CLEVELAND -- Coco Crisp pulled into second base, flexed his arms and gave an emphatic salute in the direction of the Indians' dugout. His two-out double in the fifth inning on Friday night put the Tribe ahead for good in a 10-4 romp over the White Sox and moved Cleveland one step closer to a clinching celebration.
With their sixth win in seven games, the American League Central-leading Indians trimmed their magic number to three with nine games left on the regular-season slate. The White Sox have lost six straight on this nine-game road trip and were officially eliminated from postseason contention and from finishing over .500, falling to 72-81. The White Sox have not reached the playoffs since 2008.
"It's fun, definitely fun," Bauer said. "Now that it's here, that we're three away from accomplishing that goal, there's a lot of excitement that surrounds it. Even though every game is just as important, these ones feel a little bit more fun. There's just a different atmosphere around it. It's fun to be a part of, for sure."
Cleveland's offense did the heavy lifting in this victory over Chicago, which saw Miguel Gonzalez, Juan Minaya and Dan Jennings allow 10 runs (eight earned) combined over the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Jose Ramirez highlighted the Tribe's outpouring with a two-run homer (his 11th shot of the season) and four RBIs, while Crisp and Mike Napoli knocked in five runs between them.
"Lineup-wise, they ended up hitting [Gonzalez] pretty hard, and it happened pretty quick that third time around," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "They have a lot of weapons, and tonight it was one of those nights you can see it, they can get you on either side. It's a tough one to go through."
The win went to Bauer, who allowed four runs on seven hits in his 7 2/3 innings of work. Melky Cabrera (13 homers on the year) and Avisail Garcia (12) accounted for the scoring off Bauer with a two-run home run apiece. The Cleveland righty ended the evening with six strikeouts and two walks en route to his 12th victory.
"He made a couple mistakes that he paid for," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Other than that, he was really pretty good. Fortunately, it not only allowed our offense to kind of come back and tie it, and then spread it out, but he really did pitch pretty good."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Party at Napoli's: Napoli snapped out of an 0-for-21 funk in the fourth, when he singled and then scored on Ramirez's two-run home run. Napoli then proceeded to deliver a run-scoring hit in each of his next two at-bats. That pushed Napoli to 100 RBIs on the season, making him the first Cleveland batter to reach the century mark since 2007, when Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez each accomplished the feat. At 34 years old, Napoli is the oldest Indians hitter to collect 100 RBIs since 1951 (Luke Easter).
"It's something nice," Napoli said of reaching 100 RBIs. "To be able to do it and be on a winning team, it's even better. I can't do it without the people around me. We've been complementing each other really well as a lineup. They give me the opportunities to get them."
Crisp with RISP: Not long after Napoli used an RBI single to pull the game into a 4-4 tie in the fifth, Crisp came to bat with runners on first and second and two outs. The veteran outfielder has thrived in such situations this year, and he delivered again. Crisp ripped a pitch into the right-field corner, scoring a pair of runs to give Cleveland a 6-4 lead. He later added an RBI single in the sixth. On the season, Crisp is now batting .403 (31-for-77) with RISP.
"I thought he looked a little more comfortable tonight," Francona said. "Even the first couple at-bats, he fouled a couple back, but you could see he was on balance and he was taking nice passes. It'd be really nice to get him going like he can, like he did tonight."
A little power, a little luck: After losing a 2-0 lead in the fourth, the White Sox didn't take long to reclaim the lead in the fifth. Todd Frazier doubled, and Garcia strong-armed his 12th homer on a ball down the right-field line. According to Statcast™, Garcia's 95.2-mph exit velocity, 38-degree launch angle and 342-foot projected distance left his expected average on that connection at just .106. In comparison, Cabrera's two-run homer in the first had a .613 expected average.
"That was ridiculous," Bauer said of Garcia's homer. "I jammed the heck out of him. He looked to left field, because he thought he pulled it. I have no idea how that was a homer. That's the way things are going for me personally right now. I can't seem to keep from giving up runs."
Pain in excellence:Adam Eaton turned in one of the better catches from a Gold Glove Award-caliber season, but he paid the price for his excellence. Eaton, whose defensive greatness this season primarily has come in right, chased down a Roberto Perez fly ball to lead off the sixth and made a running catch without even really seeing the ball as he grabbed it. But Eaton crashed into the wall with his left shoulder and was down on the ground for a minute or two after impact. He was helped off the field by White Sox head athletic trainer Herm Schneider and second baseman Carlos Sanchez and replaced by Leury Garcia. Ventura said Eaton's back and hip locked up, causing him to stay on the ground for the extra time, but he did not suspect a concussion despite being evaluated for such a possibility.
"A little bit of his shoulder. There was everything in there. He got it flush," Ventura said. "No, it was a great effort. Running into walls is like his specialty. He's pretty good at it." More >
"You just tip your hat to them. When I was falling behind, they were being aggressive, and you can't really do that, especially a team that's pretty hot right now, and they've been playing really good baseball. You just tip your hat, you move on and work out hard for the next one." -- Gonzalez
"I check it every night. I look at it during the game. It's just what it is. You definitely want them to lose. We want the No. 1 seed. We can't control what they do, but it's nice to see if they're down in the game or if they're losing or something. We've still got to take care of ourselves and win our game." -- Napoli, on monitoring Boston and Texas in the race for home-field advantage
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Indians improved to 53-26 at Progressive Field on the season, representing the best home record in the AL and the second-best mark in baseball. The 53 wins are also the second-highest at home in ballpark history for Cleveland. The record of 54 home wins at Jacobs/Progressive Field was set in 1995.
WHAT'S NEXT White Sox:Jose Quintana (12-11, 3.26 ERA) makes his 31st start of the season and his fifth against the Indians on Saturday at 6:10 p.m. CT. He needs four innings to record a fourth straight season with 200 or more innings pitched and seven strikeouts to set a career high at 179 (previously 178 in 2014). Quintana has a 1-2 record with 2.60 ERA against the Indians this season.
Indians: With no fifth starter at the moment, the Indians will hand the ball to righty Cody Anderson (2-4, 6.24 ERA) for a 7:10 p.m. ET tilt against the White Sox on Saturday at Progressive Field. Anderson, who has been working as a reliever for the past few months, will log a couple innings at the start of a bullpen day for Cleveland.