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A Win In Thursday's Finale In Chicago Would Pull The Tribe Within A Game And A Half Of Detroit

If the Indians can beat the White Sox tonight in Chicagom they will pull within a game and a half of the Detroit Tigers for first place in the AL Central, as Detroit is idle today in advance of the Indians coming to town tomorrow to begin a three-game weekend series.

Believe it or not, achieving that would draw Cleveland closer to the lead than they have been since July 30.

My how the time has flown since the Indians dropped out of first, after seeming to crawl when the Tribe had the lead.

First things first though, and that would mean the Tribe managing some offensive support tonight for Justin Masterson.

Masterson has won only one time since July 14, but that only tells part of the story. In six starts since that day over a month ago, Masterson (9-7, 2.69 ERA) has allowed only 10 earned runs in 38.1 innings (including a start where he only worked two innings before rain shut him down for the night).

A perfect example of Masterson’s support — or lack of — this season came in his last outing, Friday against the Twins, when he worked 7.2 frames and allowed only two runs, yet came away with a no-decision (albeit in a game the Tribe eventually won).

Masterson is 1-2 vs. Chicago this year, but again, that does not tell the whole story. In 22 innings against the ChiSox, Masterson has allowed only three earned runs, yet has lost 4-2 and 1-0. In the 4-2 game on July 21 (his last start against the Pale Hose), Masterson gave up four runs — only one of which was earned.

To reiterate, Cleveland needs to give Justin some offensive support tonight.

That support will have to come against Philip Humber (8-8, 3.67 ERA). Humber has faced the Indians only once in 2011, back on April 3 during the Tribe’s first victory of the season. In that game, Humber did not record an out, and surrendered two runs on two hits in a relief role.

Humber has been on the hill twice in his career vs. Cleveland, but has gone a total of one inning, so tonight will be a case of the Tribe facing a starter they are not all that familiar with.

After tonight’s affair the Tribe will pack up and head for Detroit. It would be nice to be closer than they have been to the Tigers in almost three weeks when they take the field on Friday night.

Go Tribe!

Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.