While the NFL’s Cleveland Browns were holding on for a 21-17 win down the street at FirstEnergy Stadium to end a 635-day winless drought, the MLB’s Indians dropped a 5-4 final to the Chicago White Sox in a game that mattered far less to the city on the lake.
Both the Browns and Indians had to fight back from big early deficits in their home matchups on Thursday night. While the Browns pulled ahead and held on for the win, the Indians were able to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth, only to lose it in the eleventh after a clutch two-out hit from Matt Davidson.
Adam Cimber, pitching in his second inning after working around a pair of two-out hit batters in the tenth, got into trouble quickly in the eleventh when Yolmer Sanchez drove the first pitch to the wall in left-center for a leadoff double. Kevan Smith grounded to short for the first out before Avisail Garcia was intentionally walked. Ryan Cordell struck out swinging to put the Sox’s rally in jeopardy, but Davidson delivered on the second pitch of his at bat, driving a single to right to score Sanchez from second with the go-ahead run. Tim Anderson lined out to end the threat.
Hector Santiago, who came on in the bottom of the ninth and had worked around base runners in both frames, hit rookie Eric Haase with a 1-1 pitch to start the home half of the eleventh, but got Francisco Lindor to fly to center, Michael Brantley to strike out, and Jose Ramirez to ground out sharply up the middle to end it, giving the White Sox their 60th win of the season against 92 losses.
The Indians dropped to 85-67 on the year with the defeat.
The game was dominated early by the Sox in what could be the final home start at Progressive Field in the career of longest-tenured Indian Josh Tomlin, who was on the mound for his second start since returning to the starting rotation. Chicago racked up hits early to take a lead and added on more over the first few innings.
Yoan Moncada started the game with a single and was joined on the bases by Sanchez, who singled to center. After a flyout by Daniel Palka, Garcia singled to left to drive in Moncada with the third hit of the inning. A groundout moved both runners up 90 feet, but Tomlin struck out Davidson to prevent further damage.
The Indians missed a big opportunity in the first against James Shields to get on the scoreboard. Lindor walked on five pitches before Brantley and Ramirez each flied out. Edwin Encarnacion drew a five-pitch walk and Yonder Alonso did the same on four straight pitches to load the bases, but Yandy Diaz grounded a 1-1 pitch to third, where Sanchez retired the final out of the inning.
The White Sox added on two more runs in the second to expand their lead. After a three-pitch strikeout of Anderson to start the inning, Ryan LaMarre sent a sinker to right for a one-out single. Adam Engel reached on an infield single off of the glove of a diving Lindor to put two on and Moncada doubled to right off of the base of the wall to drive in both base runners to make it a 3-0 Chicago lead. Tomlin followed the big hit with a pair of outs in the air, but the damage was done as the Sox had a three-run lead.
That advantage grew to four in the third when Omar Narvaez homered after an eight-pitch battle with Tomlin to make the score 4-0 White Sox.
The Indians cut that deficit in half on consecutive pitches from Shields in the bottom of the frame. Lindor notched homer number 36 with a blast to deep right on a 1-1 changeup to make it a 4-1 game. Brantley followed with his 17th homer of the season and the team’s ninth back-to-back homers of the year on the very next pitch, driving a four-seamer just over the wall in right-center to make it a 4-2 score. Cleveland added two more runners after a double by Encarnacion and a single by Alonso, but with the chance to cut the lead down further, Diaz grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Tomlin exited after a quiet fourth inning, trailing 4-2. His counterpart Shields faced the minimum over the next three innings, using a caught stealing of Melky Cabrera after a strikeout of Roberto Perez to end the fourth and another double play by Diaz in the sixth after Encarnacion started the inning with a hit by pitch.
The Indians were held scoreless in the seventh in a perfect inning by Aaron Bummer, but he did not have the same success in the bottom of the eighth as the Tribe rallied all the way back. Lindor tripled to center to kick off the inning and scored on a wild pitch by the Sox’s reliever. Brantley singled before a strikeout by Ramirez. Rob Scahill came on in relief, but Brantley stole second and moved to third on the second wild pitch of the frame from the Sox staff. Encarnacion drew a walk to put runners on the corners and Caleb Frare came on from the Chicago bullpen for Rick Renteria. Pinch-hitter Josh Donaldson worked a walk to load the bases, bringing Renteria out for his fourth pitcher of the inning, Juan Minaya. Diaz struck out swinging for the second out, but a walk on a 3-2 pitch by Cabrera forced in the tying run to make it a 4-4 game. With the bases still loaded, Wednesday night’s grand slam hero Jason Kipnis stepped to the plate, but he popped to short to leave the go-ahead runs on base in the tied contest.
Brad Hand pitched the ninth for the Indians, working around a threat by the Sox after a leadoff walk by strikeout machine Moncada. Smith pinch-hit and grounded out and Garcia was intentionally walked, but with runners on the corners, pinch-hitter Jose Rondon grounded out to Diaz at third to end the rally.
Brantley singled with two outs in the ninth off of Santiago, but moved no further as Ramirez fouled out to third. Cimber took the mound in the tenth for his former San Diego teammate Hand and nearly created a mess when he hit LaMarre and Engel with two two-out pitches in a four-pitch span, but Moncada struck out swinging to leave the go-ahead runs on base.
Santiago handled the Tribe in the bottom of the tenth despite a threat, as Rajai Davis walked and moved to second on a sacrifice. After a groundout by Diaz, Brandon Barnes walked to put two on, but Kipnis’s single towards second struck Barnes in the field of play. The runner by rule was out for the third out of the inning, short-circuiting the team’s last legitimate shot at a victory.
Shields worked six innings of two-run baseball in a no-decision. He gave up five hits and walked three while striking out one on the night. Bummer allowed a pair of runs in an inning and two-third to cough up the lead. Veteran starter and current relief man Santiago moved to 6-3 on the year with three innings of two-hit baseball over the final three innings, walking two and allowing two hits while striking out three.
Tomlin took a no-decision after working four innings. He gave up four runs on eight hits while striking out a pair in a heavy 76-pitch outing. The bullpen had worked six innings of scoreless one-hit baseball with four walks and two hit batters until Cimber allowed a run and two hits in the eleventh to take his third loss of the year.
The two teams had opportunities all night long. The Indians stranded eleven, but the White Sox left 14 on a 3-for-17 effort at the plate with runners in scoring position. Eight of nine Chicago starters struck out against Indians pitching on the night.
Ramirez’s woes at the plate continued for Cleveland with an 0-for-6 showing, which hurt after Lindor and Brantley combined to reach base safely six times on five hits and a walk in 12 plate appearances. They combined to score all four Indians runs while driving in half of the RBI.
The Indians will wrap up their final regular season homestand of the season beginning Friday night, when the Boston Red Sox come to town for three night games in a potential ALCS matchup. Injured right-hander Trevor Bauer (12-6, 2.22 ERA) will make his return from the 10-day disabled list in the 7:10 PM ET opener, working his way back from a stress fracture in his right fibula suffered when struck by a line drive on August 11 against the White Sox. Cy Young candidate Chris Sale (12-4, 1.92) will make his case for the top AL pitching award, working his way back from his own time spent on the DL after missing a month of action. He has worked four scoreless innings in a pair of starts since being activated.
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