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.