CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians are on the verge of clinching their first American League Central title in nine years. The Chicago White Sox, meanwhile, are on the verge of completing their fourth straight losing season.
The teams meet Friday night at Progressive Field in the first contest of a three-game series. The Indians, who are coming off a three-game sweep of Kansas City, are 89-63 and hold a seven-game lead over second place Detroit with 10 games to play. Cleveland's magic number for clinching is four.
The White Sox have lost five games in a row and are 72-75, fourth place in the Central.
The Indians overcame a rash of injuries this season and are on the brink of winning their eighth Central Division title. Even more impressive is that the Indians are where they are despite losing their best hitter, Michael Brantley, their starting catcher, Yan Gomes, plus two of their top three starters, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, to season-ending injuries.
Through it all, Cleveland manager Terry Francona has remained upbeat.
"Whenever you lose somebody, whoever takes his place may not be capable of doing it all year, but in the short term they may be very capable," Francona said.
The injuries to Carrasco and Salazar, the club's Nos. 2 and 3 starters, makes the approaching postseason look very daunting.
"What we have are not just bodies, but some young pitchers we feel pretty good about," Francona said. "I'd much rather have Danny and Carlos, but we're not going to whine about it. You do the best with what you have."
What the Indians have is a starting rotation of Corey Kluber, who could win the Cy Young Award this year for the second time in three years, plus Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin. After that it gets a little murky. Mike Clevinger, a candidate to be the fourth starter in the postseason should Cleveland need one, started Thursday night against Kansas City and in five innings gave up two runs on four hits, with four strikeouts and two walks. He was not involved in the decision.
Kluber will not pitch in the Chicago series.
Friday's pitching matchup will be Cleveland's Trevor Bauer (11-8, 4.24) versus Chicago's Miguel Gonzalez (4-7, 3.83).
In three appearances (two starts) against the White Sox this year, Bauer is 0-1 with a 4.40 ERA. In his career against Chicago, he is 3-2, 3.70 in 11 appearances (nine starts).
Gonzalez has never lost to the Indians. In five career appearances (four starts), he is 4-0 with a 3.26 ERA. He has made one start against the Indians this year, winning 11-4 on Sept. 12.
Indians host White Sox with title in sight