By Jordan Bastian and August Fagerstrom
CLEVELAND -- The Indians refuse to go quietly in the American League Wild Card race. Behind a grand slam from Carlos Santana and a strong start by rookie Cody Anderson, Cleveland continued its recent surge with a 12-1 rout of the White Sox on Friday at Progressive Field.
The win was the 15th in the past 22 games for the Indians (73-73), who moved within three games of the Astros (77-71) for the AL's second Wild Card spot. Cleveland has also won 15 of its past 20 games at home.
"We have a lot of younger players, hungry to play hard every day," Santana said. "We have to play hard every day. We'll try to finish strong and see what happens. I know we're fighting for the second Wild Card. This is what I'm telling the younger players: 'Play hard. Don't worry about the second Wild Card. Try to win the game.'"
White Sox lefty Chris Sale surrendered seven runs (only one earned) on eight hits in seven innings, ending with nine strikeouts and three walks. In a six-run outburst by the Tribe in the third inning -- a rally that was helped by a Chicago error -- Santana spread things open with a grand slam, his team-leading 16th homer of the season.
"I'm having a hard time this year staying away from the big inning it seems like," Sale said. "But with all that stuff involved, it is what it is. I've got to be the guy to go out there and cut that off and pick my guys up."
Indians rookie shortstop Francisco Lindor tagged Sale for a solo homer in the seventh. After Chicago's ace left the mound, Cleveland posted a five-spot in the eighth to put the game out of reach. The Indians ended the evening 4-for-5 with a walk in bases-loaded situations.
Anderson used the wealth of early run support to his advantage, cruising through 6 2/3 innings in which his only blemish was a solo homer from Melky Cabrera in the fifth. Anderson scattered five hits and walked five, but the big righty sidestepped a number of jams, including retiring three straight in the third after putting the first two runners aboard.
"I thought he walked the tightrope a little bit," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "In the end, he ends up competing like crazy and finding a way."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Costly error: With one out and a runner on first base in the third inning, White Sox second baseman Carlos Sanchez misplayed a grounder off the bat of Jose Ramirez, allowing him to reach first safely. Sale followed with a strikeout of Lindor for what would have been the third out of a shutout inning, but the gaffe gave Cleveland more life.
"We caught a break on the ball to second, but then we took advantage of it," Francona said. "You get a chance against [Sale], you better take advantage of it because a lot of times, that's the only one you get."
Grand Slam-tana With two outs in the third, Cleveland took full advantage of Sanchez's blunder. Mike Aviles and Michael Brantley each delivered an RBI single off Sale, who then loaded the bases with a walk to Ryan Raburn. That set the stage for Santana, who crushed an 0-1 offering to the left-field bleachers for a grand slam that put the Indians ahead, 6-0.
"Sale is always a Cy Young candidate every season," said Aviles, who went 2-for-5 with two RBIs. "Luckily tonight, we were able to take advantage with some big hits. That slam by 'Los, it stung pretty good. We were able to settle in and add on here and there." More >
This one's earned: Due to the error, Sale was charged with no earned runs through his first six innings of work. In the seventh, the switch-hitting Lindor finally got to the lefty's pitching line. Batting from the right side, the American League Rookie of the Year candidate drilled a 1-0 pitch to the right-field seats for a leadoff shot that put Cleveland up, 7-1.
"When guys hit the ball the other way for power, that's tremendous," Francona said. "That means they're not pulling off. That's just a kid, he's kind of wiry strong to do that. He starts doing that, he'll hit some the other way if he hits the ball like that." More >
Melk man: The White Sox's lone run came on a high-arcing solo shot from Cabrera that cleared the right-field fence. The homer was the 11th of the season for the switch-hitting outfielder, and his ninth from the left side. As Cabrera watched the home run, he carried the bat all the way down the first-base line, dropping it in the dirt next to the bag.
"We had plenty of opportunities, guys in scoring position and we didn't get anything out of it. We had them on the ropes there a little bit, but you have to be able to knock some runs in. You have to be able to put the bat on the ball and keep the line moving, and we didn't do that tonight." -- White Sox manager Robin Venture, on his team's offensive struggles
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Lindor is only the fourth American League rookie 21 years old or younger in the past eight years to have at least 10 homers and 100 hits in a single season. Xander Bogaerts (2014), Mike Trout (2012) and Eric Hosmer (2011) also accomplished the feat. Lindor is the first Indians rookie overall to have at least 10 homers and 100 hits in a season since 2008 (Ben Francisco).
WHAT'S NEXT White Sox: Rookie lefty Carlos Rodon (7-6, 3.94 ERA) will make his first start since Sept. 8 with a 6:10 p.m. CT first pitch at Progressive Field on Saturday. The 2014 first-round pick was skipped a turn through the rotation in an effort to limit his workload. Rodon's last start came against Cleveland, who he stymied over seven one-run innings while striking out eight. This will already be his fifth start against Cleveland.
Indians: Right-hander Carlos Carrasco (13-10, 3.62) is slated to start for the Tribe on Saturday against the White Sox at 7:10 p.m. ET. Last time out, Carrasco looked more like himself in his second outing off the disabled list, striking out nine and allowing one run over six innings in a win over Kansas City. He has a 2.05 ERA in his past seven outings, but is only 1-3 with a 10.03 ERA in four starts vs. Chicago this year.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.