So much for that excitement about the Cleveland offense’s triumphant return. The Indians were blanked on just four hits as the Chicago White Sox claimed a 2-0 win in the series opener from Guaranteed Rate Field on Friday night.
The White Sox didn’t win the game as much as the Indians lost it. With a small village of base runners throughout the game courtesy of eight walks and a hit batter, the Tribe managed just four hits and could not buy a hit with runners in scoring position, instead grounding into two double plays on the night and wasting seven quality innings of one-run ball from Aaron Civale.
Dylan Cease was effectively wild for the White Sox in his second start in three chances against the Indians this season. He walked the first batter of the game, but later in the frame, got one of those double play balls off of the bat of Francisco Lindor.
The White Sox scored their first run in the bottom half of the first against Civale. Like his counterpart, he walked the leadoff man, Luis Robert, who advanced to third on a single to right by Yoan Moncada. Jose Abreu grounded into a double play to short, but Robert scored on the non-RBI to put Chicago up, 1-0.
The Indians loaded the bases against Cease in the second, but could not score. Carlos Santana walked and Franmil Reyes reached on a check-swing single to put runners on the corners. Bradley Zimmer was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but the struggling Oscar Mercado struck out swinging and Sandy Leon grounded into a double play, 5-3, to squander a huge early opportunity.
For the third straight inning, the Indians got their leadoff hitter on base via walk as Delino DeShields drew his first of three free passes on the night. He was caught stealing before Cease got the next two. He retired the side in order in the fourth before walking another leadoff hitter in the fifth, putting on Zimmer after Civale set down the Sox in the third and fourth. Mercado struck out and Leon flied to left before the Indians loaded the bases for the second time, as DeShields walked and Cesar Hernandez reached on an infield single to short that was juggled by Moncada. With a chance to take the lead midway through, Jose Ramirez grounded routinely to second.
Civale made it ten straight retired with a perfect fifth, but the offense again failed him with runners in scoring position in the next half inning against left-handed reliever Aaron Bummer. Santana reached on a one-out single and Reyes drew a walk, but the pesky double play ball was back on the ground as Jordan Luplow’s hitless season continued with a chopper to second for the twin killing.
The White Sox threatened briefly in the home half. Adam Engel reached on a throwing error by Civale and was joined on base after a single that split the middle infielders and went into shallow center by Robert. Civale came back and struck out Moncada for the first out and got Abreu to ground into his second double play of the night to keep the score at 1-0.
Bummer came back out for manager Rick Renteria in the seventh, but was unable to finish the inning after creating a mess. After getting two groundouts to the left side of the infield, he walked DeShields and spiked a throw to first trying to get Hernandez on a comebacker. He threw a strike to Ramirez, but exited the game quickly shaking his left arm in a manner that did not look encouraging to White Sox fans. Evan Marshall, the former Tribe right-hander, came on in relief and got Ramirez to line out to right.
Civale returned for a seventh inning of work and prevented further Sox damage. James McCann reached on an infield single to short with one out and Mendick followed with an infield single with two outs, but Civale struck out the final batter that he faced on the night, Collins, looking at a fastball.
The Indians got the tying run again into scoring position in the eighth, but could not score. Santana walked with one out and Reyes moved him to second with a solid single to center. Luplow narrowly missed an RBI-single down the left field line before flying out to left for the second out and Mike Freeman, pinch-hitting for the lost Mercado, lined to right to leave a pair.
The White Sox tacked on a run that made the score feel more like 22-0 than 2-0 in the bottom of the eighth. Nick Wittgren’s first pitch out of the ‘pen was signed, sealed, and delivered over the center field wall for a monster home run by Engel, doubling the Chicago lead. Wittgren got the next three in order.
Alex Colome came on for Renteria in the ninth, looking for his fourth save of the season. He struck out Leon, got DeShields to ground back to the mound, and struck out Hernandez to end it with little resistance from the once-again struggling Cleveland contingent.
The loss dropped the Indians to 8-7 on the season and just 2-5 on the road. The White Sox leapfrogged the Indians in the standings, moving to 8-6 and a half-game up for second place.
Civale did his part for the Tribe, but the bats once again failed to provide him any run support. He worked seven innings, allowing just one run on five hits with one walk and five strikeouts on 97 pitches. Despite the good effort, he dropped to 1-2 with a 2.84 ERA on the season in three starts and he is now 4-6 in his career with a 2.47 ERA.
“That was nice to see that he was able to settle down after the first inning,” said Indians interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr. “He was up in the zone a little bit. He gave up a run there. After that, he was nails. Did a good job. Kept us in the game. Gave us an opportunity and we didn’t take advantage of it.
“He’s way ahead, mentally. He has a lot of confidence. He wants the ball. He’s a guy you can trust in situations like that. He doesn’t let the game speed up. He does a pretty good job.”
“I got myself into a tough situation, so at that point it just comes down to limiting the damage. If they’re going to score in an inning, try and keep it to one run,” said Civale. “It was first and third, got a double play to clear the bases and kind of reset. That was my goal, to go out there and try to limit the damage and move forward.”
Cease earned his second win of the season with five shutout innings of two-hit baseball. He worked out of some messes after walking five and hitting a man, but he struck out four and somehow found a way to keep the Indians from touching home safely. The normally dangerous leadoff walk did not come back to haunt him, despite him issuing free passes to four of the five batters that he faced to start innings.
“He mixed his pitches really well,” said Alomar Jr. “He had a pretty good changeup. Good separation between his fastball and changeup.”
It marked a dramatic turn from his first showing against Cleveland this season, when he lasted just two and one-third innings while allowing four runs on seven hits in a loss. He is now 2-1 on the season.
The Indians’ offensive woes returned with an abysmal showing at the plate. The team combined for a 1-for-8 effort with runners in scoring position while stranding ten men on base. Hernandez got the only hit in that situation as he extended his on-base streak to 14 games to open the season with his hit and walk in the contest. Reyes reached base three times with two singles and a walk. Santana did similar, walking twice and reaching on a base hit. DeShields drew three walks and has now reached safely five times in eight trips to the plate since being activated from the injured list on Thursday afternoon.
The rest of the Cleveland lineup went 0-for-19 with four strikeouts and one walk.
The White Sox had six hits on the night, with two coming from Mendick. Robert went 1-for-3 to continue his strong approach against the Indians to begin his career. Moncada did his usual as well, singling once and striking out once. Engel’s homer was his second of the season and his fourth RBI.
The final game of the series has had a dramatic broadcast change due to the global pandemic. With the St. Louis Cardinals’ COVID-19 outbreak postponing their series with the Chicago Cubs this weekend, the Indians/White Sox matchup on Sunday night has now been flexed into the Sunday Night Baseball broadcast slot, making what was a 2:10 PM ET start a 7:00 PM ET.
Before the two teams play nationally, however, they will meet again on Saturday afternoon in a 2:10 PM ET first pitch. The White Sox had not yet announced a starter for game two at the time of this story. The Indians will call on right-hander Zach Plesac, who took the loss his last time out in a quality start against the Cincinnati Reds (following a no-decision despite eight shutout innings worked against Chicago in his season debut).
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