CHICAGO — Ubaldo Jimenez is doing his part to keep the Cleveland Indians in the playoff hunt.
Jimenez pitched 8⅓ strong innings and Asdrubal Cabrera and Lonnie Chisenhall homered to lead Cleveland to an 8-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Saturday night that helped the Indians keep pace in the AL wild-card race.
Jimenez (12-9) scattered eight hits and struck out eight to win his third straight start, falling just two outs shy of his ninth career complete game and fourth shutout. The last time he did both was on June 1, 2011, with Colorado.
“I was looking for my first shutout in the American League,” Jimenez said. “I was able to establish my fastball down. Even when they got runners on base, I was able to get everything down for groundballs.”
The right-hander walked only one before being relieved by Chen-Chang Lee with one out and two on in the ninth. Chicago scored its lone run in the final inning on Josh Phegley’s sac fly — the first earned run charged to Jimenez in his last three outings.
Jimenez is 4-2 in his last six starts, and through 40 innings he has allowed eight runs and struck out 50.
And that’s been a big boost for the Indians, especially with ace Justin Masterson on the disabled list.
“Whether you have Masterson sidelined or not, when (Jimenez) takes the ball right now, he’s legit kind of top-of-the-league stuff,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “You look at his numbers since a couple months now, it’s pretty damn good.”
Cabrera hit a two-run homer and Chisenhall added a three-run shot in a five-run fourth inning that powered the Indians to their 11th straight win against Chicago and third in a row overall to improve to 80-68. Texas, at 81-66, holds one wild-card spot and Tampa Bay at 80-66 has the other.
“Everything counts right now,” Jimenez said. “You never know what game is going to make the difference.”
Cleveland’s Carlos Santana went 3-for-4 and drove in two runs with a single in the sixth.
Chicago starter Andre Rienzo (2-2) lasted just four innings, allowing five runs on seven hits and four walks. Rienzo was called up on July 30 and has allowed five or more runs in three of his last four starts.
The White Sox, last in the AL Central, have lost five straight and 14 of 16. They managed to get more than one man on base only twice against Jimenez, in the third and ninth.
“I saw the stats flash a couple of nights ago where they are .500 against the league and then like (14-2) against us now,” said Phegley, who went 3-for-3. “We’ve single-handedly put them in the playoff race basically.”
Rienzo pitched out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the first by striking out Michael Brantley and getting Cabrera to ground out.
The Indians batted around and took a 5-0 lead in the fourth.
With one out and Santana on first, Cabrera lofted his 13th homer to right to make it 2-0. After Jason Giambi walked and Yan Gomes singled, Chisenhall launched his 10th.
Rienzo was relieved by Charlie Leesman after walking Carlos Santana to open the fifth.
Santana made it 7-0 by driving in Chisenhall and Michael Bourne off Leesman in the sixth. Ryan Raburn drove in a run with a sac fly in the ninth off Addison Reed.
Rienzo and Gomes are the only two Brazilians in the majors. Rienzo is the first Brazilian pitcher in MLB.
* RHP Masterson, who leads the team with 14 wins, did not throw Saturday after playing long-toss on two previous days. He’s expected to throw again today.
* Francona is sticking to the “one game at time” approach when asked about the Indians chances of grabbing a playoff spot. “Logic says this probably going to go down near the wire,” he said. “I think we just need to worry about winning tonight.”
WHO: Cleveland vs. Chicago White Sox
TIME: 2:10 p.m.
WHERE: U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago
PITCHERS: McAllister (7-9, 4.11 ERA) vs. Sale (11-12, 2.90)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM