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Indians sleepwalk through September in 7-1 loss to White Sox

October baseball feels like a pipe dream at this point

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Indians Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

In his last start, Chicago White Sox pitcher Reynaldo Lopez failed to make it out of the first inning, surrendering six earned runs before surrendering to the showers.

With such a formidable opponent on the mound, clearly runs were going to be a commodity for the Cleveland Indians, as evidenced by Oscar Mercado dropping a sac bunt in the Tribe’s second at-bat of the game. Fear not, the bunt did advance Francisco Lindor to second base. Unfortunately, that’s as far as he’d make it. A truly confounding turn of events.

In the next half inning, Yoan Moncada singled on a pop fly to shallow center that Lindor lost in the sun. Bizarrely, the White Sox opted against bunting with a runner on first and no outs, and Wellington Castillo proceeded to blast a home run into the left field bleachers for a 2-0 lead. Imagine that. Trying for a hit rather than conceding an out.

Two different strategies. Two different outcomes. Guess which team won?

The Indians managed to get another baserunner aboard in the second inning, thanks to Jake Bauers drawing a walk. But the free pass came with two outs, taking away the opportunity to bunt with Kevin Plawecki coming to the plate. Uncertain of how to proceed, Plawecki took a chance and lined a fastball to right fielder Ryan Goins, who broke in for some inexplicable reason and watched as the ball sailed over his head for an RBI double.

And that was all she wrote for the Tribe lineup. They spent the rest of the game going through the motions, not even challenging Lopez to throw something other than his four-seam fastball. His slider was particularly nasty, inducing 10 swinging strikes, but he only threw 24 of them. Nearly two-thirds of his 109 pitches were four-seam fastballs.

I was being sarcastic when I said “clearly runs were going to be a commodity,” but unfortunately runs were indeed a commodity for the Tribe. Lopez had arguably his best start of the season, limiting the Indians to one hit and one earned run over nine innings in a complete game effort, striking out 11. He set down 16 consecutive batters to end the game. If this Indians team has postseason aspirations, it’s not apparent from the product on the field.

To make matters worse, Zach Plesac didn’t have it today. The rookie had one of his worst outings of the season and it ended in catastrophe. Having limited the White Sox to three runs in the first five innings, Plesac finally came unraveled in the sixth, allowing a leadoff double to Castillo before walking Zack Collins. Danny Mendick ended his day by dropping a bunt down the third base line, which Plesac attempted to field but instead fell down to load the bases with no outs.

Hunter Wood took over for Plesac and promptly ensured that all three baserunners scored — even extending one of them a free pass to home plate with a walk — to pad the White Sox lead. He then struck out the next three batters, because of course. The damage was done. It was par for the course for a Tribe bullpen that has been hemorrhaging runs this series.

Phil Maton made his contribution to the cause in the ninth inning, with Castillo scoring Tim Anderson from third on an RBI groundout for a 7-1 lead.

Bring on the Twins, who eagerly await a visit from the Tribe this weekend with a chance to put a couple more nails in the coffin of the Indians’ all but diminished AL Central hopes.