Friday, Sept. 9, 2011
Posted: 10:31 a.m.
Neither the Chicago White Sox nor the Cleveland Indians have been officially eliminated from the playoff race, but their chances of winning the AL Central continue to quickly wane.
In what's been reduced to a battle for second place, the White Sox and Indians continue their four-game set on Friday night.
Chicago used a seven-run seventh inning Thursday to rip Cleveland 8-1. Brent Morel drove in a career-high four with his first two-homer game and Paul Konerko hit his 10th career grand slam, tying Robin Ventura's club record.
That helped pull the White Sox (72-70) within 8 12 games of the idle Tigers with 20 remaining. Chicago and Detroit will meet for the final three times this year starting Monday at U.S. Cellular Field.
The White Sox, though, will be without the versatile Brent Lillibridge for the remainder of the season after he suffered a broken hand when hit by a pitch from rookie Josh Judy in the seventh Thursday.
"It's frustrating, but I'll be around as much as I can," said Lillibridge, who's played five positions this year and hit a career-best 13 homers in 97 games.
Cleveland (70-71), which is 10 games back, is in danger of falling two games below .500 for the first time since opening the season 0-2 against Chicago. Manager Manny Acta's team has lost eight of 11 to the White Sox this year while being held to two runs or fewer five times.
"We couldn't get anything going offensively," Acta said Thursday.
Former White Sox star Jim Thome received a standing ovation and drove in the lone run for the Indians. However, Thome is hitting .214 with a homer and 16 strikeouts in 12 games since being acquired from Minnesota on Aug. 25.
Thome has five hits - two homers - and 13 strikeouts in 25 career at-bats against Chicago's Mark Buehrle (11-7, 3.34 ERA), who's trying to bounce back from his worst start of the year.
He was charged with a season-high eight runs in a season-low 3 1-3 innings during Sunday's 18-2 loss at Detroit.
The left-hander has also been hit hard by Cleveland this year, giving up eight runs and 20 hits in 13 1-3 innings while going 1-1 over two starts. Buehrle lost to the Indians at home Aug. 17, dropping to 7-9 with a 5.09 ERA all-time against them on the South Side.
Indians catcher Carlos Santana is 0 for 12 with eight strikeouts in his last four games, but 4 for 7 against Buehrle this year.
Cleveland's Jeanmar Gomez (2-2, 4.11) will try to win his third consecutive start as he faces the White Sox for the first time.
Since being recalled from Triple-A Columbus on Aug. 30, the right-hander has yielded two runs - one earned - and 12 hits in 11 1-3 innings en route to wins over Oakland and Kansas City. He had been 0-2 with a 6.10 ERA in his four previous major league starts this year.
"Gomez gave us what we needed," Acta told the Indians' official website after Sunday's 9-6 win over the Royals. "He's been very good his last two outings and we need that."
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