The Cleveland offense managed just two hits on the afternoon against Chicago starter Carlos Rodon and closer David Robertson as the two combined to shut out the Indians, 3-0, in their home finale on Sunday.
It appeared at times as if the Indians had already packed up their bats for the coming seven-game road trip to wrap up the regular season. Cleveland had no answer for Rodon, who kept the Tribe in check through the first four innings and for much of the game in general. It wasted another solid start from Josh Tomlin, who has now given the Indians three straight impressive outings to salvage a problematic second half of the schedule.
The White Sox were held scoreless until the fifth when they stole the only run that they would need on the day. Todd Frazier singled to start the inning, just the second hit of the game for the Sox and their third base runner. After a pair of liners, he moved to second on a stolen base and came in to score on a single to left by Carlos Sanchez to give Chicago a 1-0 lead.
After getting walks in the second and fourth innings, the Indians finally got their first hit in the fifth as Brandon Guyer singled to center. He moved to second on a passed ball before a walk from Coco Crisp and the two each moved up 90 feet on a sacrifice from Chris Gimenez, but Michael Martinez flied out to shallow right-center and Rajai Davis struck out swinging as the Indians missed out on a chance to tie or even take the lead.
It would be the best shot that they would have on the afternoon. The White Sox, meanwhile, padded their small lead with another run in the seventh when Justin Morneau reached on an error, moved to second on a one-out single from Avisail Garcia, and headed to third after Omar Narvaez loaded the bases with an infield single. Sanchez came to the plate and lofted a fly to Davis in center and his throw hit Gimenez at the plate on the fly, but the slide from pinch-runner J.B. Shuck ejected the ball from the Indians catcher’s mitt all the way to first base. The run gave the White Sox a 2-0 lead.
Rodon retired the side in order in the sixth and worked around a leadoff single from Carlos Santana in the seventh, striking out two before a groundout from pinch-hitter Jesus Aguilar. He struck out the side in order in the eighth and the White Sox gave him another run of support in the top of the ninth as Frazier walked, stole second again, moved to third on the Indians’ third error of the game, and scored on a two-out single from Narvaez. Robertson entered in a save situation and struck out the side in order to end it with his 36th save of the year.
The Indians (90-65) came up a win short of tying their season high for wins at Jacobs/Progressive Field. With 53 on the season, they have the second-most in the history of the park after the 54 collected by the 1995 club. More painful, it prevented the club from celebrating an outright AL Central title at home in Cleveland with its fans after the Detroit Tigers lost again to the Kansas City Royals on Sunday to drop the Indians’ magic number to one.
“You want to do it in front of the home crowd,” said Kipnis. “It would have been fun to give high-fives down the line, all that stuff, but we’ll push it back until tomorrow in Detroit, hopefully.”
The White Sox (74-81), just like the Royals, played spoilers this weekend, refusing to allow the Indians to celebrate a crown in their presence.
“They’re eventually going to win it but we won’t be around to see them celebrate,” shared Chicago’s Frazier after the game. “You’ve got to take pride in every game and every series, so they’ll have to do it on the road now.”
TOMLIN THE TOUGH-LUCK LOSER
The Indians loss was more about the disappearing act from the offense the last two games and less about the effort from Tomlin (12-9, 4.48 ERA) on the mound. He worked six and two-thirds innings in another quality outing, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits. He once again did not walk a batter and struck out only one.
Unlike his last start, when he got Kansas City to put the ball on the ground 13 times for outs, the fly ball worked to his advantage, turning into 14 of the 20 outs he made on the day. Despite the heavy air traffic, he kept the White Sox in the yard, something he has done successfully in each of his last three starts.
“We have a resilient group,” said Tomlin postgame. “We’re ready for the next challenge. If it has to be in Detroit or Kansas City, wherever it may be, we need to get it done. We know what the task is and we’re prepared for it. Hopefully we get it done sooner rather than later.”
RODON ROUGH ON TRIBE
Rodon (8-10, 4.08) got the elusive first win of the season against the Indians in his fourth attempt and did so in dominating fashion. He allowed just two hits and walked three in eight scoreless innings. His eleven strikeouts matched a career-high, established last August 11 against the Los Angeles Angels.
INDIANS ATTENDANCE UP
Attendance at Progressive Field was up this season compared to last, after 24,118 took in the home finale on Sunday. The renovated park brought in 1,591,667 through the gates, an average of 19,650.
In 2015, they drew 1,388,905. This season’s mark is the largest since 2013 and ended a four-year decrease in ticket sales.
MLB MOURNS FERNANDEZ
A moment of silence was held prior to the Indians-White Sox game for the late Jose Fernandez, the star 24-year-old right-hander of the Miami Marlins who died in a boating accident in the early morning hours on Sunday.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
With the home portion of the schedule completed, the Indians hit the road for Comerica Park in Detroit, where they will play four straight games against the Tigers. Any one win in the next week will give the Indians the division title.
Corey Kluber (18-9, 3.11 ERA) will look to put another positive outing on his resume for the Cy Young Award ballot while looking to secure the Indians’ first division crown since 2007. He will be opposed by right-hander Buck Farmer (0-0, 4.07). Farmer will make his 14th appearance and his first start of 2016. He has seven career starts under his belt from the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
First pitch from Comerica Park is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images