Indians improve to 25-20
When I saw the pitching matchups for this series in Chicago, my immediate reaction was to hope that they would sweep the doubleheader; otherwise, the White Sox would win the series. With the way both Chris Sale and Jose Quintana were pitching, taking even one of the two games would have been tough. And Quintana had dominated the Indians from the very beginning of his career, so even if they had gotten to Sale, they surely wouldn't be able to get to Quintana as well, right?
But the improbable happened. After knocking out Chris Sale last night (in by far his worst outing of 2016), the Indians pinned three early runs on Quintana, and while the White Sox left-hander would stick around to throw 119 pitches (against 26 batters) in six innings, they gave Corey Kluber an early lead. The big blow came from a rather unexpected source; Lonnie Chisenhall, who was in the lineup mainly because Jose Ramirez was playing shortstop, hit a ball that fell just out of the reach of a diving Adam Eaton, plating two runs in the second inning. the Indians added another run in the third inning on Juan Uribe's sacrifice fly.
Meanwhile, Corey Kluber pitched just as well (if not better) than in his last outing in Boston. In contrast to Quintana, who had to throw a lot of pitches just to get through six innings, Kluber hit the 100 pitch mark just before leaving in the eighth inning. He allowed seven hits, struck out nine, and walked his first and only batter in the sixth inning. The defense behind Kluber didn't help him at all; the team made three errors on the day, including two on one play. Todd Frazier attempted to steal second base, and Yan Gomes' throw sailed over everyone's head into the outfield. Rajai Davis charged the ball, in mind to nab Frazier at third, neglected to pick up the ball, and so Frazier kept running, scoring ahead of the throw from the outfield. As remarked on the radio broadcast, the play was reminiscent of a play you'd see in a youth baseball game, and not one you'd ever think to see at the professional level.
Kluber's second run allowed came after he left the game. After getting the first out of the inning, he was pulled in favor of Bryan Shaw. With a runner on base, Shaw gave up a two-run homer to Melky Cabrera, his fifth allowed homer of the season. Thankfully the Indians had added an insurance run in the top of the inning when Yan Gomes tripled (!) in Mike Napoli, but even so, the Cabrera home run made Cody Allen's job the next inning more stressful.
Allen was up to the challenge. He retired the White Sox in order, needing 14 pitches (9 of them strikes) to do so. He ended up finishing off all three of the Tribe victories this week, pitched in yesterday's ninth inning despite the four-run lead; I think Francona was looking ahead, knowing that with the off day tomorrow, he didn't have to worry about Allen pitching on four straight days, and would be available on Friday against the Orioles if needed. Francona should be worrying about Shaw, though, and whether to use him the next time the Indians hold a close lead in the eighth inning.
But enough about nagging worries. The Indians are now a season-high five games above .500, and leave town just one-half game behind the White Sox in the AL Central standings. After the two losses in Boston, the Indians ended the road trip on a very positive note, especially in beating Chicago's best two pitchers.