Take over first place in the American League Central? Almost there.
The Indians concluded their four-game series against the first-place White Sox with a 4-3 win on Wednesday. They took three of four from the Sox to move to 8-3 in their past 11 and improve to 15-9 in May. The Indians also took a one-game lead on the White Sox in the loss column and trail Chicago by only a half-game in the division.
"That's big for us," second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "We put up two good pitchers today with the getaway game and day game and came out on top. Those are games that add up in the end, and those are ones that we need to get, especially against the team you're chasing, so it was good to close the gap."
On Tuesday, the Indians handed Sale his first loss this season in 10 starts, making him work with a 43-pitch third inning and bouncing him from the game after 3 1/3 frames.
On Wednesday against Quintana, who came in leading the AL in ERA, the Indians took a similar approach. They forced Quintana to throw 115 pitches over six innings, striking for three runs to hand him the loss.
Manager Terry Francona's assessment of how his hitters handled Quintana was almost verbatim with what he said regarding Sale.
"I thought we made him work," Francona said. "We ran his pitch count up pretty good. Sometimes, that's the way to beat a good pitcher, is to try to get him out of there."
The Indians did that in consecutive games against two of the best pitchers in the AL. After losing 7-6 in the series opener, the Indians held the White Sox to a combined six runs over the final three games, with 7 1/3 innings from Corey Kluber backing the win in the series finale.
"Standings or not, we're definitely playing good right now," Kluber said. "The goal is just to keep that going, keep grinding it out instead of the peaks and valleys."
"It's encouraging, that's to say the least," Kipnis said. "We've put a real good emphasis on April and May this year so we're not playing catch-up all year. This team is competing. This team is understanding the importance of these games early on and how they can help us down the road."
It is easy to downplay the importance of a hot stretch in May, but the manner in which the Indians took this series is something that could be a boost going forward.
"We knew these are important even though it's still early," Kipnis said. "You can say if we dropped them, it's still early, but you know what? We won them, so we're going to tell you that we enjoyed these."
Cody Stavenhagen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.