White Sox walk off, but Tribe's magic number at 11
By Scott Merkin and John Jackson
CHICAGO -- Even with a third loss in four games at U.S. Cellular Field, the Indians still moved closer to their first American League Central title since 2007 on Thursday afternoon.
The White Sox claimed a 2-1 walk-off victory to complete the series win by pushing a run across against Bryan Shaw on Carlos Sanchez's single to right to bring home pinch-runner Leury Garcia. It was the seventh walk-off win this season for Chicago, and the second of Sanchez's career.
"It was really fun when you help your team win games. I enjoyed that moment a lot," Sanchez said. "I was looking for a fastball away, but it was really hard to see. I just tried to hit that ball, and I know Leury can run."
That run scored moments after the Indians wasted a runner-on-third, one-out situation in the top of the frame, when David Robertson fanned pinch-hitter Francisco Lindor and leadoff man Coco Crisp. But with the Tigers suffering a 5-1 loss to Minnesota in Detroit, the Tribe's magic number to clinch the division was reduced to 11 with Cleveland holding a six-game lead in the division.
James Shields started the series finale and produced one of his best games as a member of the White Sox, striking out eight and walking three over six innings and 100 pitches. The right-hander allowed one run in the third on a Jose Ramirez sacrifice fly, but he stranded the bases loaded. Shields also stranded Mike Napoli at third with one out in the second by striking out Tyler Naquin looking and retiring Abraham Almonte on a grounder to first.
"For the most part, I think today overall was pretty good," Shields said. "Stayed consistent with getting ahead of hitters besides in the third inning there. But other than that, it was pretty good."
Mike Clevinger was the first of four pitchers for the Indians, working four innings and throwing 85 pitches. Clevinger's lone blemish came on Jose Abreu's 24th home run leading off the fourth. It came on a 2-2 pitch and gave Abreu 95 RBIs for the season.
"I felt like he felt us going in a lot, so I felt like going away," Clevinger said. "But it just leaked back over the plate and he got it pretty good."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED A major step forward: Shields entered Thursday with a 0-5 record and a 10.75 ERA over his past eight starts, allowing 17 home runs in 34 1/3 innings. But Shields did not allow a home run for just the fifth start among the 19 he made for the White Sox and he used a sharp-breaking curve to keep the Indians off balance.
"I felt pretty good with my curveball today. I was able to locate it," Shields said. "Bounced a few more than I wanted to, but other than that it was a good day."
Almost there: The White Sox went from two outs, nobody on base to two outs, bases loaded in the first inning against Clevinger with singles from Melky Cabrera and Abreu and a Todd Frazier walk. But they couldn't capitalize as Omar Narvaez popped out to Ramirez to end the inning. Narvaez battled for seven pitches before missing on the 95-mph fastball.
Missed opportunity: The Indians pushed across a run in the third on Ramirez's sac fly, but wasted a chance to score more. Carlos Santana, batting with the bases loaded and two outs, hit a liner into the shift that second baseman Tyler Saladino fielded in short right field and threw to first to end the threat.
"He hit two bullets today," manager Terry Francona said of Santana. "He swung the bat well. Sometimes that happens."
"It was very tough for both teams. You could see it coming. You're hoping to get a lead before that. It's hard enough to hit without only being able to see half the ball."-- Francona, on the shadows between the mound and plate in the later innings
"I promised him that I would try to hit one." -- Abreu, through interpreter Billy Russo, on the home run promise he made to Shane Callaghan, an 11-year-old White Sox fan who is going through treatment for bone cancer in his left leg
A LONG TIME COMING
The White Sox won their first series against the Indians since sweeping four games from July 23-26, 2015, at Progressive Field. They finished 6-10 against the Tribe this season and went 5-5 at home.
Saladino was ruled safe at first base on a fielder's-choice grounder to shortstop Michael Martinez, beating the one-hop relay from second baseman Jason Kipnis to first baseman Santana. But Francona challenged the play and video replay quickly overturned the call and changed it to an inning-ending double play.
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: Right-hander Corey Kluber (16-9, 3.05 ERA) can improve his chances for the Cy Young Award in the AL and get the team closer to clinching the AL Central with a strong performance Friday at Progressive Field in the opener of a three-game home series with the Tigers at 7:10 p.m. ET. Kluber has won both of his starts against Detroit this season.
White Sox:Chris Sale takes a 15-8 record and American League-leading 3.03 ERA into his 29th start of the season, 16th on the road and 20th all-time against the Royals in Friday's series opener at Kauffman Stadium with a 7:15 p.m. CT first pitch. His 205 strikeouts rank fifth in the AL and his 1.02 WHIP sits second. Sale lost to Ian Kennedy and the Royals last Sunday, despite allowing two runs over eight innings, while fanning 12.