By John Fanta

CLEVELAND – Winners of three straight games, the Cleveland Indians ride momentum into their second series with the Chicago White Sox in the 60-game sprint. 


The Tribe’s offensive outburst on Thursday was much needed, as Cleveland (8-6) put up a season-high 13 runs in a shutout win over the Brewers. After scoring just 12 runs in their previous eight games combined, and 34 total over the first 13 contests, the Indians alleviated the pressure of high leverage, late-inning situations that have filled the start of the season with a victory powered by a 10-run seventh inning. 


On the flip side, the White Sox are 7-6, just a half game back of Cleveland for second place in the American League Central after a series split with the Brewers. The White Sox have one of the best offenses in baseball, leading MLB with 120 hits and a .279 batting average on the season. The next closest team is the Colorado Rockies at .266. Chicago’s team OPS stands at fourth in the league at .779. 


In the first series between the two teams this season, the Indians swept a doubleheader over Chicago on July 28 at Progressive Field – the lone true nine-inning doubleheader of this shortened season before the rule change to seven innings apiece – before the White Sox shut out the Tribe 4-0 in the series finale. 


The Indians and White Sox are polar opposites at the moment. Cleveland has had to claw for hitting, while that’s come easy for Chicago. But, while the Indians have boasted the best starting rotation in baseball, Rick Renteria’s club has seen three rotation injuries. 


Highly-touted prospect Michael Kopech opted out of the season following Tommy John surgery rehab. One inning into his first start, Reynaldo Lopez left with a shoulder injury. On Monday of this week, things worsened for the White Sox when lefty Carlos Rodon exited his start against the Brewers after only two innings due to a shoulder problem. Rodon’s on the 10-game injured list with no further update. He was scheduled to start against Cleveland Saturday, but that is looking like a bullpen game for the White Sox. 


Pitching Matchups


Friday: CLE Aaron Civale (1-1, 3.75 ERA, 18 SO) vs. CWS Dylan Cease (1-1, 6.48 ERA, 5 SO)


Saturday: CLE Zach Plesac (0-1, 1.80 ERA, 17 SO) vs. TBD 


Sunday: CLE Shane Bieber (3-0, 0.83 ERA, 35 SO) vs. CWS Lucas Giolito (1-1, 5.17 ERA, 18 SO)


The series opener on Friday will mark the second time that Civale and Cease have met, with the two starting the doubleheader opener on July 28. Civale racked up a career-high nine strikeouts, throwing six innings of two-run ball allowing seven hits and walking just one. Cease had a day to forget, going just 2 and ⅓ innings. The 24-year-old right hander allowed four earned runs on seven hits, allowing home runs to Francisco Lindor and Bradley Zimmer. 


Turning back to the Indians rotation, the Tribe starters have been nothing short of outstanding. According to FanGraphs, the Indians rotation WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is 2.7, second to only the Oakland Athletics at 2.9. Tribe starters hold a 2.32 ERA, good for second in MLB, and sit atop baseball with a 0.91 WHIP. The White Sox rotation’s ERA? 5.46. Chicago’s starters are allowing a .283 batting average against opposing teams, tied for worst in all of baseball. 


Quote of the Day – Outfielder Delino DeShields (1-for-3, 1 RBI, 1 run in debut Thursday)


“The pitching staff’s been keeping us in it. I know offensively, other than today, the team hasn’t been producing as far as runs go, but the pitching is giving us a chance to win those ballgames that we do win. I think that’s so important, you know, especially in a short season. We took a long break off, and jumped right into it so, you know, we gotta be kind of patient in the sense that the pitchers are holding us down right now. At some point throughout the year, it might be the other way around, you know, if we come out and swing the bat well and score a lot of runs. You know, you always have those ups and downs throughout a season, but they’re keeping us in it. It’s fun watching them pitch and compete. They’ve been keeping us in games and giving us a chance to win.” 


First pitch of Friday’s series opener between the AL Central Division rivals is at 8:10 pm ET.


AL Central Standings

Twins (10-3)

Indians (8-6, 2.5 GB)

White Sox (7-6, 3 GB)

Tigers (5-5, 3.5 GB)

Royals (4-10, 6.5 GB)


Photo: Ken Blaze/USA Today

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