Raburn homers twice as Tribe pushes streak to eight

Raburn homers twice as Tribe pushes streak to eight

CLEVELAND -- The party that has become Progressive Field kept on raging Thursday afternoon against the White Sox.

With All-Star right-hander Justin Masterson keeping the visitors from enjoying themselves, Ryan Raburn and the Tribe offense supplied all the additional favors necessary for a good time, as the Indians finished off a four-game sweep of Chicago with a 6-1 victory to extend their longest winning streak of the season to eight games.

Cleveland (60-48) is 12 games above .500 for the first time since June 2, 2011. The club picked up a half-game on Detroit in the American League Central. The Tigers, who were off Thursday, have a two-game lead in the division on the Indians, who hold the second AL Wild Card spot.

"I like where this team is at," said Masterson, who held Chicago to just one run over 6 2/3 solid innings.

"Really, the story is about Ryan Raburn doing his thing today," the pitcher said. "That was pretty cool to see."

Raburn hit a two-run homer to right during the third inning and a solo shot to left in the seventh for the seventh multi-homer game of his career and his third this season. While his first blast was really more of a fly ball that got caught in a stiff wind, Raburn's second home run was hit well enough to beat those same elements.

In the hours before Thursday's game, Raburn expressed his excitement about being penciled into the No. 3 hole against White Sox ace lefty Chris Sale. With a 3-for-4 effort at the plate that netted four RBIs, Raburn made Tribe manager Terry Francona look pretty smart.

"We're fortunate, because he's a good player," Francona said of Raburn, a bench player who led Cleveland to a walk-off victory with a three-run homer last Friday. "On days like today, he's a good guy to have in there, because they have to respect his bat, and he's a threat, and he keeps the line moving."

Sale's presence on the mound led to Francona's decision to limit his batting order to one left-handed hitter, Michael Brantley. It didn't matter that stars such as Jason Kipnis or Michael Bourn were absent. Led by Raburn, the Tribe pounced on Sale -- who entered Thursday carrying an impressive 2.69 ERA -- for five runs in five innings.

The outing was Sale's shortest since June 19. He hadn't given up as many runs since April 13, when the Indians plated eight at Progressive Field.

"I'm not going to sit here and make excuses," Sale said. "I got my [rear end] kicked. I wouldn't say that was my best stuff I featured, but you've still got to go out there and find a way and unfortunately I couldn't."

In three outings against the Indians this season, Sale has given up 16 runs -- all earned -- over 17 1/3 innings, for a whopping 8.31 ERA.

"When you look at most lineups when he pitches, they try to get their lefties out of there," Francona said. "We match up pretty well because we can send up pretty good right-handed hitters, because he's so tough on lefties."

Masterson (13-7, 3.33 ERA) had more runs than he needed, something Sale (6-11, 2.92 ERA) isn't accustomed to. The Tribe's sinkerballer got the better of Chicago's southpaw, as Masterson conceded just five hits and the one run, a solo shot by Alejandro De Aza in the sixth.

Before bowing out with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh, Masterson racked up seven strikeouts against three walks. Left-hander Rich Hill retired De Aza to wipe out Chicago's threat after Masterson's exit.

"Real good sink," Francona said of Masterson, who induced eight ground balls and four flyouts. "And on a day when the ball was really flying to right, that's a good day to have sink. You saw on Raburn's ball, that ball got up in the jet stream. It could be a dangerous area. But he had real good movement on that, and it kind of set everything else up."

With two on and two out in the second inning, Mark Reynolds sent a fastball from Sale for a single, driving in the game's first run and giving himself his first RBI since July 2.

The Tribe scored a pair of runs in the fifth inning, which began with singles by Drew Stubbs and Nick Swisher. Raburn brought Stubbs home with a single to left, and Asdrubal Cabrera hit a deep sacrifice fly to center to plate Swisher.

Hill had two strikeouts across 1 1/3 innings and Joe Smith pitched a scoreless final frame, locking down a win that sealed Cleveland's second four-game sweep of the White Sox (40-66) this season. Before this season, the Tribe hadn't swept a pair of four-game sets from one club in one season since 1960, when it did so against the Kansas City Athletics.

The Indians wrapped up their homestand with a 7-0 record and have won 11 straight at Progressive Field and 37 of their 56 home games this season, matching the win total from all of 2012.

"Every single starter's been going out there since the All-Star break and doing a tremendous job," said Masterson, who has won three straight starts. "The bullpen's been coming in and doing great. ... The guys are out there scoring runs, putting up what we need and playing defense. Not just myself, but everyone seems to be in a real good spot right now."

Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.