BRIAN DULIK, Associated Press
CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland manager Terry Francona put up a pinch-hitter in the middle of an at-bat and the strategy paid off when Tyler Naquin lofted a game-ending sacrifice fly in the ninth inning that lifted the Indians over the Chicago White Sox 5-4 Thursday night.
The AL Central-leading Indians scored a single run in each of the last five innings to overtake Chicago. Cleveland improved to 6-2 on an 11-game homestand.
Abraham Almonte doubled to begin ninth off Jacob Turner (1-2). With Roberto Perez batting, a passed ball by Dioner Navarro moved Almonte to third.
Francona then sent Naquin to the plate with a 1-0 count. The rookie drove the first pitch he saw to center field, deep enough that Adam Eaton couldn’t prevent Almonte from scoring.
Andrew Miller (7-1) earned the win with one inning of scoreless relief.
The Indians activated right-hander Danny Salazar from the 15-day disabled list before the game, but he lasted just one inning in the shortest start of his career.
Salazar, who had been sidelined because of inflammation in his pitching elbow, walked three to load the bases with one out. Justin Morneau hit a three-run double, and Salazar got the next two batters and was pulled.
Rajai Davis hit an RBI double in the seventh off Chris Beck to pull Cleveland with 4-3. The Indians tied it in the eighth on an RBI single by Jose Ramirez against Nate Jones.
White Sox starter Carlos Rodon gave up two runs in six innings.
White Sox: 2B Brett Lawrie (left hamstring strain) experienced soreness in his left quadriceps, forcing him to leave Double-A Birmingham’s game against Jackson after the second inning Wednesday. He is 5 for 14 on his rehab assignment with the Barons.
Indians: RHP Josh Tomlin (family medical emergency list) told Francona that he expects to return to Cleveland and make his scheduled start Saturday. “I told Josh that he has our blessing to take as much time as he needs,” Francona said.
White Sox: RHP James Shields makes his 14th start since being acquired from San Diego on June 4 as Chicago opens a three-game series against Oakland.
Indians: RHP Trevor Bauer takes the mound to begin a three-game set with Toronto. He is 0-1 with a 17.47 ERA in two career starts against the Blue Jays.
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