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Indians stay hot, defeat Chicago 7-2 to keep playoff hopes alive

Salazar gives Tribe another solid outing, magic number down to four

Indians stay hot, defeat Chicago 7-2 to keep playoff hopes alive
September 25, 2013
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CLEVELAND—The last time Chicago beat the Tribe, Danny Salazar was in Double-A Akron.

For the 14th consecutive time Tuesday night, the Indians took down Central Division rival White Sox, 7-2. Having won six straight, the team finishes with a record of 17-2 against the ChiSox tying the most victories versus an opponent in the division era.

“We did what we needed to do,” Tribe manager Terry Franconasaid.

Despite another win, Cleveland (88-70) remains one game in front of the Texas Rangers for the second A.L. wild card spot. They also sit only one game behind Tampa for the top wild card seed which boasts home field advantage for the playoff.

In front of 30,942 in attendance, it also moves the team 18 games over the .500 mark for the first time since Aug. 29, 2007

“It was really electric and that’s pretty cool, hopefully we’ll play more games here,” Francona said. “It’s very exciting to go play games that are this meaningful, this is as good as it gets.”

Making his tenth big league start, Salazar (2-3, 3.12 ERA) gave Cleveland a chance to win with another solid outing. The hard-throwing right-hander went 5 1/3 innings allowing just two runs on six hits, walking one and striking out eight.

“I thought Danny pitched really well tonight,” Francona said. I think he felt all his pitches better and love when he attacks the strike zone. The more he uses all his pitches, his velocity will play up that much more.”

His 65 career strikeouts through his first 10 outings are the most by any Cleveland pitcher over the last 57 years.

“I think the mound is the most comfortable place for him,” Francona said. “He’s come a long way and he’s part of what we’re doing here. He’s done a tremendous job and is very poised. I don’t think the game speeds up on him too much.”

Barring any rotation changes over the final road trip, Salazar may in fact be the one called upon to potentially pitch a one-game wild card playoff.

It was Chicago that grabbed the early lead off Salazar with a solo homer by second baseman Avisail Garcia in the top half of the second. But Indians bats stormed right back a half inning later off White Sox starter Dylan Axelrod (4-11, 5.68 ERA).

Drew Stubbs scored Cleveland’s first run on an error by third baseman Marcus Semien to tie the game at one, before the best doctor in Brohio came through again in the clutch.

Michael Brantley gave the Tribe the lead with a two-out, RBI single off Axelrod one batter later and the Wahoo’s seemingly never looked back. Dr. Smooth has now hit in nine straight, batting .514 (18-for-35) with two doubles, two homers and eight RBI over the streak.

Looking for a little extra boost at the dish, Brantley has used catcher Carlos Santana’s bat the past two nights.

“I did not steal one of them, I barrowed one of them,” he said.

Coming off the biggest win on Jason Giambi’s walk-off homer Monday night, the fans greeted  “Big G” with a standing ovation before his first at-bat.

“It was incredible, I’m speechless,” the 42-year-old said. “To start from spring training and be in this spot, you can’t dream of any other opportunity.”

The left-handed slugger finished the ballgame 1-for-2 with a walk.

With the Tribe up 2-1 in the fifth, Nick Swisher belted a two-run homer off Axelrod in the fifth to give his team an even bigger cushion with his 21st long ball of the season. Two innings later, Asdrubal Cabrera put the game away with a two-run single of his own, giving Cleveland their 51st win at Progressive Field.

Not having pitched since September 2 with a left oblique injury, Justin Masterson pitched a scoreless ninth and looked sharp striking out two of the four batters he faced.

“That was kind of cool, it worked out really well,” Francona said. “We went from our ace getting hurt to all of a sudden having a weapon and we will use him. We just need to get him as many outings as he can that make sense, he can be a big part of what we’re doing.”

“It’s just great to get out there again,” Masterson said. “I figured I started the season here and I wanted to get the last inning and finish the home season. I just want to hopefully be another weapon and be able to help in any way I can.”

Cleveland pitchers racked up 16 strikeouts on the night, improving to 52-18 against sub .500 teams this season with four games against Minnesota to go.

“It’s very exciting, the ball is in our court,” Brantley said. “We just have to go out there and take care of one game at a time. I don’t know if words can describe how exciting it is to play meaningful games in September."

Right-hander Zach McAllister (9-9, 3.88 ERA) will get the start against lefty Andrew Albers (2-4, 3.98 ERA) in the first of a four-game series with the Twins to close out the regular season.

“We took care of our business at home this time, and played in front of a great fan crowd,” Brantley said. “Now we need to go on the road and continue to do what we’re doing."

Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at jberdysz27@gmail.com.

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