By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
CLEVELAND: Anyone who can explain the phenomenon that is Ryan Raburn won’t have to worry about where his next few million dollars are coming from.
Raburn hit two more home runs in the Indians’ 6-1 win over the Chicago White Sox on Thursday at Progressive Field, as the Tribe ran its winning streak to eight games and pulled off its second series sweep in a row.
Keep in mind that Raburn is a bench player on whom Indians manager Terry Francona has seen fit to loosen the leash. That is, Raburn gets far fewer splinters in the seat of his pants because he has taken advantage of his opportunities, which in turn has allowed him to receive even more opportunities to play.
It also hasn’t hurt Raburn’s cause that Mark Reynolds has been in a slump for three months, though both of them were in the lineup Thursday.
“He’s doing a very good job in the role he’s in,” Francona said of Raburn. “You can play him once a week, use him as a pinch hitter or play him three or four days in a row.”
To get some idea of Raburn’s value, in his past seven games, he has batted .391 (9-for-23) with two doubles, three home runs and nine RBI.
For the season, 53 percent of his hits have gone for extra bases, and precious few players can boast of an extra-base hit percentage over 40.
Overall, Raburn is batting .283 with 13 doubles, 13 home runs and 37 RBI in 173 at-bats.
Projected over an entire season of 550 at-bats, he would accumulate 41 doubles, 41 homers and 118 RBI. Nobody is suggesting that Raburn would touch any of those numbers if he played every day, but that’s the kind of production he is giving the Indians.
“I don’t ever look at my numbers,” Raburn said. “Any time I can move a runner and play defense is what you take care of when you’re on the bench.”
Raburn is doing that and much more without playing regularly. He has played three days in a row only occasionally, and before his recent hot streak, Raburn hadn’t played in eight days.
Keep in mind that last year with the Detroit Tigers, Raburn endured his worst season, batting .171 with one homer and 12 RBI in 66 games.
“In fairness to the Tigers, they thought enough of him to make him their [starting] second baseman,” Francona said. “For whatever reason, he got off to a horrendous start and never recovered.”
Raburn concedes that last season was difficult.
“I knew I could still play,” he said. “But last year definitely gave me a different perspective; I got to understand that life is a lot more than going 0-for-4. I was pretty hard on myself.”
Among Raburn’s more notable numbers: He is batting .321 with runners in scoring position and .462 with runners in scoring position and two outs.
“Teams have to respect his bat and the fact that he keeps the line moving,” Francona said.
If last season sapped some of Raburn’s all-important confidence, apparently he got it all back over the winter.
“Confidence has a lot to do with it,” he said. “When you’re doing what you’re supposed to do and helping your team win, you definitely know you’re doing your job.”
Raburn has played in only five games against the Tigers, but three of his five hits against them are home runs, and he has six RBI in 14 at-bats.
“This year is one of those years when thing are going right,” he said. “I’m just trying to keep it going as long as I can.”
In addition to his two homers, Raburn singled and drove in four runs.
He wasn’t the only Tribe batter to contribute. Drew Stubbs and Carlos Santana also had three hits apiece, and Yan Gomes had two.
The White Sox put up little resistance on either side of the ball. Chris Sale (6-11, 2.92 ERA) gave up five runs and 10 hits in five innings, and the offense produced only five hits, including Alejandro DeAza’s home run in the sixth, cutting the lead to 5-1.
Justin Masterson (13-7, 3.33 ERA) worked 6⅔ innings and allowed one run and five hits, striking out seven. As usual, he credited his teammates with the win, Raburn in particular.
“The real story was Raburn,” Masterson said. “He was doing his thing today.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.