CLEVELAND -- The rejuvenated Cleveland Indians will conclude their three-game series with the Chicago White Sox on Sunday afternoon at Progressive Field. The series has the feel of two ships passing in the night.
The first-place Indians are hot again, having won the first two games of the series, including a 13-2 blowout win on Saturday. The Indians came home having lost four of the last five games on a 10-game homestand.
But returning to the friendly confines of Progressive Field, and playing an opponent from the Central Division have combined to help get the Indians winning again. The Indians are 20-10 versus Central Division opponents, the best division record of any team in the division.
Sunday's game could be a challenge for the Indians, however, because their starting pitcher will be Carlos Carrasco (2-2, 3.40), who has struggled during his career against the White Sox. In 13 career starts against Chicago, Carrasco is 3-8 with a 5.90 ERA.
The Indians' offense continues to get a boost from rookie center fielder Tyler Naquin, who in the win Saturday night came within a double of hitting for the cycle. Naquin 3-for-4 with two walks, a single, a triple, a home run and four RBI.
Naquin started the season with the Indians, was demoted to Triple-A Columbus, and then recalled. With the Indians, he is hitting .320 with five home runs and 14 RBI.
"He looks more relaxed, especially at the plate," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. "He took some good swings tonight and did some damage."
The White Sox, meanwhile, are struggling again, having lost 17 of their last 23 games, dating to May 23. No White Sox player personifies the team's struggles more than James Shields, who was shelled again Saturday night.
Despite some horrific numbers, Shields will start again in five days, Thursday against the Boston Red Sox.
Saturday night in Cleveland, Shields made his third start for the White Sox since being acquired in a trade with San Diego. It did not go well. After his first 11 pitches, Shields was losing 4-0. He only retired five of the 15 batters he faced, giving up eight runs in 1 2/3 innings.
In his last four start Shields is 0-3 with a 24.62 ERA. Manager Robin Ventura, however, said no consideration is being given to removing Shields from the rotation.
"He's got to figure this thing out," Ventura said. "It's not like he's walking guys all over the place. His velocity isn't what it was five years ago, but he still has the stuff to get people out."
In the meantime, the White Sox will send left-hander Carlos Rodon (2-6, 4.28) to the mound on Sunday as they try to salvage the final game of the series. Rodon appears to match up well with Cleveland. In five career appearances, four of them starts, against the Indians Rodon is 3-0 with a 1.52 ERA.
Whether White Sox outfielder Melky Cabrera plays Sunday remains to be seen. He was removed from Saturday's game in the fourth inning after injuring his wrist while trying to make a diving catch in left field. Ventura said X-rays on the wrist were negative and that Cabrera's status is day-to-day.