April 23, 2014

Medina
Mostly cloudy
42°F

Tribe Wednesday: Almost 31,000 attend latest victory

CLEVELAND — The Indians wrapped up the home portion of their regular-season schedule Wednesday night with a 7-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox in front of 30,942 raucous fans.

It’s up to the Tribe whether it has played its final game of 2013 at Progressive Field.

Cleveland embarks on a four-game series in Minnesota that begins tonight with the Indians owning a one-game lead over the Rangers for the American League’s second wild card spot.

The Indians took care of business at home, winning all six games of the final homestand of the year. Now, with their postseason lives on the line, they’ll have to do the same on the road.

“We did what we needed to do,” said manager Terry Francona, whose team won its sixth straight game and for the 11th time in its last 13 games. “It’s very exciting to go play games that are this meaningful. This is as good as it gets.”

Cleveland continued its shocking domination of the White Sox, beating Chicago for the 14th straight time. The Indians went 17-2 against the Sox this season. They were able to accomplish as much thanks to a quality outing from fireballing phenom Danny Salazar and plenty of offense.

Salazar, who is no longer under a strict pitch count, lasted 5⅓ innings and allowed two runs on six hits while striking out eight. At 23 and getting his first taste of the big leagues, Salazar (2-3, 3.12 ERA) has been far from overwhelmed.

“I thought Danny pitched really well tonight,” Francona said. “I thought tonight he used all his pitches better. I love the way Danny attacks the strike zone. The more he uses all his pitches, his velocity is going to play up that much more.”

A solo home run from Avisail Garcia gave Chicago the lead in the second, but the Indians answered with two of their own in the bottom of the inning. The first run scored on an error, with Michael Brantley plating the other on a base hit.

Brantley has been red hot as of late, batting .514 (18-for-35) with two homers, two doubles and eight RBIs over a nine-game hitting streak.

A two-run homer from Nick Swisher put Cleveland in front 4-1 in the fifth, with the Indians adding another in the sixth to chase White Sox starter Dylan Axelrod, who allowed five runs on eight hits over 5⅔ innings.

Cleveland ace Justin Masterson made his first appearance since sustaining a left oblique injury Sept. 2, pitching a scoreless ninth inning while striking out two.

Masterson, who isn’t expected to start again unless the Indians advance to the American League Championship Series, entered to a rousing ovation.

“That was kinda cool. It worked out really well,” Francona said. “He came in and had a real good slider. It went from our ace getting hurt to all of the sudden having a weapon, and we will use him. He can be a big part of what we’re doing.”

Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter at @CAwesomeheimer.