Tribe staying strong as playoff chase heats up
The Cleveland Indians have posted back-to-back shutouts as they get ready to welcome the AL's worst offense to town.
Zach McAllister will try to help the Indians post three straight shutouts for the first time in nearly 57 years heading into Monday night's opener of a four-game set against the Chicago White Sox.
Cleveland (56-48) seeks its first five-game win streak since June 28-July 2, with tremendous pitching performances accounting for the last two victories.
Justin Masterson and two relievers combined on a five-hitter in a 1-0 victory over Texas on Saturday before Ubaldo Jimenez and Vinnie Pestano yielded two total hits in a 6-0 win Sunday.
The Indians haven't recorded three consecutive shutouts since Sept. 18-19, 1956, against the Washington Senators. Herb Score, Mike Garcia and Bob Lemon all went the distance in those games.
McAllister (4-6, 3.57 ERA) can't be expected to do the same since he has never thrown a complete game. He hasn't lasted past the sixth inning in any of his last four starts.
The right-hander returned last Tuesday and made his first start since June 2 after being on the disabled list with a sprained right middle finger. He gave up four runs over five innings in a 109-pitch effort in a 4-3 loss at Seattle.
"First time back, hadn't pitched in a while, and we're making him throw a lot of pitches," manager Terry Francona told the Indians' official website. "So, I thought he did a pretty good job."
McAllister is 2-1 with a 3.07 ERA in five career starts against the White Sox, including 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in two this year.
Paul Konerko is 2 for 15 against him, Adam Dunn is 1 for 11 with a homer and eight strikeouts and Alex Rios 2 for 11. Chicago (40-62) is averaging an AL-low 3.7 runs.
Cleveland has not lost since McAllister's last outing, sweeping the high-powered Rangers over the weekend. The Indians are three games behind Detroit in the AL Central race and one game behind Baltimore for the final wild-card spot.
"We're having fun and we're pulling off some good wins," said first baseman Nick Swisher, who went 5 for 15 over the weekend. "Collectively, we're playing great."
Cleveland is 7-2 against Chicago this year, matching its victory total from 2012.
The Indians are 20-14 against left-handed starters as they face John Danks (2-8, 4.81), who is 0-5 with a 6.03 ERA in six road starts.
Danks has also allowed 11 runs over 14 innings in dropping consecutive home starts. He is 4-8 with a 4.94 ERA in 16 starts against Cleveland.
The White Sox's offensive woes continued as they totaled three runs and batted .196 in getting swept in three home games over the weekend by Kansas City.
"I think pitching-wise, our guys gave us every opportunity," manager Robin Ventura said. "We just didn't come up with much. That's frustrating and all that stuff going with it."
Chicago journeyman Jeff Keppinger is 16 for 35 in the season series and 6 for 10 against McAllister.