The Cleveland Indians are looking to bounce back after dropping a tough four-game series to one of the teams they're chasing.
Things aren't about to get any easier with the AL's ERA leader coming to town.Cleveland squares off against Chris Sale and the Chicago White Sox in the opener of a three-game set Friday night.The Indians (71-67) enter the weekend five games behind Detroit for the second wild-card spot after losing three of four to the Tigers. Cleveland erased an early four-run deficit before allowing seven runs in the 11th inning in Thursday's 11-4 defeat."It's disappointing. We're down 4-0 before we can take a deep breath ... and they battled back so hard to tie the game," manager Terry Francona said of his players. "They'll be OK. After the tough loss the other night they came back. There was energy. There's nothing else to do. They'll come out and play."The Indians could be in for another frustrating night against Sale (11-3, 2.11 ERA), who has yet to lose on the road. The three-time All-Star hasn't allowed an earned run in his last three outings spanning 22 innings away from home, lowering his ERA to 1.40 as the visiting pitcher.Sale had gone winless over a season-high five consecutive starts before beating Detroit 6-3 in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader. The left-hander settled in after allowing all three runs in the first inning, striking out a season-high 13 over seven."His slider was good today, he had the changeup working, his fastball was explosive -- 95, 96," Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter told MLB's website. "Sale is probably one of the best -- if not the best -- lefties in the game. You talk about three of the best lefties, (Clayton) Kershaw, (David) Price and him. Not fun."While Sale posted an 8.61 ERA in losing each of his four starts against the Indians last year, he gave up three runs over five innings to beat them 9-6 on April 11. He also threw three scoreless innings May 27 but was forced to exit after a lengthy rain delay.Carlos Santana is 9 for 24 in their matchups, but Michael Brantley is 2 for 19 with nine strikeouts.Indians rookie T.J. House (2-3, 3.92) is looking to build on his longest outing of the year. The left-hander allowed one run and five hits over seven innings at Kansas City on Sunday, a game suspended in the 10th inning due to rain.House has posted a 3.13 ERA at home, more than a run lower than his road mark of 4.25. While he threw 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball in a 3-2 walkoff loss at Chicago on May 28, he was tagged for five runs over 4 2/3 innings in an 8-6, 10-inning win there last Tuesday.Alexei Ramirez is 4 for 6 with a homer against House.The White Sox (63-76) fell 11-4 at Minnesota on Wednesday to split a two-game set. Dayan Viciedo went 2 for 4 with a homer -- his third in four games -- and three RBIs.Jose Abreu returned to the lineup and had two hits after getting a day off to rest. The slugging first baseman has gone 23 for 45 while slugging .711 during a 13-game hitting streak.Chicago has dropped 18 of 26, including five of its last six on the road while surrendering 37 runs.
Chris Sale has limited opposing hitters to a .071 batting average in at-bats to end in his slider down in the zone this season, which is the lowest rate among pitchers with at least 15 starts. Carlos Santana is hitting .069 in at-bats to end in a slider down in the zone this season, which is the fifth-lowest rate among qualified hitters this season.