After a sloppy mess of a game on Friday night, the Cleveland Indians looked a little bit crisper on Saturday afternoon, using a pair of homers from Carlos Santana and Leonys Martin to pace the club to a 5-2 win over the Chicago White Sox from Guaranteed Rate Field.
The Indians needed to burn through five bullpen arms, but the quintet put up five innings of one-run relief with four strikeouts, two walks, and two hits allowed. They were thrust into earlier action as Jefry Rodriguez had to leave his start early with right lat tightness after allowing one run on two hits with three walks and three strikeouts in four innings of work.
The White Sox got on the board in the third to give the game its first run. Rodriguez had faced the minimum over the first two innings, getting a double play ball to end the second after a one-out single by Eloy Jimenez. The first three reached to open the third as Tim Anderson started the frame with a single to center. He stole second before being joined on the bases by Yolmer Sanchez. A second walk to Charlie Tilson loaded the bases and Leury Garcia freed up third base with a sacrifice fly to center to make it a 1-0 game. The dangerous Yoan Moncada stepped in with two on and one out, but as Rodriguez set for his 2-2 pitch, he turned and threw back to second, where Sanchez was caught in no man’s land. He got into a rundown between second and third and was tagged out by Jose Ramirez, who alertly fired across the diamond to first base where he nabbed Tilson straying too far from the bag for a devastating inning-ending double play.
The Indians responded with a run of their own in the top of the fourth to tie the game. Ivan Nova had allowed just one runner to reach over the first three innings (a two-out walk by Jake Bauers in the second). That changed quickly with some help from the White Sox defense, as Oscar Mercado kicked off the inning by reaching safely on a throwing error by Moncada at third. Santana singled to center to move Mercado to third and a sacrifice fly from Jason Kipnis tied the game at one. Ramirez grounded into a double play to end the rally.
Rodriguez had to work around some issues in the fourth after walking Moncada on four straight to start the frame. Abreu was cut down on strikes, but James McCann was able to reach safely on a throwing error by Bauers at first to put runners on second and third with only one out. With a chance to take a big lead, Jimenez popped to short and Yonder Alonso struck out swinging.
The Indians threatened briefly in the fifth, but could not come through against Nova. Rodriguez left the game with right lat tightness ahead of his half of the fifth inning, but Oliver Perez retired all five men that he faced on the afternoon over the next inning and two-thirds.
Santana picked up the scuffling Tribe offense in the sixth as he has all season long. He worked the count against Nova to 2-2 before lacing a frozen rope over the wall in right for his eleventh home run of the season, putting the Indians in front for the first time on the afternoon, 2-1.
The Indians got their second big swing of the day in the next inning. Bauers hit a ground rule double to left and was sacrificed to third by Greg Allen. Kevin Plawecki flied to shallow right, not deep enough to get the runner in from third. Martin, marred in an 0-for-14 slump at the plate, stepped up with a chance to give the club a big insurance run, but instead he gave them two as he found a 2-1 changeup over the plate to his liking and put a charge into the ball, parking a two-run home run deep to the seats in right to make it a 4-1 game.
The Indians bullpen ran into its only issue of the day in the seventh. Adam Cimber, on for his second inning of relief, walked McCann and gave up a double to Jimenez on a ball just out of the reach of a diving Mercado. Former White Sox reliever Tyler Clippard came on for the Indians and got Alonso to hit a 3-2 fly ball to left, with the sacrifice fly making it a 4-2 game. Anderson flied to center, moving Jimenez up to third. Sanchez drew a walk on the payoff pitch to keep the inning alive, but Tilson fouled out down the first base line on a nice over the shoulder catch by Bauers to end the inning and strand a key run at third.
The Indians went down in order against Jace Fry in the eighth, while Nick Wittgren pitched around a one-out single by Moncada. Fry returned for the ninth, looking to keep it a two-run game. He got Ramirez to ground out before walking Bauers. Allen moved him to second on a grounder to third. With two down and rain beginning to fall, Sox manager Rick Renteria went to his bullpen for right-hander Kelvin Herrera. After two fastballs in by Herrera, he left a third straight over the plate to Plawecki, who dropped in a single to center. Garcia’s throw to the plate to try to get Bauers was not in time and went to the backstop, allowing Plawecki to scoot over to second with the score now 5-2. He was stranded there on a liner to center by Martin.
Brad Hand came on in the save situation, looking for number 16 on the year. He needed just eleven pitches to get it, striking out Jimenez looking on three pitches before Alonso popped to short. He cut down Anderson on three straight strikes to end it.
The Indians moved back to the .500 mark at 29-29 on the season and are now 5-6 against the White Sox this season. The host club fell to 28-30 and moved back into sole possession of third place.
Rodriguez was on the way to a quality start before succumbing to injury. He worked four innings, allowing a run on two hits with three walks and three strikeouts on 58 pitches. His breaking ball and offspeed offerings were both effective early on in the game.
“I thought he competed like he always does. He lost the plate a little bit with his fastball. To his credit, he really spun his breaking ball better than we’ve probably seen,” said manager Terry Francona. “But then we saw his velocity click down a couple. He had some shoulder tightness. He wanted to pitch like crazy and he fought us on it.”
The bullpen combined for five innings of one-run relief to save the day. Perez worked an inning and two-thirds, retiring all five batters that he faced while throwing just two of 16 pitches out of the strike zone. He earned his first win of the season as the pitcher of record when Santana gave the Tribe the lead in the sixth. Cimber and Wittgren each earned their fifth holds of the season, with Cimber being charged the bullpen’s earned run. Clippard earned his first hold of the season. Hand’s save gave him 16 in as many opportunities this season.
Nova fell to 3-5 on the season despite lasting seven innings on the afternoon. He was charged with four runs (three earned) on six hits with a walk, a hit batter, and three strikeouts. The two homers that he allowed proved to be too much for his offensive teammates to overcome on a tough day at the plate for Chicago, which drew more walks (5) than had hits (4).
Garcia’s 0-for-3 day at the top of the White Sox lineup ended his hitting streak at seven games. Sanchez’s died at six games after going 0-for-1 with two walks. For the Indians, Kipnis went 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly to end his modest hitting streak at five straight.
The Indians will look to even up the series in the finale on Sunday afternoon from the south side of Chicago. Right-hander Lucas Giolito (7-1, 2.85 ERA) will take the mound for the White Sox. He has won each of his last five starts and six straight decisions overall. Rookie right-hander Zach Plesac (0-0, 1.69 ERA) will make his second start of the season for the Indians. He took a no-decision his first time to the mound in Boston on Tuesday, giving up one run in five and one-thirds innings.
First pitch from Chicago is scheduled for 2:10 PM ET.
Photo: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh