Elarton pitched five-hit ball into the eighth inning and Hafner homered twice, leading the Indians to an 8-0 victory over first-place Chicago on Wednesday night. Cleveland took two of three in the crucial series, helped by Hafner's four home runs.
"Probably in my dream we would have won all three," Hafner said. "I was able to get in a pretty good groove and put some good swings on some pitches."
The Indians, who trailed by 15 games on Aug. 1, won for the 14th time in 16 tries and bounced back from a 10-inning loss Tuesday night when Joe Crede hit a game-winning homer.
"Every game from here on out is big. To push it back to 2½ was big," the 6-foot-8 Elarton said. "We think that we can still shoot for it. If it doesn't happen, so be it. We just want to make the playoffs."
Hafner, who has homered in four straight games overall, hit a long, three-run shot to center off Jon Garland in the eighth to quiet a loud sellout crowd of 36,543. He added a two-run shot off Jeff Bajenaru in the ninth, giving him a career-high 30 for the season and 100 RBI.
"I really didn't feel like I was able to get any good swings off Garland all night, just had trouble getting anything timed," Hafner said. "I was just able to get a pitch and stay inside of it."
Garland left the clubhouse before most reporters arrived, telling a team spokesman "tell them I didn't have it."
The Indians pushed their wild-card lead to one game over Boston while also putting more pressure on the White Sox, who've been in first place every day this season, but have lost nine of 13.
And on paper, at least, the Indians have an easier schedule over the final 11 days of the season -- four games at Kansas City, an off day, three home games against Tampa Bay and then a three-game finale at home against the White Sox.
Before the White Sox go to Jacobs Field, they must play four games at home against the Twins and then four in Detroit.
"It's tough to tell with baseball. We've been playing pretty well and hopefully we can continue to win games," Hafner said. "Hopefully, that series at the end of the year means something, it would be pretty exciting."
Facing Elarton for the third time this season, the White Sox couldn't generate a rally and spent most of the night hitting popups and fly balls.
"They are definitely playing the best of any team in baseball. And we wanted to take two out of three, so it's disappointing," Chicago's Paul Konerko said.
"I said before the series it was not the end of the season for any team, if they swept us or we swept them. ... It's still up for grabs, everything is up for grabs. But we are still 2½ games up, and I like having the lead."
Winning his fourth straight start, Elarton (11-7) allowed a third-inning single by Tadahito Iguchi and then not another hit until Aaron Rowand singled to lead off the eighth. After giving up another single to Crede, he was replaced by Bob Howry.
Garland (17-10), who started the season 8-0 and was 13-4 at the All-Star break, has just two wins in his last 10 starts. He gave up five runs and seven hits in 7 1/3 innings.
Blake homered for the second time in two games, a solo shot to right to give Elarton a 1-0 cushion in the third.
Sizemore's speed produced a second run in the sixth. He doubled leading off when Jermaine Dye couldn't handle his sinking liner to right and moved to third on Coco Crisp's sacrifice.
When Garland's pitch went behind the shoulder of Jhonny Peralta and got past catcher A.J. Pierzynski, Sizemore raced home, beating a throw to Garland with a good slide after Pierzynski made a quick retrieval and tossed to the plate.
Garland pitched out of a tough jam in the seventh after Victor Martinez singled and Ronnie Belliard doubled with none out. After getting a groundball for the first out with the runners holding, he intentionally walked Aaron Boone before Blake hit into a double play.
But in the eighth, Sizemore singled and, after another sacrifice by Crisp, Peralta walked. After getting in an 0-2 hole and then fouling off several pitches, Hafner connected on a full count.
- Hafner, hit in the face by a pitch from Chicago's Mark Buehrle in July, has eight career multihomer games, including three this year.
- Elarton's only major-league shutout came on Aug. 29, 2004, when he pitched a two-hitter against the White Sox in Cleveland.