Seven games. Seven days. And just like that, the 2020 regular season will be over and the 2020 Major League Baseball playoff bracket madness will begin.
The Indians (29-24) have not punched their ticket to the postseason, but barring something horrific happening over the next week, it is almost a foregone conclusion. That said, it may seem highly unlikely given the way that the last few weeks have gone, but the Indians still could catch the White Sox (34-19) in the American League Central, although that has hardly been a topic of conversation over much of September given the inconsistent play of the Clevelanders. The Indians, after taking three of four from the Tigers in Detroit over the weekend, enter the four-game weekday set with the White Sox trailing by five games. While that task may be too steep a hill to climb in a week, the Indians could still catch up with the second place Minnesota Twins, which holds a three-game lead over the Tribe with five games left on its schedule.
The Indians come into the series with a magic number of two to ensure a playoff spot, with that number reduced at present by any combination of Cleveland victories and Seattle defeats.
The White Sox lost their first series since the beginning of the month (August 31-September 2 against Minnesota) this past weekend, when the club dropped two of three against the Cincinnati Reds.
Dunning, 25, will get his first look at the Tribe while making the sixth start of his big league career. A first round pick by the Washington Nationals in 2016, Dunning debuted on August 19 of this season in a no-decision against the Detroit Tigers, allowing three runs in four and one-third. His next time out, he threw five hitless innings against the Kansas City Royals, walking one and striking out seven. He has hit that strikeout total in three of his five starts this season. He has earned back-to-back wins over Pittsburgh and Minnesota, pitching a career-high seven innings on September 15. The White Sox have yet to lose a game started by the young right-hander.
Two of Civale’s first three starts this season came against the White Sox. He debuted with a quality effort, allowing two runs on seven hits in six innings in a win on July 28, then took a tough loss after giving up just one run over seven innings on August 7. He has made quality starts in seven of his ten games pitched this year and has gone at least six innings in every contest. Walks have crept up on him of late, as he has walked seven this month after allowing just six over his first seven appearances of the season.
Lopez, the 26-year-old right-hander, missed a chunk of the year on the injured list with right shoulder soreness. He returned to the roster in the third week of August before a brief demotion to the team’s alternate training site for a week and a half earlier this month. Since being recalled, he earned his first win of the year with five shutout innings of three-hit baseball against Detroit on September 12 and a no-decision on September 17 against Minnesota when he allowed three solo homers in five and one-third innings with a season-high six strikeouts.
Bieber is tentatively scheduled to make what most believe will be his final start of the season on Tuesday. Lined up currently to pitch in the season finale on Sunday, the Tribe’s ace will not make that start in preparation for the starting nod in the series opener of the American League Wild Card round the following Tuesday. Bieber faced the White Sox on August 9, taking his first of two no-decisions on the season in a game coughed up late. He allowed three runs on four hits (two homers) over six innings of work with eight strikeouts and a pair of walks surrendered. He got back into the win column his last time out against Detroit, giving up three garbage time runs in the eighth inning after going seven and two-thirds, striking out ten and walking two along the way.
Wednesday, September 23, 6:10 PM ET
RHP Lucas Giolito (4-3, 3.53 ERA) vs. TBD
Giolito has had a tougher time on the mound of late, allowing three runs or more in each of his last four starts (two versus Minnesota and one each against Detroit and Kansas City). His last time out against the Twins on September 16, he allowed three runs on three hits (two long balls) with three walks and four strikeouts, his fewest since his season debut. He has faced the Indians twice this season – he threw six shutout innings of four-hit baseball on July 29 while striking out six in a no-decision, then two starts later on August 9, he worked seven innings while again not factoring in the outcome, allowing two runs on four hits with a season-high five walks and nine strikeouts. He is the only White Sox starter this week to have pitched against the Indians this season.
The Indians have not announced a starter for Wednesday as they will likely be looking to line up their rotation for postseason play. Zach Plesac will presumably go Wednesday or Thursday to line up for a potential game two start and he will likely enjoy a third look at the Sox. He is 1-0 against them in two outings this season, allowing eight hits and one walk over 14 scoreless innings while racking up 18 strikeouts.
Thursday, September 24, 6:10 PM ET
LHP Dallas Keuchel (6-2, 2.04 ERA) vs. TBD
Despite six games already in the books between the two clubs this season, Keuchel had somehow avoided the Indians lineup until this week. That will change in his first start against them on Thursday in his final tune up for the postseason. He has not allowed more than three runs in any one start this season, but he was slowed down recently with back spasms, which cost him nearly a week and a half of time. He returned on September 19 against Cincinnati, but he did not factor the decision in a short outing. He walked three and allowed four hits over four scoreless innings of work while striking out seven.
The Indians have not announced a starter for Thursday either. Plesac or Carlos Carrasco (who has yet to face the White Sox this season) could be in consideration.
HEAD TO HEAD
Cleveland hosted Chicago in the second series of the season, but game one of that series was postponed due to weather. The Indians swept the makeup doubleheader on July 28, winning 4-3 and 5-3 finals, before dropping a 4-0 contest against Giolito in their second loss of the campaign.
The Indians took two of three from the White Sox the last time the clubs met in early August. After dropping a tough 2-0 decision in the series opener on August 7, the Indians came back with 7-1 and 5-4 victories to earn a series win during a weird travel heavy portion of the schedule. Cleveland is 4-2 against Chicago this season with even 2-1 marks at home and on the road.
TRANSACTIONS and INJURY NOTES
Aaron Bummer (RP) – 60-day injured list (8/8) – left biceps strain
Leury Garcia (UTL) – 60-day injured list (8/11) – sprained left thumb
Ian Hamilton (P) – designated for assignment (9/18)
Dallas Keuchel (SP) – activated from 10-day injured list (9/19)
Jimmy Lambert (P) – 60-day injured list (8/3) – right forearm strain
Evan Marshall (RP) – 10-day injured list (9/15) – right shoulder inflammation
Carlos Rodon (SP) – 60-day injured list (8/4) – left shoulder soreness
Jonathan Stiever (P) – optioned to team’s alternate training site (9/19)
Some members of the Tribe lineup posted some good numbers against the White Sox as the offensive production was spread out amongst several contributors.
Carlos Santana, who seems to have slumped all season long, put up some of his best results against that familiar White Sox foe. He has hit .438 in six games with six singles, a homer, and two RBI. He has also drawn an incredible ten walks against Chicago pitching while striking out just one time.
Delino DeShields returned from the injured list in the series against the White Sox and reached base five times in nine trips with two singles and three walks. He was caught stealing with the Indians’ only attempt against Sox catchers this year.
Franmil Reyes is tied for the team lead in RBI against Chicago this season with three. He has hit .333 in five starts against them with a double and a homer. Even given his recent woes at the plate, Reyes is still hitting .282 on the season with a .357 on-base percentage and .463 slugging mark with eight homers and 28 RBI, second-best on the club in all of those stats amongst qualified regulars.
Cesar Hernandez has hit .316 against White Sox pitching with a .409 on-base percentage. In some all-or-nothing kind of results, he has struck out in eight of his 14 at bats that did not end in a hit or a walk. On the year in 51 games, Hernandez has provided the Tribe lineup with a .273/.336/.388 contribution at the plate in the first or second spots in the batting order.
While he has not fared as well as some of his teammates against the White Sox, Jose Ramirez went off in his series in Detroit, going yard four times, hitting two doubles, and driving in ten runs in the nine-hit, four-game set. The hot efforts, including a pair of multi-homer games, pushed his team-leading home run total to 15. He also leads the club in RBI (38), batting average (.284), on-base percentage (.369), and slugging (.574).
NEW PAIR OF SOX
Tim Anderson crushed Cleveland pitching in limited action against them while missing time on the injured list. In his three games, he went 6-for-13 (.462) with three doubles, a homer, and one run batted in. One of the top contenders for the American League’s batting title, Anderson enters the week hitting .360 with a .395 on-base percentage and a .601 slugging mark with eleven doubles, one triple, ten homers, and 21 RBI to his credit on the year. He trails New York’s DJ LeMahieu for the top average in the league by one point.
Jose Abreu has thrust his name atop the American League Most Valuable Player balloting with an outburst at the plate. He is second in the league with 18 homers on the year and has driven in an MLB-high 53 runs over 53 games while posting a .335/.381/.651 slash. In six games against Cleveland this season, he is hitting .250 (6-for-24) with two doubles, two homers, and three RBI.
Eloy Jimenez has been overshadowed some by the performances of Anderson and Abreu and the hype around Luis Robert. He has hit 13 homers and driven in 39 while posting a .288/.327/.545 line at the plate.
James McCann tagged Tribe pitching for a pair of homers this season in three games started. He is hitting .455 against them (5-for-11).
Robert and Yoan Moncada each had difficulties against Cleveland pitching, striking out ten times each in 24 and 27 plate appearances, respectively. Robert had a double, two RBI, and a stolen base to his credit, the only one attempted by White Sox players during six games with the Indians. Moncada hit a double and a solo homer in his six games against them.
ONE MORE FOR THE ROAD
The Pittsburgh Pirates will come to Cleveland to close out Progressive Field and the 2020 regular season schedule, concluding the Indians’ stretch of 13 games to finish the year. The White Sox will end their season with three games at home against the crosstown Cubs.
Photo: Ron Vesely/Getty Images