CLEVELAND -- The Indians did their part to keep themselves in the American League wild-card race Wednesday night as they wrapped up the home portion of the regular season with a 7-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
The fans did their part, too -- with 30,942 showing up at Progressive Field, including a walk-up crowd of 5,181, the third largest of the season.
If the Indians keep winning, this won't be their last home appearance in 2013. With four regular-season games remaining in Minnesota, the Tribe has the weekend to put the final touches on a coveted wild-card spot.
Rookie right-hander Danny Salazar (2-3) racked up eight strikeouts while limiting the White Sox to two runs over 5 1/3 innings. After Avisail Garcia blasted Salazar's first pitch of the second inning 419 feet into the right-field bleachers to give the White Sox a 1-0 lead, Salazar settled down.
The Indians got that run back -- and another -- in the bottom of the inning against White Sox start Dylan Axelrod. With two outs, a fielding error by third baseman Marcus Semien kept the inning alive and Michael Brantley followed with an RBI base hit, the Tribe's two unearned runs giving them a 2-1 lead.
The Tribe's lead doubled to 4-1 in the fifth inning when Brantley led off with his third hit of the night -- a double off the center field wall -- then scored on Nick Swisher's two-run homer to the same area. The red-hot Brantley finished the game 3-for-5, giving him nine hits over his last three games.
The White Sox cut the lead in half as soon as Salazar exited the game with one out and two runners on base in the sixth inning. Dayan Viciedo singled to left field against reliever Bryan Shaw, scoring Alexei Ramirez.
In the meantime, the Indians botched a rundown between second and third when second baseman Jason Kipnis threw the ball too soon before chasing the runner back to second, allowing him to slide back safely. The miscue didn't cost the Tribe, though, as Shaw struck out the next two batters and limited the damage to one run.
With the Indians holding a two-run lead in the sixth inning, Indians manager Terry Francona tried to guard against the previous night's dramatics, giving the feel as if it were already the playoffs.
After Asdrubal Cabrera singled to lead off the inning and Jason Giambi followed with a walk, Francona called on Michael Bourn (who did not start because of a right wrist sprain) to run for Giambi. Then Francona pinch-hit Mike Aviles for Lonnie Chisenhall. Aviles went to the plate with the purpose of sacrificing the runners over with a bunt. Drew Stubbs followed and added a sacrifice fly that scored Cabrera and pushed the lead to 5-2.
Two stolen bases and an error aided two Indians seventh-inning insurance runs, pushing the lead to five runs -- enough of a cushion for Francona to call on ace Justin Masterson to pitch the ninth.
Coming back from an oblique injury, Masterson won't be stretched out to start for a while and will likely see most of his work the rest of the season out of the bullpen. Masterson struck out two batters in his inning of work, bringing the night's total to 16 strikeouts for the five Indians pitchers.
(c)2013 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)
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