The Cleveland bats went cold on Saturday night, just hours after the club received word that the Boston Red Sox had defeated the Houston Astros at Fenway Park, clinching home field advantage in the American League Championship Series for the Indians. The White Sox limited the Tribe to just three hits afterwards to earn a 2-1 victory.
The loss for the Indians (101-60) eliminated them from contention for the top record in Major League Baseball and a chance to claim home field in the World Series. As it stands, if the Tribe can reach the Fall Classic for a second consecutive season and for the seventh time in franchise history, the city would be host to any National League opponent with the exception of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Corey Kluber was on the mound for the Indians to make his last ditch effort for the American League’s Cy Young award. He did not hurt his season numbers any as a result of his outing, pitching a quiet five innings before turning the game over to the bullpen in a tie game.
The Tribe’s ace and Thursday’s Game 1 starter dodged a late threat in the first from the White Sox. Jose Abreu doubled to center with two outs and moved to third on a passed ball by Yan Gomes, but was left stranded as Avisail Garcia flied to center. He got a double play ball in the second inning after a one-out single from Matt Davidson, and he pitched a perfect third inning, recording his first strikeout of the game by striking out Adam Engel for the second out.
The Indians took their first look at White Sox’s second-year pitcher Carson Fulmer and struggled to get anything going against the right-hander. He allowed a one-out single to Jason Kipnis in the first and retired the side in order in the second. Gomes started the third with a single to right, but was erased on a double play grounder by Giovanny Urshela. Francisco Lindor would walk with two outs, but Kipnis grounded to short to end the inning.
The White Sox got on the board in the fourth to end a significant consecutive innings pitched streak without allowing an earned run by Kluber. Abreu reached on a single to short, moved to second on a groundout to short by Garcia, and came in to score on a bloop single to right-center by catcher Kevan Smith to put Chicago up, 1-0. Kluber gave up another single to Davidson to put two on for Tyler Saladino, but he struck out swinging for the third out.
The Indians wasted a two-out walk by Jay Bruce in the fourth, but knotted the game up in the bottom of the next inning. Gomes reached base with one out after being hit by a Fulmer pitch. Michael Brantley, who was activated prior to the game from the 10-day disabled list, pinch-hit for Urshela and received a loud standing ovation from the home fans. He rewarded them with a ten-pitch battle with Fulmer before singling to right. With runners on the corners, Lindor grounded into a force at second, but Gomes scored on the play to tie the game at one. After Fulmer balked Lindor into scoring position, Kipnis left him stranded with a fly out to center to leave the game tied at one.
Mike Clevinger took over for Kluber, who was done after five. After striking out Abreu to start the sixth inning, Garcia drew a walk and would score on a double to deep right by Smith, who plated his second run of the night while giving the White Sox a 2-1 lead.
Five separate Chicago relievers would hold Cleveland hitless over the last four innings, allowing walks to pinch-hitter Abraham Almonte in the bottom of the seventh with one out and Jose Ramirez in the home half of the eighth with two down. In both circumstances, the remaining outs in the inning were retired on strikeouts as the Indians could not get the run that they needed to tie the game.
Juan Minaya pitched a perfect ninth for his ninth save of the season.
Kluber took the no-decision, working five innings while allowing a run on six hits with no walks and three strikeouts. It was an odd night for the right-hander, who did not strike out a batter until the ninth man that he faced. He added a strikeout to end the fourth and start the Chicago fifth.
A front-runner in the AL Cy Young race, Kluber finished his regular season with an 18-4 record in 29 starts. He currently sits atop the MLB leaderboard with a 2.25 ERA for the year, better than the 2.31 mark of Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw, who sports an identical 18-4 record in 27 starts. His WHIP is also tops among qualified starters in MLB this season, as his 0.87 mark is just slightly better than the 0.90 mark of Washington’s Max Scherzer. Kluber also moved over the 200 innings pitched mark with his five innings Saturday, giving him 203 2/3 on the year, and he finished with 265 strikeouts, three behind Scherzer for second and well in back of the MLB leader and chief competition for the AL Cy, Chris Sale, who has 308 on the year.
Fulmer (3-1) got the win as he was still the pitcher of record when the Sox took the lead in the top of the sixth against Clevinger (12-6). He gave up one run on three hits, walked a pair, and struck out two. Four White Sox relievers earned holds before Minaya earned the save with a scoreless ninth.
The Indians offense struggled with the bats, drawing more walks (four) than hits (three) on the night.
The game drew an announced crowd of 33,173, the 13th sellout of the season by the Indians. The Tribe surpassed the two million mark in attendance this season with the night’s attendance, doing so for the first time since 2008.
The regular season finale will take place Sunday afternoon in an unconventional 3:10 PM ET start as Major League Baseball concludes all of its games in similar starts on the last day of the regular season. Right-hander Josh Tomlin (9-9, 5.11 ERA) will make his final start, aiming for win number ten on the season. He has won five straight decisions, but has taken no-decisions in his last three attempts to reach double digits, which would pair him with four other Tribe starters (Kluber, Clevinger, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer) in accomplishing the feat this season. The White Sox will turn to righty Chris Volstad (1-1, 4.73), who will make his first career appearance against the Indians and just his second start of the season. He made his first big league start since 2012 in his last outing, a loss to the Los Angeles Angels while allowing six runs on six hits in five innings of work.
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