Sale canceled as Indians sweep White Sox

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians continue to roll.

And some things they are doing defy logical explanation.

Thursday afternoon’s 6-1 win over Chicago was neat and tidy and wrapped up a four-game sweep of a White Sox team that probably could not wait to leave Cleveland.

But how it happened leads to some head scratching.

Chicago started 24-year-old Chris Sale, one of the best and most promising young lefties in the game. Entering the game, he had a 2.59 ERA and had given up more than four earned runs in a start only once. But that one time was against the Indians.

Thursday, they battered him again, scoring five times in five innings in a 6-1 win.

There isn’t a player on the Indians who would not gush at Sale’s ability and stuff.

Yet against the Indians this season Sale is 0-3.

His ERA overall is 2.92. 

His ERA against every team other than the Indians is 2.17.

His ERA against the Indians: 8.31.

“When you think you’ve got the answer to why, you probably don’t,” manager Terry Francona said.

“Baseball,” said Jason Giambi. “I mean, the guy’s phenomenal. Sometimes that’s just baseball. It’s one of those things that maybe you don’t try to figure it out.”

Sale has 18 starts when he’s given up four runs or fewer, two when he’s give up five or more — both against the Indians.

Is there some secret or magic to it?

“No,” said Ryan Raburn, whose right-field drive in the third got caught in the wind and placed over the fence for a two-run home run. “He’s one of the best in the game. We just try to battle and we’ve had some success off him. There’s no rhyme or reason for it.”

Just as there is no rhyme or reason for the Indians being 7-1 this season against former Cy Young winners. Just as there may not be a ton of rhyme or reason to Raburn’s season. The guy has always had ability, but a year ago he was run out of Detroit when he couldn’t handle the second base job fulltime. Francona and GM Chris Antonetti talked about Raburn the day after Francona was hired, and the Indians did not wait when Detroit let him go.

Raburn played 66 games in Detroit last season, and hit .171 with one home run.

He’s a different player as a part-time guy off the bench in Cleveland. In 61 games, he’s hitting .283 with 13 home runs and 37 RBI, including two home runs and four RBI on Thursday.

“The story of this game was Ryan Raburn doing his thing,” said Justin Masterson, who passed the praise despite improving to 13-7 and hitting a career high in wins.

Raburn’s first homer of the day came when he hit one into what Francona called the “jet stream” to right.

“I think I had a little help on that one,” Raburn said. “I think the good Lord up above had his eyes on me. Every once in a while you need one of those, especially against Sale.”

The second was into the teeth of the jet stream and it carried to the bleachers in left.

“I hit that one pretty good,” Raburn said.

Raburn has hit two home runs in a game three times this season, the most by an Indian since Grady Sizemore in 2008. He’s also three short of matching his career high — as a bench/situational guy.

But Raburn’s attitude and humility fit perfectly with what Francona wants, and like the other bench players — Giambi, Yan Gomes and Mike Aviles — he fits on the Indians. 

“(Teams) have to respect his bat,” Francona said.

The Indians now have matched their longest winning streak of the year with eight. They swept the White Sox twice in four-game series this season for the first time in team history. They are 12 games above .500 and would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.

Of course it doesn’t, and the Indians know that.

But to say they have a legitimate chance as they had to Miami for three games against the Marlins — who have the National League’s worst record but are 25-30 at home — and that they are playing well is not overstating a thing.

“I like where this team is at,” Masterson said, adding: “Everyone seems to be in a really good spot.”

As a crowd of just more than 20,000 filed out of an afternoon game, the scoreboard touted the next home series beginning Monday against Detroit.

The battle for the Central Division, it said.

Imagine that.

No mention of fireworks, hot dogs or bobbleheads.

Just a baseball series in August that matters.