The Indians were eliminated from the American League Central Division race on Wednesday night as they lost to the White Sox, 8-3, at Guaranteed Rate Field. The Tribe’s loss clinched the Central for the Twins, who beat Detroit, 5-1.
If the Indians end the season on the outside looking in on the Wild Card Game, the White Sox will be one of the reasons. The rebuilding White Sox have lost 88 games this season, but they’ve managed to beat the Indians three times down the stretch in September and 10 times this season.
In the race for the Wild Card Game, Oakland (95-93) continued to maintain the home position, with the Rays (95-64) remain just a half-game behind. That puts the Indians (93-65) two games behind the A’s and 1.5 games behind Tampa Bay — with just four games remaining.
“I don’t know about inevitable,” Francona said when asked about the Twins clinching the Central. "I don’t know if you look at things like that. Now the next-best thing is we need to win tomorrow to keep this thing going. "
A shaky start by Shane Bieber (15-8, 3.28) and a bad throwing error by first baseman Carlos Santana gave the White Sox a 3-0 lead in the first inning. The Indians never recovered.
Leury Garcia, who later left with a sore shoulder, opened the first with a homer. It was his third leadoff homer of the season. For Bieber it was the 31st homer he’s allowed this year.
Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu followed with infield hits, Anderson reaching on a hit to the hole at short and Abreu on a slow chopper to third. The runners moved up on Yoan Moncada’s ground out to first. Santana had a chance to start a double play, but the ball went off his glove. Second baseman Mike Freeman picked it up and threw to Bieber at first to retire Moncada.
Santana’s bobble was a signal of things to come. Zach Collins sent a routine chopper to first with Anderson coming home. But Santana made a wild throw over catcher Roberto Perez’s head as Anderson and Abreu scored for a 3-0 lead.
“I think Carlos, when he saw the runner (Anderson) was slowing down, he slowed down and he let it fly,” Francona said. “That’s a shame. He makes that play in his sleep. The one time he didn’t, it hurt. He’ll be back tomorrow.”
Bieber said he could have thrown better pitches in the first inning.
“There are a lot of things that led up to those situations,” he said. “Maybe I execute a pitch a little bit better and they swing and miss, whatever it may be. It’s a game of ifs and you don’t want to play that game with yourself.”
Lefty Ross Detwiler (3-5, 6.84), who made seven appearances for the Indians in 2016, held them to three runs over five innings. The last time the 6-5 lefty faced the Tribe, he allowed four runs in 2 2/3 innings in an 11-3 loss on Sept. 2. He was better on Wednesday night, winning for just the second time since June 28.
Bieber, who has allowed 28 hits in 18 2/3 innings over his last three starts, struggled for much of night. He came into the game second in the AL in innings pitched and third in strikeouts. In his 33rd start of the season, it seemed like the workload had caught up to him.
The White Sox made it 4-1 in the third on a two-out single by Yolmer Sanchez. Anderson, the AL batting average leader, and Abreu opened the inning with singles. Bieber struck out the next two batters before Yolmer singled. Anderson had his sixth four-hit game of the season.
Bieber allowed three more hits in the fourth as the White Sox took a 5-1 lead. Anderson delivered Adam Engel with a single.
“I didn’t think he had his best stuff,” Francona said. "Some of his breaking balls got hit that didn’t have a ton of depth. Saying that, a guy gets a leadoff homer and then there were three balls that didn’t leave the infield and there’s more traffic and more runs. So on a night when maybe he could have used a little bit of help, we didn’t.
The Indians made it 5-3 in the fifth. Jose Ramirez opened the inning with a homer to left. It gave him three homers in his first five at-bats since being activated before Tuesday’s game following surgery on his right hand on Aug. 26.
Franmil Reyes singled and came around to score on a single by Roberto Perez and a double-play grounder by Mike Freeman. Except for Ramirez’s 23rd homer, it was not exactly a rousing night for the Tribe offense that scored 11 runs in Tuesday’s romp.
Bieber allowed five runs, three earned, in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out seven and walked one.
Chicago put the game away in the seventh on a three-run homer by Wellington Castillo. It was not a good moment for the Tribe’s durable veterans Oliver Perez and Tyler Clippard. Yoan Moncada hit a leadoff double against Perez and moved to third on a single by Sanchez. Clippard relieved to face Castillo, who worked the count to 2-2 before hammering a 90 mph fastball over the fence in left center.
The Indians had a chance to get back in the game in the seventh. Ramirez and Roberto Perez walked with one out. But Aaron Bummer struck out pinch-hitter Greg Allen and Francisco Lindor.
They loaded the bases in the ninth with two out, but closer Alex Colome struck out Lindor for his 30th save. The Tribe’s All-Star shortstop is hitting .208 (22-for-106) with runners in scoring position.
“To be honest, the whole entire game I felt like we were going to come back and win," said Lindor. "I never really lost faith. We didn’t execute it when we had to. I didn’t. I had a chance to tie the game or take the lead a couple times and I didn’t do it. Just got to continue to get better. It’s a tough loss, but move on. Keep moving forward.”
Indians rookie right-hander Aaron Civale (3-3, 1.82) will close the season series against White Sox Thursday night, facing rookie right-hander Dylan Cease (4-7, 5.79), who is making his 15th start of the season. Game time is 8:10 p.m. with SportsTime Ohio and WLKR 95.3 FM carrying the game.
In his last start Civale pitched a career-high 7 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Tigers. Cease, coming off a win against Detroit, has allowed one or fewer runs in each of his last three starts. Cease struck out 10 in 6 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Tribe on Sept. 3.