White Sox-Indians Preview

While Justin Masterson again finds himself in a successful
stretch for the surging Cleveland Indians, Chris Sale remains a
recipient of hard luck for the lowly Chicago White Sox.

The All-Star aces square off when the Indians try for an eighth
consecutive victory and a four-game sweep of the visiting White Sox
on Thursday.

Cleveland (59-48) tied the game with two runs in the ninth
inning Wednesday, then won 6-5 on Carlos Santana’s homer in the
10th. Winners in 12 of 16, the Indians last won eight straight
April 3-11, 2011.

“Winning and the way you’re winning breeds confidence,” said
manager Terry Francona, whose team is 7-1 in extra innings. “I
always think we have a chance.”

The Indians have averaged 7.4 runs during a seven-game winning
streak over the White Sox (40-65), who have dropped six in a row
and 12 of 15.

“None of us have the answer for what’s going on,” losing
pitcher Dylan Axelrod said. “When things are going bad, things are
going bad.”

Things likely won’t get an easier for the White Sox against
Masterson (12-7, 3.42 ERA), who has allowed three runs, 10 hits and
struck out 22 over 21 1-3 innings to go 2-0 in his last three
starts. The right-hander yielded five of those hits and fanned
eight in 7 2-3 innings to best Yu Darvish in Saturday’s 1-0 victory
over Texas.

“He’s taken that title of an ace and ran with it,” setup man Joe
Smith told the Indians’ official website. “He wants it. He wants to
be in that position. That’s awesome to have a guy that wants it
like that.”

Masterson has given up three runs over 31 innings in his last
four starts versus Chicago, including two in 25 this season. He
tossed a six-hitter and struck out eight in a 4-0 victory June 30
at U.S. Cellular Field, when Sale (6-10, 2.69) yielded three runs
and fanned 10 in eight innings.

The left-hander is the first White Sox pitcher since Mark
Buehrle in 2002 to lose four times in a season when lasting at
least eight innings and giving up three or fewer earned runs.
That’s been the case in Sale’s last two, where he’s allowed three
earned in 17 innings but lost both.

He gave up a run while going the distance in Saturday’s 1-0 loss
to Kansas City to fall to 1-8 with a 2.84 ERA in his last 10
starts.

Sale’s 2.50 run-support average is the worst in the majors.

“It’s not easy to try and explain it to him,” manager Robin
Ventura said. “But he’s learned a tough lesson and part of
baseball. He pitched great tonight, there’s no question about it.
You can’t be perfect but he’s pretty dang close.”

The worst outing of Sale’s career came at Progressive Field on
April 13, when he allowed eight runs, including six on homers to
Mark Reynolds and Nick Swisher, in 4 1-3 innings of a 9-2
defeat.

Though Chicago traded pitchers Jake Peavy, Jesse Crain and Matt
Thornton this month, it held on to veteran outfielder Alex Rios,
who is 3 for 12 in this series and batting .206 with nine
strikeouts in the last eight games.

He’s 1 for 10 versus Masterson this season.

Swisher is batting .333 (7 for 21) in his last six versus
Chicago, and 2 for his last 5 with that homer and a double against
Sale.