Indians Wrap Up Regular Season with One More Win; Indians 3, White Sox 1
Bob Toth | On 01, Oct 2017
In the final game of the regular season, the Cleveland Indians did what they have done consistently over the last five weeks, winning a 3-1 decision over the Chicago White Sox in the final warm-up before the team heads into the postseason.
The game may have felt like a formality with nothing riding on this contest with the division clinched and home field advantage locked up against all playoff contenders with the exception of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Despite little at stake, the Indians got three early runs, some promising pitching performances, and, most importantly, escaped the day with no injuries.
In his final start and in pursuit of his tenth win, Josh Tomlin may have finalized his spot on the postseason roster as the fourth man in the starting rotation. Nothing has been formally announced regarding the Tribe’s roster for the American League Division Series and one of the few unknowns moving forward was who would occupy the last spot in the playoff rotation for the first round series against the Wild Card winner.
Tomlin excelled and stepped up like a true veteran on the mound last October when forced into action, but Danny Salazar ended his campaign this season with a pair of encouraging starts while fighting for his own postseason life. Tomlin made his case Sunday with an easy five and one-third innings of work against the White Sox, backed by an early lead.
On the mound for Chicago was right-hander Chris Volstad, making his second start of the season and his first career appearance against Cleveland. He had been roughed up his last time out, giving up six runs in a loss to the Los Angeles Angels. He would pitch much better, but by the time he would settle in on the mound, the Indians had a lead that they would protect for eight more frames.
Volstad was his own worst enemy from the jump. He walked Francisco Lindor on five pitches to start the home half of the first and walked Jason Kipnis on six. After getting ahead of Jose Ramirez 0-2, the Tribe’s top MVP candidate drew four straight balls to load the bases. The Indians’ approach at the plate quickly turned from patience to aggressiveness, as Edwin Encarnacion fouled off a pitch before lining out to short. Jay Bruce took a strike before swinging away at the second pitch, sending a single into right that would score both Lindor and Kipnis to give the Indians a 2-0 lead. Two pitches later, Carlos Santana lofted a fly to center, but Adam Engel made a nice running catch on the ball. With his momentum still carrying him some, he could not get off a strong and accurate throw to the plate, allowing Ramirez to score on a head first slide to make it a 3-0 game.
Tomlin quickly settled in on the mound after giving up a one-out double off of the wall in left to Yoan Moncada in the first. After getting a grounder from Rob Brantly to start the second, he struck out Tim Anderson and Rymer Liriano swinging to end the frame. He breezed through the third in similar fashion, getting a grounder from Alen Hanson before striking out Engel and Yolmer Sanchez swinging.
The Indians had a chance to tack on in the third, but could not score. Ramirez reached on an infield single to short with one out and stole second two batters later. Bruce drew a two-out walk to put two on for Santana, but he grounded to short off of Volstad to leave it a 3-0 game.
Tomlin continued his easy day on the mound in the fourth, getting Moncada to line to right before striking out Jose Abreu on three pitches. Matt Davidson flied to center, giving Tomlin eleven straight batters retired.
That streak would end in the fifth. Brantly homered to start the inning and Liriano doubled with one out to bring the tying run to the plate. Hanson flied out to Kipnis in center, moving Liriano to third, but Tomlin got another big strikeout by getting Engel looking to keep Cleveland’s two-run lead secure.
Indians fans got another Michael Brantley sighting in the fifth inning. After Ramirez hit double number 56 on the season with two outs, Brantley pinch-hit for Encarnacion in his second at bat since coming off of the disabled list. He grounded to second to end the inning.
Tomlin exited in the sixth after giving up a single to Sanchez and getting Moncada to fly to center. Tyler Saladino pinch-hit against reliever Joe Smith and flied to right and Davidson grounded to second to end another Sox threat.
Tyler Olson and Zach McAllister tag-teamed in the seventh to strike out the side. Brantley would return to the plate for a second at bat on the day in the bottom half of the frame in a big spot, doing so against Chicago left-hander Jace Fry with the bases loaded and two outs, but he grounded out to third, wasting Yandy Diaz’s double and walks by Lindor and Ramirez.
Andrew Miller started the eighth, striking out Hanson before manager Terry Francona lifted Lindor and Ramirez to a loud ovation from the Tribe loyal in attendance. Miller followed by striking out Engel looking before leaving to his own roar from the crowd. Bryan Shaw came in for some work, walking one and striking out one while working around an error at second by Giovanny Urshela to the first batter that he faced.
Cody Allen came on for the ninth, getting strikeouts of Davidson and Brantly before Anderson grounded to third, giving Allen his 30th save of the season.
The Indians (102-60) finished the regular season with the second-most wins in franchise history, trailing only the 111 of the 1954 AL pennant winning club. The White Sox (67-95) went 6-13 against the Indians in 2017 and were outscored, 92-53.
Tomlin (10-9) finally notched his tenth win of the season, giving the Indians five starters with ten or more wins on the season. He pushed his personal winning streak to five consecutive decisions and has not lost since June 25. He posted a perfect 5-0 record in nine second half starts with a 3.19 ERA and an even 1.00 WHIP, walking just three batters in his final 48 innings tossed.
Volstad (1-2), making just his second Major League start since 2012, was better for the White Sox the second time around and settled in for a good start overall after the rocky first inning. His three walks to start the afternoon would prove to be his undoing as all three of those free base runners would come around to score and would account for all of the Indians runs in the ball game. He gave Chicago a quality start, allowing three runs on three hits with four walks and two strikeouts in six innings of work.
The Indians will now take their rest, with eyes glued to Tuesday night’s AL Wild Card Game between the Minnesota Twins and the New York Yankees from Yankee Stadium. The winner will earn the privilege of heading to Cleveland to take on the reigning AL champions on Thursday in a 7:38 PM ET start from Progressive Field.
Photo: David Maxwell/Getty Image