The Indians offense could not deliver the big hit when it mattered while the White Sox got the one that counted the most as Chicago defeated Cleveland behind a 2-1 walk-off win on Thursday afternoon.
After the Tribe failed to score with runners on the corners and one out in the ninth, the White Sox ended the series finale with a celebration at U.S. Cellular Field. Bryan Shaw, on for his second inning of work after striking out the lone batter he faced in the eighth inning in the dangerous Todd Frazier, gave up a leadoff single to Omar Narvaez. He was lifted for pinch-runner Leury Garcia, who picked off second base with Adam Moore on behind the plate for Roberto Perez. Avisail Garcia struck out in the process, but it was a moot point in the grand scheme of things as Carlos Sanchez delivered the game-winning single to right to give Chicago the 2-1 win.
The Indians (84-62) dropped three of four to the White Sox (71-75) during the week while going 3-4 against the bottom two teams in the AL Central during their two-city road trip. Their lead over Detroit, however, remained at six as the Tigers fell to the Minnesota Twins Thursday.
Mike Clevinger drew the starting assignment for Cleveland in the afternoon matinee and needed a lot of pitches and some luck to escape a two-out jam in the first. Melky Cabrera singled to right and Jose Abreu singled to center with two down to bring up Frazier, who walked on four pitches to load the bases. Clevinger got out of it, getting a pop out from Narvaez to work his magic act.
Cleveland wasted a leadoff double by Mike Napoli to start the second, but made up for it some in the third when it got on the scoreboard first. Michael Martinez singled with one out and went to second on a wild pitch from Chicago’s struggling starter James Shields before a walk by Coco Crisp. Jason Kipnis walked to load the bases and Jose Ramirez once again delivered a run in the clutch with a sacrifice fly to left to score Martinez with the game’s first run. Napoli was hit by a pitch to reload the bases, but Carlos Santana grounded to second to end the threat with just one run scored.
Clevinger worked a better third inning, but he got burned in the fourth on a leadoff homer from Abreu to tie the game at one. “The Flow” finished the inning with no further damage, but an elevated pitch count from the lengthy first frame spelled an end to his day a little earlier than hoped.
Shawn Armstrong worked around a pair of one-out singles in his inning of work in the fifth. Shields countered by extending his consecutive batters retired streak to nine straight before Santana reached on an infield single and Tyler Naquin walked to put two on the base paths once again. The opportunity to take the lead was wasted, however, as Abraham Almonte struck out swinging.
It became the bullpens’ game in the top of the seventh when Chris Beck took over for Shields after his quality start. Beck allowed a two-out walk of Crisp, but no further damage. His relief mate Nate Jones pitched a perfect eighth with two strikeouts. Jeff Manship retired both batters he faced for Cleveland in the sixth and Cody Anderson faced the minimum through two innings of work before a double by Cabrera and an intentional walk to Abreu with two down in the eighth brought Shaw in for his strikeout of Frazier.
Chicago’s Robin Ventura brought out his closer, David Robertson, to keep the game tied in the ninth and barely succeeded in doing so. Naquin singled to lead off the inning, but Almonte failed to get a bunt down properly as Robertson fielded the comebacker and fired to second to cut down the lead runner. Almonte made up for his mistake some by stealing second and advancing to third on the throwing error by catcher Narvaez before pinch-hitter Francisco Lindor struck out for the second out. Rajai Davis replaced Martinez at the plate and drew a five-pitch walk, but Crisp struck out swinging to end another big and squandered Indians rally, making way for Sanchez’s game-winner three batters later.
The Tribe mustered just four hits in the defeat. They were 0-for-7 at the plate with runners in scoring position and stranded nine. Every starter with the exception of Kipnis struck out at least once on the afternoon.
Shields allowed three hits and three walks in the no-decision, giving up one run while striking out eight in six innings. Shaw took his fifth loss of the season for Cleveland.
The Indians will return home for their final homestand of the season as they host the second place Tigers for three straight over the weekend. Corey Kluber (16-9, 3.05 ERA) will look for his third win this season against Detroit. He has allowed just one run on seven hits with two walks and 17 strikeouts in 17 innings pitched over his first two outings against the Tigers in 2016. Rookie right-hander Michael Fulmer (10-6, 2.76) will continue his AL Rookie of the Year pursuits in his third start of the season against Cleveland and his first since July 6. He is 1-1 against the Indians this season.
Progressive Field’s first pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET on Friday.
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