Tribe Rallies Late to Complete Four-Game Sweep of ChiSox; Indians 5, White Sox 4
Bob Toth | On 24, Sep 2020
The Cleveland Indians continued to wreak havoc on the American League playoff bracket on Thursday, using a four-run outburst in the seventh trailing three runs to complete a four-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox in a 5-4 final from Progressive Field.
Four-game sweeps are hard to pull off under any circumstance, but especially against a division rival which entered the weekday series sitting in the top spot in the American League Central. The Indians pulled off another victory with more late inning heroics, using a big rally Thursday on the heels of back-to-back walk-off wins in the middle games of the series to deal a significant blow to the White Sox’s pursuit of the division crown.
Zach Plesac and Dallas Keuchel matched up in the series finale, with both pitchers trying to put the final touches on impressive seasons in their tune ups for the postseason. Both were good, with Keuchel proving to be a touch better as Plesac was tagged late in the ball game.
Plesac retired the side in order in each of the first two innings. Keuchel faced the minimum over the first two innings as Jose Ramirez was picked off of second after his two-out double in the first. Plesac made it seven straight set down when he got Nomar Mazara to fly out to center to start the third, but one of the unlikeliest of power sources in a solid Chicago lineup punched Plesac in the mouth as Yolmer Sanchez turned a curveball into a souvenir with his first homer of the season to put the White Sox up, 1-0.
The Indians tied it up in the bottom of the inning with a two-out rally. Roberto Perez got the Tribe’s second hit of the game with a one-out double to right. Delino DeShields grounded to third before a walk by Francisco Lindor kept the inning alive. Keuchel worked the count full against Cesar Hernandez before he sent the payoff pitch into right field for a ground rule double, scoring Perez to tie the game at one. With two in scoring position and two out, Ramirez was unable to come through as he grounded to short to end the inning.
The head-to-head battle between Plesac and Keuchel remained entertaining in the middle innings. Both were perfect in the fifth and sixth, with the Tribe righty striking out three and the Sox lefty striking out a pair. Plesac walked Sanchez to start the sixth to end a string of eight straight retired, but he used a double play ball two batters later to prevent the walk from coming back to haunt him.
The Indians had a chance again in the bottom of the sixth but failed with the heart of the order at the plate. Lindor lined out to start the frame, but Hernandez singled and Ramirez walked to put two on for Carlos Santana. He lined to second before Franmil Reyes popped out the same way to strand a pair as Keuchel worked out of it.
The White Sox finally got to Plesac in the seventh as four of the six batters that he faced in the inning reached base safely and Chicago took a big lead. Yoan Moncada jumped on the first pitch of the frame and tripled to center, his second of the series and just the second White Sox hit off of Plesac on the night. Yasmani Grandal pushed him across with a grounder to first to give the White Sox a 2-1 lead. Jose Abreu drew a walk and moved to third on a double to center by Eloy Jimenez. Plesac struck out Edwin Encarnacion swinging for the second out, but Mazara came through in the clutch with a two-run single to left-center to give the White Sox a 4-1 lead. Cam Hill took over for Plesac and retired Sanchez on a fly out snagged by a leaping DeShields in front of the Blaster advertisement on the left field wall.
Keuchel handed the game over to the Chicago bullpen in the seventh, leaving with a three-run advantage. Tribe skipper Sandy Alomar Jr. played the matchup game with hard-throwing right-hander Jimmy Cordero coming on in relief for the White Sox and each of the moves paid off. Josh Naylor, hitting for Jordan Luplow, singled to left. Tyler Naquin, grabbing a bat for Oscar Mercado, blooped in a single to shallow left. Mike Freeman, hitting for Perez, singled to center as three soft hits loaded the bases for the Tribe. In a dangerous spot, Cordero got DeShields to chop a grounder to third, with Moncada coming home to force Naylor for the first out of the inning. Lindor lifted a fly to left on a 3-1 sinker, but it was not deep enough to get the runner at third home. In what proved to be a curious decision, White Sox manager Rick Renteria went to the bullpen for starter Carlos Rodon, just activated from the injured list earlier in the day, to make his first trip to the mound in relief since his rookie season in 2015. He got into a long battle with Hernandez, who won it on the seventh pitch of the at bat when he drove a two-run single into right field to make it a 4-3 game. Two pitches later, Ramirez played the hero again, blasting a double high off of the 19-foot wall in left field to score DeShields easily from third and Hernandez all the way from first standing as the Indians took a 5-4 lead. Ramirez moved over to third on a wild pitch but was left there as Santana fouled out to first.
Hill remained on for a second inning of work for Alomar Jr. and he needed just ten pitches to send the White Sox back out to the field, punching out Jarrod Dyson on three pitches before getting Tim Anderson to ground to short and Moncada to fly to center.
Reyes singled in the eighth against Aaron Bummer, like Rodon activated from the injured list earlier in the day, but the Sox reliever had no further issues with the Tribe lineup.
Brad Hand entered for the Indians in the ninth, looking to remain perfect in save situations on the year. He struck out Grandal swinging on a tough slider low and in and froze Abreu on a borderline 3-2 offering in on the hands for the second out. James McCann stepped into the box for Adam Engel and grounded a 1-2 pitch to first, where Santana made the out unassisted to give the Indians a key sweep of the sinking Sox.
The Indians (33-24) took eight of the ten games in the season series from the White Sox (34-23). Cleveland has now won five straight, while Chicago has lost five in a row. The White Sox dropped a full game behind the idle Minnesota Twins, which moved into first place in the division on Wednesday. The Indians trail the Twins by two games for the division’s top spot with three to play and are just one game behind the White Sox for the second spot in the division.
Plesac’s postseason warmup went well until his final inning, when the White Sox lineup finally figured him out. He left after six and two-thirds innings of work, giving up four runs on four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. Three of those runs and hits came in his final frame. He threw 61 of 95 pitches for strikes in the no-decision, ending his season with a 4-2 record and a 2.28 ERA.
Hand worked a perfect ninth with a pair of strikeouts to earn him his American League leading 15th save in 15 chances. He has 28 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings of work on the year and he has allowed just one earned run since the beginning of August.
Keuchel gave the White Sox a quality effort on the mound in a tough no-decision on his end after the bullpen was tagged for four runs late. The left-hander and former Cy Young winner allowed a run on four hits with a pair of walks and three strikeouts, lowering his season ERA to 1.99. Cordero was charged with three runs on three hits in two-thirds of an inning and Rodon took both a blown save and a loss after giving up a run on two hits in just one-third of an inning.
Hernandez went 3-for-4 on the day with two singles, a double, and three runs batted in. He now has 19 doubles on the year. Ramirez had two doubles and drove in a pair to give him 46 RBI on the season. His 2-for-3 day at the plate pushed his season batting average up to .292 with a .384 on-base percentage and a .608 slugging mark in his late pursuits for Most Valuable Player votes.
“Jose is a lot of fun to watch and he’s doing everything right now,” shared Alomar Jr. “All the guys just kept fighting. This team never stops battling.”
Cleveland went 4-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
Chicago had just four hits on the game, going for the cycle in that effort as a team. Mazara singled, Jimenez, doubled, Moncada tripled, and Sanchez hit a home run over the course of the game. Base runners were at a premium for the White Sox, however, as they had just two walks to go with those hits. With limited opportunities with runners on base, the Sox were just 1-for-4 with runners in scoring position and stranded only one man on base.
The White Sox head back home to face the Chicago Cubs in a tough three-game series to conclude their regular season schedule. The Indians will stay right at home to host the Pittsburgh Pirates in three games to close Progressive Field for the year (barring them overtaking the Twins for the top spot in the division in the final days of the campaign).
Photo: Ron Schwane/Getty Images