Indians-White Sox Preview
Despite being in the midst of the AL wild-card chase, the Cleveland Indians haven't been greeted by much enthusiasm from their home fans, at least in terms of attendance.
Maybe going on the road for the next seven games will help, especially considering the trip opens against the division's worst team.
The Indians try to bounce back after back-to-back home losses as they visit the Chicago White Sox on Thursday night.
Though Cleveland (77-68) dropped its last two of a three-game set against Kansas City, the club trails Tampa Bay by 1 1/2 games for the league's second wild-card spot. But a 6-2 defeat Wednesday cost the Indians a chance to trim that lead to one-half game as the Rays suffered a 7-3 loss to Boston in 10 innings.
A playoff berth would be just the second in the franchise's last 12 seasons. Despite that and a 45-30 home record - the AL's second-highest home win total - the announced attendance for the entire series with the Royals was just 34,494. That included a crowd of 9,794 in Monday's 4-3 win, the smallest attendance for a September crowd at Progressive Field, which opened in 1994.
"We would like to be supported a little bit more, if we could," said outfielder Michael Bourn, who is batting .154 over his last 10 games with 13 strikeouts. "We're in the hunt for the second wild card. It's been a long time since there's been a team in the wild-card race here."
The seven-game trip should be more welcoming, at least for four games with the White Sox (58-87), who have dropped 11 of the teams' last 13 meetings, including eight straight.
Corey Kluber (8-5, 3.54 ERA) gets the ball for Cleveland in his second start since missing a month due to a sprained middle finger. He allowed two runs and five hits over five-plus innings in a 9-4 win over the New York Mets on Saturday, picking up his first victory in five outings.
"He looked pretty much like he hadn't skipped a beat," manager Terry Francona told the team's official website. "For a layoff like that, that was outstanding."
Facing a White Sox offense that has produced just 35 runs during a 2-11 stretch might not present much of a challenge for Kluber, who threw a career-high 8 2-3 innings in a 6-5, 10-inning win over Chicago on July 31. No White Sox player with more than three at-bats against Kluber is hitting better than .250, with Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko and Alexei Ramirez going a combined 6 for 27. Those three were 0 for 11 with seven strikeouts in a 1-0 home loss to Detroit on Wednesday.
Chicago will counter with left-hander John Danks (4-12, 4.45), who has seemingly regressed after limiting opponents to two runs over 14 innings in back-to-back wins. He has lost two starts since while surrendering 10 runs in 10 1-3 innings.
Danks yielded three homers - the fourth time this year he's allowed at least three - over 5 1-3 innings in a 4-0 loss at Baltimore on Friday.
"The few mistakes I made, they hit them out of the ballpark," said Danks, who gave up two runs and two hits over six-plus innings of a 3-2 loss at Cleveland on July 29.
Nick Swisher wasn't in Wednesday's lineup but likely will be back Thursday as he's 5 for 15 off Danks with four walks.