CHICAGO: What is Chicago’s second-favorite baseball team and has been outscored 106-51 by the Indians?
Let’s hear it for the White Sox. Without them, the Tribe’s playoff hopes might be in dire straits.
As it is, the Indians trail co-wild card holders the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers by only one-half game, heading into a three-game series against the Royals in Kansas City.
Even with staff ace Chris Sale on the mound for the Sox, the Tribe buried them again 7-1 with a barrage of home runs to complete a four-game sweep in which the Indians prevailed by a composite score of 32-6.
“This means we’re not quite where we need to be,” manager Terry Francona said of being so close to the wild card leaders. “It also means these next games are more exciting and more meaningful.”
It was the Tribe’s 15th win in 17 games against the White Sox with two more to play in Cleveland. And to think, the Sox had to wait four hours, 23 minutes before taking their usual beating. It rained all morning in Chicago; it kept raining until 4:30 in the afternoon, with the game starting at 5:30. Since it was the Indians’ final trip of the season to U.S. Cellular Field, and the game was pertinent to the postseason picture, the teams were forced to wait out the persistent showers.
“Not to make light of it, but the guys watched football and had some fun during the delay,” Francona said.
Added September call-up Matt Carson, one of the offensive heroes: “I knew last night I was going to play. Sleep wasn’t quite that restful knowing I was going to play, so [the delay] kind of calmed my nerves. I just watched football. It was like a regular Sunday.”
The last time the Tribe beat a team 15 or more times the same season was 1960, when the Kansas City Athletics fell to the Wicked Wahoos 15 times and the Washington Senators went down 16 times. In those years, each team played one another 22 times.
The Indians achieved another milestone, sweeping the Sox in three four-game series for the year. According to Elias Sports Bureau, that feat never has been accomplished in the 113-year modern history of the Tribe (since 1901).
The last time it was done by any team was 1963, when the Dodgers buried the Mets, who lost 111 that season.
“We played a good series,” Francona said. “That’s the way I look at it.”
Sunday’s game was as noncompetitive as most of the Tribe-White Sox matchups. Zach McAllister had things his own way until the seventh, when he finally gave up a run by yielding three singles, with Josh Phegley getting the RBI hit.
“I felt pretty aggressive with my fastball,” McAllister said. “I was able to locate it, and l was able to keep them off balance. Mostly, I had real good rhythm out there.”
For the first five innings, McAllister (8-9, 3.96 ERA) allowed only one hit and for the first six innings just three.
“I thought Zach’s stuff today was as good as I’ve seen it,” Francona said. “He wasn’t throwing, he was pitching.”
Sale is the top starter on the Sox staff, one of the better pitchers in the American League, who came into the game with a 2.90 ERA. But his record was only 11-12, and when he left after giving up six runs in 5⅔ innings, he ensured his fourth loss of the year in four starts against the Tribe.
“It looked like he was pretty amped up for a while,” Francona said. “He got a lot of early strikeouts (five in three innings). But he made some mistakes, and we hit them.”
Carson set the tone in the fifth inning with a solo homer. Carson also singled twice, walked and stole a base.
“It’s definitely been awhile,” he said of the home run. “When you do it in a game like this, it’s a good feeling.”
His last big-league homer came against the Rangers in September of 2010, when he was with the A’s.
In the fifth, Nick Swisher picked up on the theme by hitting his 19th of the year with nobody on base. Later in the inning, Asdrubal Cabrera whacked a three-run blast for his 14th home run of the season and fifth in eight days.
Swisher hit his 20th in the ninth inning to account for the final Tribe run. The switch hitter went deep from both sides of the plate for the 13th time in his career, tying a major-league record shared by Mark Teixeira.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.