ERA in nine starts with Double-A Birmingham this year.
The White Sox have won five of nine over the Indians so far this season, but did lose two of three at home on May 1-3.