To hang around the top of the American League Wild Card standings, the Indians really need a strong series against the White Sox.
The Tribe got off on the right foot with a 14-3 victory on Thursday and improved to 12-2 against the White Sox this season, including nine straight victories. Cleveland enters Saturday 1 1/2 games behind the Rays for American League's second Wild Card spot.
The Indians will send rookie right-hander Danny Salazar to the mound for his eighth Major League start on Friday. He'll be opposed by lefty Hector Santiago in the second game of a four-game set.
Salazar took a no-decision in his last start despite giving up just one run on four hits with two walks and eight strikeouts in four innings against the Mets. He was removed from the game early because he'd racked up 80 pitches including a solo home run to Justin Turner.
"It was an elevated fastball," manager Terry Francona said. "[Salazar] just had a hard time working down."
In his last four starts, Salazar has allowed four earned runs in 19 1/3 innings for a 1.86 ERA. He's also struck out 23 batters while only walking six. His 45 strikeouts are the most by an Indians pitcher in his first seven games in 57 years.
Santiago also got his pitch count up in his last start, reaching 100 in five innings. He allowed two runs on seven hits, two walks and four strikeouts. He also got out of several jams as the Orioles went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
In his previous start on Aug. 30, Santiago lasted just 3 2/3 innings and gave up four earned runs on five hits with five walks and three strikeouts. Overall, Santiago is 4-8 with a 3.44 ERA in 21 starts this season and the big focus lately has been control.
Indians: Masterson working toward return
Right-hander Justin Masterson played catch from a distance of 90 feet on Thursday as he recovers from a left oblique strain he sustained on Sept. 2 against the Orioles.
"He came out today and played catch," manager Terry Francona said. "He went out to about 90 feet [and there were] no issues, no problems. And we'll just continue that progression. … He has to go [through] his progression, but he did well."
Prior to the injury, Masterson started 29 games and went 14-10 with a 3.52 ERA.
"[When he returns] all depends on how quickly he comes back," Francona said. "If he's back and healthy, we can pitch him, but that has to happen, so we don't need to put one thing ahead of the other."
White Sox: Phegley getting comfortable in the Major Leagues
One of the biggest things that catcher Josh Phegley can take from this season is the knowledge that he can compete in the big leagues.
"I believe I have everything I need to play at the Major League level," Phegley said. "Of course you want to get better and continue the process."
Minor League catching instructor John Orton has been impressed with his progress, as well.
"When I compare him to the other guys I see in other organizations that are now in the big leagues that are playing every day, to me, he's as good if not better than some of those guys," Orton said. "He can do everything. He can hit, throw and block. He's got good hands. He's quick, athletic. He's a decent runner. And again, he cares about the pitching staff, too. That goes a long way.
• Entering Thursday's series opener with the White Sox, second baseman Jason Kipnis was batting .424 (25-for-59) in 16 career games at U.S. Cellular Field. That was the highest qualifying batting average by a visiting player at U.S. Cellular field since the start of the 2011 season.
• The White Sox have lost 12 of their last 14 games.
Kathleen Gier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.