Hand Holds Off Sox to Drop Magic Number to One; Indians 7, White Sox 4

It was a nail-biting finish from the corner of Carnegie and Ontario on Monday night as the Cleveland Indians and closer Brad Hand held off the Chicago White Sox’s ninth inning threat to capture a 7-4 win in the series opener.

The Tribe’s All-Star closer came on as the fourth Tribe pitcher of the day looking to slam the door with a three-run lead. Rookie nine-hitter Nick Madrigal fought off several pitches to work the count back to even before dropping in a single to shallow center to lead off the inning. Tim Anderson launched a rocket deep to center; Delino DeShields raced back to the warning track and leapt, snagging the blast from the air at the top of the fence for the first out. Yoan Moncada grounded to Jose Ramirez’s left and off of his glove into left field for a fielder’s choice and error, bringing the tying run to the plate. James McCann, hitting for an injured Yasmani Grandal, fouled off several pitches before watching a high slider on the outside edge for a called third strike for out number two. Jose Abreu, the White Sox’s last hope and more than capable of tying the game up with one swing, left the bat on the shoulder for a called third strike on the outside corner to give the Tribe a big first win in the four-game set between the two clubs this week.

The Indians reduced their magic number to one game and are now 30-24 on the season. The save was Hand’s 14th of the year. The White Sox dropped to 34-20 and saw their lead in the American League Central drop to four over the Indians and one and a half over the idle Minnesota Twins.

Cleveland could clinch a playoff spot overnight if the Houston Astros defeat the Mariners in Seattle on Monday night.

Tribe starter Aaron Civale pitched himself into a mess right out of the gate, but he found his way out of it, setting a tone for much of his evening. Moncada became the first base runner of the game when he walked on seven pitches with one man out. Civale struck out Grandal for the second out, but walked Abreu on seven to put two on. Eloy Jimenez reached on an infield single to load the bases, but former friend of the feather Edwin Encarnacion grounded to short to leave the bags full.

Ramirez – Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Indians took a big first inning lead in the home half against the White Sox and rookie right-hander Dane Dunning, but it would not stand up. Back-to-back singles from Francisco Lindor and Cesar Hernandez brought the scorching hot Ramirez to the plate. Just as he did over the weekend in Detroit, he brought the offense to the diamond with a big punch, driving a three-run shot just in front of the Progressive Insurance banner in the right field seats to put the Tribe up, 3-0. Dunning recovered to get the next three.

Civale helped himself out in the second after two men reached, knocking down a liner by Anderson and firing to Ramirez to cut down the lead runner before the Tribe’s third baseman turned the 1-5-3 double play at first. The Indians then tacked on another with a clutch hit from a familiar face. Josh Naylor blasted a double off of the center field wall with one out and was joined on base on a walk by DeShields. Lindor lined to left for the second out, but Hernandez slapped a single to right to give the Indians a 4-0 lead.

Civale retired the side in order in the third and stranded a runner at second in the fourth, but the White Sox struck for four runs in the fifth to tie the game up. Chicago started its rally with a one-out single to left by Anderson. Moncada popped to short for the second out, but Grandal found the gap in right-center for a ground-rule double to put a pair in scoring position. Abreu cashed in the chips with a single to center to score both runners to cut the Tribe lead in half at 4-2. Jimenez made it even two pitches later, going the opposite way to right-center to tie the game at four.

The Indians made reliever Jace Fry pay for his mistakes after coming on for Dunning in the bottom of the fifth. Fry struck out Hernandez swinging, but walked Ramirez on five pitches. The slumping Carlos Santana, lost in a 1-for-21 stretch at the plate, got ahead in the count 2-0, then fouled off a sinker and did not miss on the next one, parking a much-needed blast to the bleachers in right to give the Indians a huge two-run response and a 6-4 lead. Fry struck out the next two.

Civale stranded another man in the sixth after Nomar Mazara reached on a single to second with one out in his final inning of work. Jimmy Cordero got three groundouts on the infield for the White Sox in the home half of the inning and Nick Wittgren did him one better, striking out Moncada, Grandal, and Abreu swinging in a beautiful and key top of the seventh.

Against a team like the White Sox, insurance runs are always beneficial and the Indians found one more in the bottom of the seventh in a second inning of work against Cordero. Lindor singled to center, but was caught stealing on the Tribe’s second stolen base attempt against Chicago this season. Hernandez walked on four straight and motored over to third on the first pitch to Ramirez that was laced into the right field corner for a double. Santana was intentionally walked to load the bases for Franmil Reyes, who got the run home with a sacrifice fly to center. Tyler Naquin left runners on the corners with a liner to a diving Jimenez in left.

James Karinchak handled business in the three-run game in the top of the eighth. After getting Jimenez to ground to short to open the inning, he struck out Encarnacion before walking Luis Robert, but then recovered to strike out Mazara swinging.

The Indians missed out on a chance to add on in the bottom of the eighth against Matt Foster. Naylor doubled deep to right with his third hit of the night before exiting after reopening a laceration on his leg. Pinch-runner Oscar Mercado moved to third on a fly to right by DeShields, but Lindor left him there on a grounder to second.

Civale pitched cautiously, trying to avoid the big mistake against the dangerous White Sox lineup. While the four runs that he allowed may not have been something that he liked, the model of consistency once again made it through six innings of work, just as he had done in each of his previous starts in 2020. He made 105 pitches, allowing eight hits and three walks while striking out six.

“Civale, his command was not like normal. He was making sure that he didn’t give many pitches to hit the zone,” said interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr. “He was very careful with them. Ended up walking three guys and giving up eight hits. What a heart he has, he navigated through six innings with a high pitch count. Did a good job for our team, keeping us in the game, even though he gave up four. We finally got him a couple of runs and he was able to get that win.”

Civale improved to 4-5 on the year with the victory.

For the first time in six tries with Dunning on the bump, the White Sox suffered a loss. The rookie did not factor in the decision after his teammates tied the game at four in the top of the fifth, departing after four full innings worked. He needed 87 pitches to get through those 12 outs, charged with four runs on six hits with a walk and five strikeouts. Fry took the loss, his first, after giving up two runs on a hit with a walk and three strikeouts in an inning, and Cordero was charged with another run on two hits and two walks in two innings.

Santana – Jason Miller/Getty Images

White Sox manager Rick Renteria, defending McCann after his called strikeout for the second out in the ninth, was ejected by home plate umpire Dan Bellino. It marked the first White Sox ejection of the season.

The offense came in bunches for the Tribe, with the top four hitters in the lineup posting seven of the ten hits and six of the seven runs scored on the night. Ramirez led the way with a 2-for-3 day with a double and his 16th homer. He scored twice and drove in three, giving him 41 on the season. He extended his hitting streak to six games, hitting .542 (13-for-24) in that stretch with five homers and 13 RBI. Lindor and Hernandez each had a pair of hits, while Santana’s lone hit was a big one, his sixth homer of the year.

“Right now, I’m working about the contact and timing,” said Santana after the game. “I’m working hard, focused. This is what I’m doing now…I was looking to my pitch. Try to do good contact. There’s nobody out, fifth inning. Tried to extend the base. I’m not thinking home run, I’m not thinking nothing. My approach is stay in the middle, and try to do good contact.”

“That was huge,” said Alomar Jr. of the Santana homer. “Santana has been struggling a lot left-handed. He got that at bat right-handed. It was huge to see him hit a home run, especially to take the lead and give Aaron Civale that win.”

Naylor added his best day with the Tribe out of the eight-spot in the lineup. He had three hits, including a pair of doubles, and came around to score. He left for precautionary reasons after ripping open a previous cut on his leg. He had slid late into second base on his double in the eighth trying to avoid sliding and reinjuring the wound.

After the game, he spoke highly of one of his new teammates.

“Oh my god, that guy’s good,” Naylor shared about Ramirez. “He is very good. He has fun. He’s honestly like a little kid at the field. He just enjoys the game, enjoys his teammates. We’re all kind of family and it’s awesome to see him succeed and do what he’s doing. It’s incredible. He’s got all of my support. I keep cheering him on because I want to see more of it.”

Abreu drove in two of the White Sox runs, but struck out three times. Grandal left after taking a foul ball off of his throwing hand late in the game, finishing 1-for-4 with a double and three strikeouts. Jimenez had three hits and two RBI and Madrigal had two singles out of the nine-spot.

Alomar Jr. announced some anticipated rotation changes as the team slowly builds towards its postseason roster. Reliever Cal Quantrill will get the start on Tuesday, his first with the Indians and his second of the season. Tuesday’s anticipated starter Shane Bieber will be pushed back a day to Wednesday, giving him six days between his final start of the regular season and his first start of the postseason, and Zach Plesac will now go on Thursday, lining him up well for a potential game two start of the AL Wild Card series.

Right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (1-2, 5.40 ERA) will make his seventh start of the season for Chicago and his first against the Indians this year on Tuesday.

First pitch from Progressive Field is scheduled for 6:10 PM ET.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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