By Jordan Bastian and August Fagerstrom
CLEVELAND -- White Sox rookie Carlos Rodon continued on his two-month surge, stifling the Indians on Saturday night in a 4-3 victory at Progressive Field that ended when David Robertson picked off Abraham Almonte at first base.
Rodon, who had not pitched since Sept. 8 due to Chicago closely monitoring his work load, held the Tribe to one run over 7 2/3 innings, ending with four strikeouts and one walk. The 22-year-old left-hander's lone blemish came courtesy of a run-scoring sacrifice fly from Indians catcher Yan Gomes in the fourth.
"They started off hot and got some guys on, but defensively we played pretty well and got out of the innings," Rodon said.
Over his past seven starts, Rodon has turned in a 1.66 ERA and .193 opponents' average over 48 2/3 innings for the White Sox.
The Indians made things interesting in the ninth inning, when Chris Johnson launched a two-run homer off Robertson, but that is as far as Cleveland's rally went. Robertson picked Almonte off with All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis standing in the batter's box.
"Obviously, that's tough to take," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "It looked like he wanted to run and we really wanted to let Kip hit. My guess is, when [third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh] was kind of relaying that, that he might've just looked a second, because he wasn't running. That's unfortunate. You'd love to let Kip hit there."
Right-hander Carlos Carrasco took the loss after giving up three runs (two earned) on four hits in five-plus innings for the Indians (73-74), who dropped four games back of the Astros in the race for the American League's second Wild Card spot. Carrasco was perfect for three innings and ended with nine strikeouts, but Chicago struck for three runs between the fourth and fifth frames.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Lindor's lapse:Francisco Lindor headed into Saturday leading all American League shortstops with nine Defensive Runs Saved, but a misstep in the field by the rookie hurt the Tribe in the fourth. After a leadoff single by Adam Eaton, Lindor gloved a grounder from Jose Abreu, but threw wildly into right field on a would-be double-play attempt. Eaton sprinted from first to third base on the play, and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Melky Cabrera.
"It's a tough play," Kipnis said. "It's just one of those where the ball was leading into the runner, coming in hot. [Lindor] thinks he should make a better throw, I think I should catch the ball. He's allowed to make a mistake here and there."
Solving Carrasco: After going 0-for-9 with six strikeouts against Carrasco to begin the game, the White Sox turned things around the second time through the order. Eaton's run in the fourth put them on the board, but they broke through in the fifth. Rob Brantly led off the inning by working a full-count walk, and Avisail Garcia singled in the ensuing at-bat. A bloop single by Micah Johnson plated a run, and Eaton's fielder's choice scored another.
"You just get enough," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "I wouldn't say we were killing it, but we got some situations where we got some early runs. I think the Brantly one was a big one late."
Sacrificing a rally: The Indians had a prime scoring opportunity against Rodon in the first inning, when All-Star Jason Kipnis led off with a double down the left-field line. Lindor, who headed into the game with a .399 average in his past 40 games, opted to use a sacrifice bunt (his AL-leading 13th sac bunt of the year) to move Kipnis to third. Rodon then retired Michael Brantley (groundout) and later Carlos Santana (strikeout) to escape unscathed.
"You've got a lefty that's boring the ball in on you, so you're trying to move him to third," Francona said. "So, that's OK. [Lindor] actually hit that ball pretty hard. That's where he has the option [to bunt], and I totally understand that, because it's hard when a guy's throwing a fastball and slider in on your hands. It's hard to maneuver the ball the other way."
Final push: The Tribe did what it could to rally in the ninth inning against Robertson. With one out, Gomes doubled and Johnson followed with a towering two-run homer (his first shot with Cleveland and first overall since Aug. 3 with the Braves) to dead center field, trimming Chicago's lead to 4-3. Almonte followed with a single, but Robertson got Jerry Sands to fly out and then picked Almonte off first base to end the game in stunning fashion.
"It's part of the game," Chris Johnson said. "[Almonte is] just trying to get a nice lead over there and make something happen and got picked off. Guys get picked off all the time. So, we don't hold that against him. We pick him up, come out tomorrow and try to win a ballgame." More >
"We're in a playoff race. Obviously, every loss hurts. We want to win every game we can, but we've got to be realistic. You're not going to win every single game. We'd like to. We would love a 10-game winning streak like we did to close out 2013. We'd love to go on one of those runs. We've been winning a lot of series. That's what we need to keep doing. Maybe mix in a sweep here, too. We're playing good baseball. We have to keep that going." --Kipnis, on the Indians falling four games back of Houston for the AL's second Wild Card
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
With one out and runners on the corners in the fifth inning, Eaton chopped a pitch back to Carrasco, who turned and relayed it to Lindor at second base for a potential 6-4-3 double play. Lindor recorded the out at second, but dropped the ball on the transfer, allowing Eaton to reach safely and a run to score, putting Chicago up, 3-1. Ventura challenged the out call at second, but the ruling stood as called after a replay review lasting two minutes and 22 seconds.
WHAT'S NEXT White Sox: Lefty John Danks (7-12, 4.56 ERA) gets the start for the White Sox, making his 28th start of the season with a 12:10 p.m. CT first pitch at Progressive Field on Sunday. He'll be facing the Indians for the fourth time this season, after allowing 12 runs in 16 innings (6.75 ERA) against the club earlier in the season. Danks has been an effective innings-eater for the Sox lately, lasting at least six innings in six of his last seven starts.
Indians: Right-hander Josh Tomlin (5-2, 2.70 ERA) is slated to take the mound for the Tribe in the finale of this three-game set with the White Sox at Progressive Field at 1:10 p.m. ET on Sunday. Tomlin has tossed two complete games in his past three outings, but he picked up a hard-luck loss despite going the distance against the Royals on Tuesday. The righty has 44 strikeouts and only three walks in 50 innings this year.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.