It’s crazy what happens when some parts of your baseball team can work to pick up the other parts. Tonight it was the starting pitcher, Zach Plesac, not having his best stuff and getting hit hard through the order. It was also Delino DeShields being ... Delino DeShields. And it was the offense picking them both up.
Plesac pitched 6.2 innings and allowed four earned runs with seven strikeouts. That doesn’t tell the whole story, however, as he was hit hard consistently by the White Sox lineup — not something you want to see out of your potential No. 2 starter in the postseason. His curveball was completely absent tonight, thrown seven times and not whiffed on once. His slider and changeup didn’t fare much better, with seven and four whiffs, respectively. All told, he induced called strikes or swinging strikes on 21% of his pitches, which is a pretty solid sign that he just didn’t have it tonight. No major velocity issues — his typical ability to tunnel everything just wasn’t working and he had an off night. It happens, no big deal.
But, luckily, the lineup is hot enough that he could allow four runs and the Indians can still get a win.
A César Hernández double in the third inning gave the Tribe their first run of the game — and tied it at one. After a relatively uneventful group of middle innings, the White Sox’s Yoan Moncada led off the seventh with a triple en route to a three-run inning that I will deem DeShields’ Boner. Thanks to not one, not two (ok, wait, it actually is just two) bad plays by DeShields, the White Sox racked up a lead quickly. He did, at least, make a difficult catch to end the inning. Credit where it’s due.
That put the Indians down, 4-1. An insurmountable lead to this lineup most of the season. But not tonight. Not this week. Not now. They responded immediately in the bottom half of the seventh with the first three batters getting on base. Not just any three batters, mind you, but three pinch-hitting batters. Upon seeing the left-handed Dallas Keuchel replaced by a righty, Sandy Alomar instantly replaced Jordan Luplow with Josh Naylor, Oscar Mercado with righty killer Tyler Naquin, and Roberto Pérez with Mike Freeman. Even before the outcome, I would have been fine with two of those — considering they all got on base and set up a four-run inning there’s nothing not to love about it.
The runs started when those three were on base, Francisco Lindor weakly popped out to right, and Rick Renteria made the questionable decision to bring in Carlos Rodón. It was the highest leverage situation of the game, maybe of the White Sox’s season if they had any aspirations of playing three Wild Card games in Chicago. Unfortunately for them, Rodón has not pitched in relief since his rookie year, and he hasn’t been a good starter for basically the same length of time. He wasn’t good tonight, either.
César Hernández and José Ramírez responded with back-to-back hits and that the lead was theirs again. If there was a crowd I bet they would have been electric. Instead, the electric crowd blared a heavy dose of “Let’s Go Tribe,” which I will count as free advertising.
Cam Hill, who replaced Plesac to end the seventh, came in for a clean 1-2-3 seventh inning, Brad Hand did the same for the save, and the Indians completed their sweep of the White Sox.
The Indians are playing like a team that wants to do some damage in the playoffs, and with three games against a weak opponent remaining, they have a chance to hit the Wild Card round absolutely on fire and feeling great about themselves. If some luck falls upon them and the Twins slip against the Reds in their season finale, they might just sneak in as the AL Central winner.