CLEVELAND — The Indians abandoned their penchant for dramatics on Thursday afternoon at Progressive Field, but the end result was the same.
Getting another big game from red-hot bench player Ryan Raburn and a quality outing from ace Justin Masterson, the Indians powered their way past the White Sox 6-1 to complete a four-game sweep of their Central Division rivals.
Cleveland, which won the first three games of the series in its last at-bat, is on a roll, winning for the eighth straight time and a season-high 11th consecutive time at home. The Indians have already equaled their entire win total (37) last year at Progressive Field and are a major league-best 35-13 at home since April 30.
A pair of the Indians’ hottest players, Raburn and Masterson, played major roles in their team’s latest victory. Raburn hit a pair of home runs and drove in four runs to lead the offensive charge, while Masterson won his third straight start since the All-Star break.
Though he wasn’t as dominant as he’s been as of late, Masterson was still more than effective, pitching through a stiff neck to limit the struggling Sox to just a run on five hits, while striking out seven over 6⅔ innings.
“We were just out there pitching, battling, trying to make things work,” said Masterson, who has solved the White Sox this season, going 4-0 with a 0.85 ERA in four starts against them. “In the end, we were able to make the pitches when we needed to.
“I felt all right. I had a little trouble yanking a lot of sinkers. The four-seamer was good, the slider was good, but I was leaving a few sinkers out there at times. But the overall sense is that we played well as a team. Really the story’s about Ryan Raburn doing his thing. That was pretty cool to see.”
Raburn’s surprising production continued, with the bench player putting the Indians in front 3-0 with a two-run homer in the third and providing the final count with a solo shot in the eighth.
He’s hitting .283 with 13 homers and 37 RBIs in 62 games as a part-time player — all of it coming after a miserable season in Detroit last year.
“I knew I could still play,” Raburn said. “It definitely took a toll on me last year, that’s for sure. I definitely knew the talent was still there. It was just getting an opportunity and just going out and believing in myself and playing the game I’ve always loved to play.
“It definitely puts a lot in perspective when you have a year like that. I think you definitely realize that there’s a lot more to life than going 0-for-4. I was definitely hard on myself and it definitely showed in the performance. That’s why this year I really tried to focus on having fun.”
“He got off to a horrendous start and never really recovered,” Francona said of Raburn last year. “We were able to get him because of that. In the role that he’s in, he does a great job. You can play him once a week, you can pinch hit him, when somebody’s down, you can play him three or four games in a row.
“He’s a good player. Sometimes confidence is a big part of it. On days like today, he’s a good guy to have in there because they have to respect his bat.”
Most of Cleveland’s damage came against left-hander Chris Sale, who entered the day with a sparkling 2.69 ERA, but a 6-10 record, thanks to the lowest run support in the majors.
Sale’s quality ERA total has been boosted against the Indians, who have handled him in all three of his starts against them — scoring 16 times over 17 ⅓ innings of three Cleveland wins.
A win over the all-star Sale capped a 7-0 homestand for the Indians, who entered the day trailing the Tigers by 2 ½ games in the division standings.
“I think we can improve,” Francona said “We’re still making some mistakes. We constantly talk about the fact that we want to tighten it up. But we’re resilient and our guys play and keep playing. That makes it a lot easier to work through your mistakes.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @CAwesomeheimer.
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