Sometimes, that’s how the ball bounces.
An errant throw from Cleveland first baseman Yu Chang struck a base runner and allowed the winning run to cross home plate in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Chicago White Sox a 4-3 win over the Indians on Monday night.
A tightly contested contest throughout the night came down to a fluke miscue, bringing the Tribe’s four-game winning streak to a close in tough fashion. Emmanuel Clase, on to try to send the game to extras, got Yoan Moncada to fly to center to open the inning, but Yermin Mercedes singled and was lifted for pinch-runner Nick Madrigal. Clase lost Yasmani Grandal on five pitches to move the winning run into scoring position. After a first pitch strike to Nick Williams, he grounded the next heater, in tight on his hands, to Chang at first. Instead of taking the sure out at first base, he may have gotten too greedy and threw to second looking to cut down the slow moving Grandal and start a double play. His throw to the bag instead hit Grandal on the helmet and deflected into shallow left field, allowing Madrigal to advance from third easily with the deciding run.
The White Sox evened up their season record at 5-5 with the walk-off win, while the Indians fell to 5-4.
The night’s original pitching matchup pitted veteran left-hander Carlos Rodon against second-year right-hander Triston McKenzie, making his first start of the year. Rodon, however, was a scratch due to a stomach illness and was replaced by Dallas Keuchel, pitching on four days’ rest.
Keuchel gave up a leadoff single to start the game, but got a double play ball to end the first, while McKenzie needed 19 pitches to get three outs, but all came via swinging strikeout.
Cleveland gave its young hurler a lead to work with in the second. Keuchel just grazed the jersey of Franmil Reyes with a pitch to put the leadoff batter on. Eddie Rosario fouled off several pitches, evened the count at two, and then caught just enough of a sinker to poke it over the center field wall for a two-run home run, giving the Indians a 2-0 lead.
That advantage would not last long. While McKenzie faced the minimum in the second thanks to a double play grounder, his command eluded him in the home half of the third. Williams walked on five pitches. Leury Garcia popped up a 3-1 pitch to shallow left for the first out before Mendick worked a seven-pitch walk after falling behind 0-2. Adam Eaton stepped in with a pair on and caught a low changeup, pulling it just over the right field wall for a three-run blast to put the Sox in front, 3-2. McKenzie settled back down and struck out three of the final five batters that he faced in his four-inning outing.
Keuchel received some help from an overly aggressive approach from the Tribe lineup against him. After the Rosario blast in the second, he needed just six pitches to get the next three outs. He used seven to breeze through the third and 13 in the fourth while striking out his first two batters of the game. He needed just ten more pitches to get three more quick outs in the fifth to give him 12 straight batters retired and in short order nonetheless.
After sailing through much of the night, Keuchel lost his grip in the sixth after a quiet fifth inning from Cleveland reliever Phil Maton. Chang drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a single to right by Jordan Luplow, his second single of the game. Cesar Hernandez walked on five pitches, bringing Tony La Russa out of the third base dugout to retrieve his spot starter. Former Tribe reliever Evan Marshall entered from the bullpen and struck out Jose Ramirez for the first out. Reyes stepped in and clobbered a drive deep to center, but it stayed in the ball park. The ball was reeled in by Luis Robert for the second out, but was deep enough to score Chang from third with the tying run. With the go-ahead run in Luplow standing at third and Hernandez occupying first, Rosario jumped on the next pitch and lined out to left to strand a pair.
Cal Quantrill took over for Maton and the Tribe in the sixth and pitched into and out of a jam. Robert doubled and Jose Abreu followed with a walk. Moncada dropped in a single to shallow right, but Robert was only able to move up one base after reading the ball poorly, preventing the Sox from reclaiming the lead. With his back against the wall, Quantrill struck out Mercedes on a diet of sinkers and sliders for the first out and on the next pitch, got Grandal to ground into the 3-6-1 double play to squander a huge scoring opportunity.
The Indians threatened again in the seventh, but were unable to score. Marshall struck out Amed Rosario before turning the game over to lefty Aaron Bummer. He struck out Josh Naylor for the second out before giving up a walk to Roberto Perez and a single to Chang to against give the Indians a chance with the go-ahead run in scoring position. Chicago went back to the bullpen again, bringing on righty Codi Heuer to face Luplow, who struck out swinging.
The bullpens dueled from there. Quantrill pitched a perfect inning after the stretch and Heuer struck out a pair in a 1-2-3 frame. Bryan Shaw set down the Sox in order on three grounders in the infield to send the game to the ninth. Heuer returned for a third different inning of work and got both Rosarios for the first two outs before Naylor gave the Sox a scare with a double to left. With yet another chance with a runner in scoring position, Cleveland fell short as Perez struck out swinging on high heat from Heuer.
McKenzie took the no-decision on the game decided on the final ball in play. He worked four innings, allowing three runs on just two hits with a pair of walks and six strikeouts. The rest of the staff worked four and one-third, three hits and two walks, striking out two, along with the unearned run in the ninth. Class took the loss to drop him to 1-1 on the year despite still boasting a 0.00 ERA.
Keuchel pitched well despite working on short rest. He scattered three hits and two walks over his five innings of work. He allowed just the two runs while on the mound and was tagged with a third when Marshall allowed an inherited runner to touch home.
There was little offense to write home about. Both clubs were held to five hits, with Luplow and Moncada the only to post two-hit days at the plate. The home run was huge for both sides, as the long ball accounted for five of the seven runs scored in the contest.
A pair of Cy Young contenders will square off in game two of the four-game set from Guaranteed Rate Field on Tuesday night. Chicago ace Lucas Giolito (1-0, 4.22 ERA) will aim to pitch the White Sox back above the .500 mark, but will have to do so against the reigning Cy winner Shane Bieber (0-1, 3.65 ERA).
First pitch is scheduled for 8:10 PM ET.
Photo: Ron Vesely/Getty Images