Colder weather could not cool off the Cleveland bats on Friday night as the Indians opened the final series of the regular season with a 10-1 rout of the Chicago White Sox from Progressive Field.
Trevor Bauer took the mound for the Indians in his final start of the season as he prepared for the playoffs. Chasing down a personal statistical accomplishment, he would fall just short of that goal, but he added another win to his career-best totals while ending the Tribe’s Friday losing skid at two.
Veteran right-hander Mike Pelfrey got the starting nod for the White Sox and was in trouble out of the gate. After getting a pair of groundouts to start the game, Pelfrey gave up a double to center to Jose Ramirez. Edwin Encarnacion and Jay Bruce each drew walks to load the bases, but Carlos Santana lined to left to leave them loaded.
While the Indians threatened in the first, they would come through in the second. Jason Kipnis walked to start the inning and one batter later, Roberto Perez did the same. Lindor lined out to left for the second out, but Jackson put the Tribe on the board with a single to center to score Kipnis from second with the game’s first run. Ramirez drove a pitch the opposite way over left fielder Nick Delmonico for a two-run double. Encarnacion followed with a sharp grounder to short that Tim Anderson misplayed, failing to get the glove down. The error allowed Ramirez to score from second to make it a 4-0 game. Bruce came to the plate and got into a battle with Pelfrey, but after the count went full, Bruce won the competition with a two-run blast to deep center to make it a 6-0 Tribe lead.
Bauer was dealing for Cleveland. He struck out a pair in the first, got the side in order in the second, and added two more strikeouts in the third. His offense stepped back in and erased what little doubt may have remained in the already lopsided contest in their at bats in the home half of the third.
Kipnis led off his second consecutive inning and doubled to right. Yandy Diaz drove him in with a double to right-center to make it a 7-0 game. Perez and Lindor were each retired before Jackson and Ramirez worked walks to load the bases, sending Pelfrey to the showers. Left-hander David Holmberg came on in relief, but Encarnacion doubled to the right-center gap to clear the bases. Bruce was retired on a fly to center, but the Indians had a commanding 10-0 lead.
After setting down the first nine in order, the White Sox finally reached against Bauer in the top of the fourth. Yolmer Sanchez got ahead in the count 3-1 before driving a fastball over the wall in right for a solo homer. It would be the first of three hits off of Bauer in the inning, but he would work out of the jam and strand runners on the corners to keep it a 10-1 game.
Holmberg provided some stability for the Sox on the mound, retiring the side in order in the fourth. Jackson and Ramirez each reached with two down in the fifth (via walk and single), but Encarnacion flied out to center.
Bauer tacked on two more strikeouts to his tally in the sixth after Yoan Moncada singled to right with one out. He left the runner standing there as he struck out both Jose Abreu and Delmonico in what would be his final inning of work.
Manager Terry Francona handled the rest of the game as an opportunity to get some guys some playing time and to get other guys a little bit of rest as he gradually emptied his bench. The bullpen received similar treatment, beginning in the seventh. Joe Smith worked two-thirds of an inning, giving up a hit and striking out a pair. Cody Allen pitched an inning and a third, striking out three in the seventh and eighth innings. Bryan Shaw opened the ninth, retiring the only man that he faced, and Andrew Miller completed the final two outs, getting a fly out to center and a strikeout.
The Indians (101-59) reduced their magic number to clinch home field advantage throughout the AL side of the playoffs to one game with the win as Houston was victorious in Boston against the Red Sox. The 2017 version of the Tribe moved into second place for wins in a season in franchise history, moving out of a tie with the 1995 Indians, who went 100-44 in their strike-shortened World Series season. This year’s squad will not be able to track down the 111-win 1954 club, but could join both other 100-win teams in team history as participants in the Fall Classic.
The 101 wins by the Indians this season are the most in the American League since the New York Yankees won 103 in 2009. The Yankees won their most recent World Series that year.
The White Sox (66-94) fell to 27-52 on the road this season.
Bauer (17-9), who entered the night eleven strikeouts short of 200 for the season, struck out seven to finish the regular season with 196 Ks. He allowed just one run on four hits and did not walk a batter, needing just 80 pitches to retire 18.
“He’s really held his stuff the entire year and the second half when our pitching seemed to fall in line, he was right in the middle of that,” said Francona about Bauer after the game. “[He] could have easily pitched another couple innings, but we just needed to get guys in. He’s in good position to move forward. He’s throwing the ball really well.”
When Bauer surpassed the 190 strikeout mark, it gave the Indians three pitchers with 17 or more wins and 190+ strikeouts, becoming the first team in Major League history to have three starters with those stats.
Pelfrey (3-12) was charged with seven earned runs and ten runs total. He allowed six hits, walked six, and struck out two in just two and two-thirds innings of work. Holmberg spared the bullpen by working a scoreless two and two-thirds while giving up just two hits and two walks in the process.
The Indians had contributions all over the lineup. Ramirez and Jackson each reached base safely four times. Ramirez had three hits, drew a walk, scored two runs, and drove in a pair. Jackson had two hits and two walks, scored two runs, and knocked one in. Encarnacion drove in three on his only hit of the night and Bruce reached base three times with two walks and his two-run home run, his 36th of the year to give him 99 RBI. One more RBI in the next two games would give Bruce his second career 100-RBI season.
The Indians will look to clinch home field advantage for the ALCS on Saturday with their ace, Corey Kluber (18-4, 2.27 ERA), on the mound in his final start and his own preparation for his Game 1 start next Thursday in the American League Division Series. Second-year right-hander Carson Fulmer (2-1, 4.42) will counter for Chicago, which will look to stand in the way of the Indians’ postseason plans. The 23-year-old will make his first career appearance against the Tribe and his seventh of the season.
Game time from downtown Cleveland is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.
Photo: Ron Schwane/Getty Images