First baseman Nick Swisher, left, and pitcher Joe Smith celebrate after the final out as the Indians beat the Chicago White Sox 6-1 on Thursday in Cleveland. The Indians have won eight straight.
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CLEVELAND — The Indians are all about keeping the line moving on the mound and at the plate. It has been moving well of late.
Justin Masterson went 6 2/3 innings and Ryan Raburn hit two homers Thursday afternoon as the Indians completed a four-game sweep of Chicago with a 6-1 victory at Progressive Field. They have won eight straight games, matching their longest winning streak of the season.
Masterson is making the footprints that his fellow starters are stepping in when they follow him to the mound. He’s 3-0 with a 1.28 ERA in three starts since the All-Star break and couldn't be happier for the guys behind him.
“Seeing the starters go out there, every single one of us, and pitch really well ... we feed off that a lot,” Masterson said. “The confidence comes from seeing Zach [McAllister], Corey [Kluber], Ubaldo [Jimenez] and Kaz [Scott Kazmir] get out there and do their thing. We’ve got something really good working for us right now.”
In the last 19 games, the rotation is 9-2 with a 2.18 ERA (31 earned runs in 128 innings). Since victory walks hand in hand with good starting pitcher, it’s not surprising the Indians are 14-5 in that stretch.
The Indians went 7-0 on the homestand against Texas and the White Sox. They have swept two four-game series from Chicago this season for the first time in franchise history. Chicago has lost seven straight.
Masterson is 4-0 with a 0.85 ERA in four starts this season against the White Sox. Among the four victories are two complete-game shutouts. On Thursday, he allowed one run, five hits, and three walks with seven strikeouts.
“He had real good sink on his pitches,” manager Terry Francona said. “On a day when the ball was really flying to right field, it was a good day to have sink.”
The game was billed as a pitching duel between All-Stars Masterson (13-7, 3.33) and lefty Chris Sale (6-11, 2.85). Masterson, whose 13 wins are the most he’s ever won in one season, delivered. Sale did not and it was mostly because of the line of hitters that Francona kept sending to the plate. Particularly Raburn, a career .296 (83 for 280) hitters with 15 homers and 61 career RBIs against Chicago.
“When we talk about keeping the line moving, on days like today, Raburn is a good guy to have in there,” Francona said. “They have to respect his bat; he’s a threat and he keeps the line moving.”
Raburn, 3 for 4 with four RBIs, is hitting .283 (49 for 173) with 13 homers and 37 RBIs. He started in right field Thursday because Drew Stubbs moved to center when Michael Bourn was rested against Sale.
“In the role Ryan is in, he does a great job,” Francona said. “You can play him once a week. You can pinch-hit him. If someone is hurt, you can play him three or four days in a row. He’s not affected if they bring a right-hander in to face him.”
Mark Reynolds, of all people, started the scoring for the Tribe with a two-out single in the second for a 1-0 lead. Reynolds has two RBIs in his last 56 at-bats.
Raburn hit a wind-aided two-run homer to right in the third for a 3-0 lead. Stubbs opened with an infield single to third and advanced to second on a throwing error by Connor Gillaspie. After Nick Swisher grounded out, Raburn rode the jet stream to right.
The Indians made it 5-0 in the fifth on Raburn’s RBI single off Gillaspie’s glove and Asdrubal Cabrera’s sacrifice fly. Sale, with just one win in his last 11 starts, struck out Michael Brantley and Reynolds to end the fifth with the bases loaded.
Francona said Masterson pitched with a stiff neck from sleeping wrong. “Say whatever you want,” Masterson said. “I was just out there pitching, battling, trying to make things work. Then Ryan Raburn did his thing.”