The Indians won 17 of 19 matchups with the White Sox during the 2013 season, and a large part of the success was courtesy of Justin Masterson.
Cleveland's ace hurler posted a 4-0 record against the South Siders with two complete games, a 0.83 ERA and 29 strikeouts over 32 2/3 innings. Masterson will try to carry that dominance into 2014 with Saturday afternoon's start at U.S. Cellular Field.
"I mean, I've always been good against the White Sox, historically," said Masterson, who is 8-5 lifetime with a 2.22 ERA against the White Sox. "I've probably had some bad games here or there, but I don't know if there's anything fancy about it. It's just kind of the way it is; some guys do well against certain teams more than others.
"Who knows? Maybe it's because it's my dad's favorite team growing up, maybe it has something to do with that. I don't think there's anything too crazy about it. It's just I've been able to be effective."
Masterson will try to prevent the White Sox, who will send Felipe Paulino to the hill, from winning a third straight, after Chris Sale and the resurgent offense pushed the home team to a 9-6 victory Friday. As shown by the White Sox performance with the bats in this series, this is a different White Sox offense to be faced by the right-hander.
Adam Eaton has reached base safely 12 times in his last four games. Alexei Ramirez has hit in all 11 games played this season, Conor Gillaspie has hit in nine straight and Jose Abreu makes an impact even when he's making outs. They are playing with more life and producing better at-bats, which kind of goes hand and hand.
"Well, they're a better lineup. With Eaton leading off, who is more of a scrappy guy, harder to get out, makes you throw a lot of pitches," Cleveland pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. "You've got Abreu, who's kind of a game-changer. You can't just go up there and kind of take him for granted. You have to make sure that, 'Oh, OK, I might have to pitch around somebody in the lineup now.' Adding those two guys in the lineup makes them a lot better team."
"One thing I will say, is I think for the most part, top to bottom, the outs that we are making, it seems like that they are deeper in the counts," White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn said. "We are, as a team, having a lot better quality at-bats maybe than we did last year -- especially early. But again, when you are scoring runs and getting some hits, it looks pretty good."
White Sox: Bullpen work can be contagious in a positive way
The White Sox relief crew entered Friday's contest with a 6.75 ERA and .302 average against, ranking them 15th in the American League in both categories. But with the three innings of scoreless baseball thrown by Daniel Webb and Matt Lindstrom on Thursday, manager Robin Ventura believes success can be contagious.
"When you get guys that come in from the bullpen, you have to have belief first," Ventura said. "You have to have that momentum going that everyone is doing their part and doing their job. Guys come in and they get it done. This leads to the next guy coming in and having that belief and pulling for each other. There's part of that that is true."
Jake Petricka allowed two runs over two innings in relief of Sale on Friday. Maikel Cleto threw a scoreless eighth, and Donnie Veal yielded one run in the ninth.
Indians: Bourn vying to return as soon as possible
Indians manager Terry Francona has reiterated several times that the team won't rush to bring back Michael Bourn before he's ready. The speedy center fielder is feeling good on his rehab assignment at Double-A Akron, though, and wants to rejoin the Tribe as soon as possible.
Bourn is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on Sunday, though it seemed like Tuesday in Detroit was a more realistic date.
"He really wants to play Sunday, which we're OK with," Francona said. "But the weather's supposed to be really bad here, so when we told him that -- we're going to talk to him tonight [about] what we should do going forward. He said he felt really good last night running. Again, we don't want to slow him down, so we'll see how he does tonight."
Bourn went 1-for-9 with a walk and stolen base in back-to-back nine-inning games Thursday and Friday.
Jason Giambi joined Bourn in Akron on Friday for his first rehab game. He went 0-for-2 with a walk and two strikeouts and was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh. He is eligible to return from the DL on Tuesday.
• The White Sox have scored 37 runs over the first five games at U.S. Cellular this season. They scored 48 runs over the first 14 games at home in '13.
• White Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza celebrated his 30th birthday on Friday.
• The Indians' bullpen has allowed six runs in 7 2/3 innings (7.04 ERA) in two games against the White Sox.
• With a seventh-inning single, Jason Kipnis has now hit safely in his last nine games at U.S. Cellular Field and 20 of 21 career games here overall.
• Cleveland pitching allowed nine walks in Friday's loss for the first time since April 16, 2013, against the Boston Red Sox.