CHICAGO -- If you stumbled into U.S. Cellular Field and didn't know any better, you would swear the Indians, not the White Sox, were the team fighting for its postseason life this weekend. Of course, if you stumbled into the ballpark formerly known as Jacobs Field three years ago this weekend, you would have thought just the opposite. So when Eric Wedge was asked to put himself in the shoes of those on the other side of the field Saturday night, after the Indians had wrapped up a 12-6 victory to once again spoil the Sox hopes of regaining the AL Central lead, it wasn't a difficult assignment.
"I've been there," Wedge said. But you won't find Wedge making a choke gesture, a la Ozzie Guillen in '05. You'll just find him beaming with pride over the way his Indians are playing here in the home stretch of a season set to expire. "I'm as proud of this club as any I've ever had," Wedge said. "With all the adversity they went through, they've really worked hard to stay together." They worked together to put together another party-squashing win in front of a Sox-supporting crowd that cheered wildly in the second inning, when the Twins' loss to the Royals became official. At that point, the Indians and Sox were tied at 1, after Shin-Soo Choo and Jermaine Dye traded solo shots. Chicago, which didn't take advantage of Minnesota's win Friday, was given that rare second chance to make things right. And once again, the Indians did them wrong. After looking generally clueless against right-hander Javier Vazquez for four innings, save Choo's homer, Cleveland suddenly erupted off the right-hander with a six-run fifth. The Tribe loaded the bases with one out, and Asdrubal Cabrera ripped a double to right to clear the bases and make it 4-1. "He had thrown me a cutter in before," Cabrera said of Vazquez. "He threw me that pitch again. That was the pitch I hit." After Vazquez, who was getting booed mercilessly by the crowd by this point, intentionally walked Grady Sizemore, Jamey Carroll doubled down the right-field line to score two more runs and make it 7-1. It was the second time in as many nights that the Indians strung together a six-run fifth. "When you have an opportunity to put an inning together, you have to take advantage of it," Wedge said. "That's what we've done." Left-hander Zach Jackson was hoping to take advantage of the run support and earn his second win in as many starts. And with seven strong innings in which he allowed just two runs -- the solo homer to Dye and another solo shot from Paul Konerko in the seventh -- on three hits, that's just what he did. "One through nine, they've got such a great lineup," Jackson said of the Sox. "I told myself, 'I just want to leave it all on the field.' I'm very happy with the outcome." So was Wedge, who learned a lot about the young Jackson in his last two starts, in which he tamed a Red Sox team and a White Sox team with plenty to play for. "He stepped up," Wedge said. "He threw a good ballgame, he trusted his stuff. There were a few moments where he nibbled. But other than that, he came right at 'em. You know there's always going to be a [long] ball, but ideally you want them to be solo shots, and that's what he did." You also had to know the Sox wouldn't go out with a whimper. They simply have too much to play for. They finally came to life in the eighth, putting up four runs off relievers Brendan Donnelly, Rafael Perez and Jensen Lewis, with Lewis serving up a two-run blast to Konerko that made it 8-6. But just when it seemed the Sox bats might actually atone for the ills of their pitching staff, the Indians ripped their heart out with a four-run ninth. Jhonny Peralta and Victor Martinez ripped consecutive singles off Scott Linebrink and Matt Thornton with the bases loaded to bring in a pair, and Franklin Gutierrez added a pinch-hit, two-run single with two out. "[The White Sox] put a good inning together in the bottom of the eighth to get the crowd back in it," Wedge said. "The whole complexion of the game changes in a hurry, which it can do here. But our guys did a great job of coming out and fighting through some at-bats. We took the game right back." The Tribe win was significant, not just for what it meant for the Sox, but also for what it meant to the Indians, who have guaranteed that they will finish the season at or above the .500 mark. "To get to that 81-win plateau, we've got a chance to finish over .500," Wedge said. "That's what we're focused on is playing good, hard baseball and giving ourselves a chance to win."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.