CHICAGO -- Ryan Raburn showed up to U.S. Cellular Field on Monday morning without a single September plate appearance for the Indians. After waiting patiently for an opportunity to get back in the lineup, the veteran was rewarded with a start against White Sox ace Chris Sale. Talk about a tough assignment.
Fortunately for the Tribe, Raburn has a knack for staying sharp during prolonged stretches between at-bats, especially when called upon to face a lefty. In Monday's victory, Cleveland's southpaw specialist launched a pair of Sale pitches into the seats for solo home runs, including a go-ahead blast in the sixth inning that gave the Indians the lead for good.
It was a performance that continued Raburn's career-long torment of the South Siders.
Illness, a trip to the bereavement list and the presence of younger September callups have limited Raburn's second-half opportunities to 41 plate appearances. When a tough lefty has slotted in to take on the Tribe, manager Terry Francona has called Raburn's name and the veteran has delivered.
"He's always ready to hit a lefty," Francona said. "Because Ray's a good hitter, he can hit righties, too. But, his job here is to hit lefties and, when it's time, he gets in the box and he's ready to go. And he hits in the middle of the order for us and he acts like a middle-of-the-order hitter. Even though he's not an everyday player for us, he has that presence against left-handers."
In the fourth inning, Raburn followed Mike Aviles' solo homer off Sale with a shot of his own, belting an 0-1 curveball to the center-field stands to pull the game into a 2-2 deadlock. Raburn later gave Cleveland the lead when he yanked a 2-1 fastball into the left-field seats. That gave Raburn four career homers off Sale and seven homers (all against lefties) this season.
Raburn is now batting .321 (43-for-134) with a .597 slugging percentage against left-handers this year.
The multi-homer showing also marked the eighth time in Raburn's career that he's had at least two homers in a game. Four of those outbursts have come against the White Sox. In fact, Raburn has more homers (20), RBIs (82) and hits (107) against Chicago than any other team. His next-bext marks in each category are 12 homers, 25 RBIs and 50 hits -- each against the Royals.
"He must like hitting here or against our guys," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "Maybe it just suits his eye. I don't know."
At U.S. Cellular Field, Raburn has hit .323 (70-for-217) with 13 home runs and a .562 slugging percentage in 69 games.
"It ain't their pitching," Raburn said. "Their pitching is unbelievable. They have great arms over there. Some ballparks, guys tend to hit better in them. The results are a little different when we play at our place. ... This is a great ballpark. I love coming here. I've had good success. Hopefully it continues."
With lefty Carlos Rodon on the mound Tuesday night for the White Sox, Raburn might get the nod to start a second straight game. That has not happened for the 34-year-old utility man since Aug. 4-5 on the road against the Angels.
Raburn tries not to worry about when the next at-bat will arrive. He just hopes to take advantage of each chance Cleveland gives him.
"It's out of my control," Raburn said. "I still have to prepare myself every day to play, no matter if I'm in the game or coming off the bench. I still have to prepare myself, because you never know, you might have an opportunity. That's all their decision."
+ 4 career homers off Sale (tied-most by any player)
+ 20th career vs. CWS
+ 13th career at US Cellular pic.twitter.com/5xfn0txHTV