CLEVELAND — The Indians are on the verge of clinching the best record in the American League. They’re focused on a much larger prize.
"We’re motivated to win the World Series. That’s been our goal since the start of spring training," Trevor Bauer said. "Everybody is just playing the game at a high level right now. The goal is to win the day, then we’ll let the chips fall where they may."
Bauer had seven strikeouts over six innings, Edwin Encarnacion drove in three runs and Jay Bruce belted a two-run homer as Cleveland cruised to a 10-1 win over the Chicago White Sox on Friday night.
The Indians maintained their one-game lead — and own the tiebreaker — over Houston for the best record in the AL with two games remaining. With its next victory or an Astros loss, Cleveland will lock up the top seed and a division series matchup with the wild-card winner.
"We have to keep our foot on the pedal with the way Houston has played, but I think it’s been good for us," said manager Terry Francona, whose squad is 32-3 since beginning its AL-record 22-game winning streak on Aug. 24. "Because in this game, you can’t turn a button on or off, and our guys have done a really good job of that."
Bauer (17-9) allowed one run and four hits to earn his ninth victory in his last 10 decisions. Cleveland’s 101 triumphs are the second most in franchise history and set a record for wins by an AL Central team.
The Indians built a 10-0 lead after three innings, aided by six walks from White Sox right-hander Mike Pelfrey (3-12) and an error. Bruce provided the big blow in the second with his career-high 36th home run, while Encarnacion delivered a three-run double in the third.
"Personal achievements help the team, but it’s definitely secondary to winning," said Bruce, who has seven homers since being acquired in a trade with the Mets on Aug. 8.
"We still have something to play for, and I’m proud to play with a group of guys that don’t settle. It’s comforting as a teammate to know that we have guys who take everything seriously."
Bauer didn’t allow a baserunner until Yolmer Sanchez left off the fourth with his 12th home run. Yoan Moncada had two of the five hits for rebuilding Chicago, which is 35 games behind Cleveland in the Central.
"They’ve got everything. They’ve got hitters, they’ve got pitchers, they do the little things, too," Sanchez said. "I think they’re going to make it back to the World Series. To me, they deserve it. Best luck to them."
Indians RHP Danny Salazar may have pitched his way onto the playoff roster with 4 2/3 scoreless innings and nine strikeouts Wednesday against Minnesota. "Danny is a big thing we need to figure out," Francona said. "What he did the other day, that was real."
White Sox: LF Nicky Delmonico (left shoulder strain) left the game in the sixth and is considered day to day. The 25-year-old rookie hurt himself in the first while diving for a ball, and then aggravated the injury while striking out.
Indians: OF Michael Brantley (right ankle sprain), who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 9, participated in pregame outfield drills. Francona said he doesn’t "think it’s fair" to speculate on Brantley playing this weekend, but didn’t rule it out.
White Sox: RHP Carson Fulmer is 1-0 with a 1.46 ERA over his last three starts. He only recorded one out in his last outing Sept. 21 at Houston before exiting with a blister.
Indians: RHP Corey Kluber seeks to solidify his status as the AL Cy Young Award front-runner in his final start of the regular season. He is 18-4 with a 2.27 ERA and 262 strikeouts.