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CLEVELAND (AP) — When Cleveland manager Terry Francona suddenly wanted to put up a pinch-hitter in the middle of an at-bat, he knew where to get a guy.
"Tyler Naquin was sitting over there by the bat rack for a couple of days, ready to hit," Francona said. "And that's not the easiest thing to do. But we didn't have to go find him. He was ready, and it showed."
The strategy paid off Thursday night when Naquin lofted a game-ending sacrifice fly in the ninth inning that lifted the Indians over the Chicago White Sox 5-4.
"I wanted anybody to walk it off for us, so for me to be the guy to do it, it's awesome," a smiling Naquin said. "The bottom line is being ready, no matter what. So when I got the call, I said, 'It's go time. Let's go.'"
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 said he planned on having Roberto Perez — hitting .108 — bunt Almonte to third. Once Almonte got there, though, Francona said he wanted someone who could drive the ball to the outfield.
So Francona sent Naquin to the plate with a 1-0 count. The rookie hit 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 White Sox finished up a 4-5 road trip.
"We've lost some late," manager Robin Ventura said. "We're playing some tough teams and I think we've been in a lot of these games."
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.
After being removed, he went to the bullpen and threw additional pitches.
"The main thing tonight was to feel good, and I did," Salazar said. "I feel great."
Cleveland's bullpen allowed one run over the final eight frames, with Mike Clevinger pitching four innings and Dan Otero hurling two.
"That's not the way you really draw it up, but I thought Clev was outstanding," Francona said.
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.
Francona is in favor of Commissioner Rob Manfred's plan to speed up games. He supports the idea of a 20-second pitch clock, and would like to see a time limit established for teams to challenge calls. "If we're putting that split-second decision on the umpires, we shouldn't have all day to decide," Francona said.
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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