With two outs in the ninth inning on Saturday night, White Sox reliever Gregory Infante hit two consecutive Indians batters to drive in the deciding run and stretch the Tribe’s winning streak to 9 games in a decidedly unusual fashion.
The White Sox tried to turn back the clock 100 years by having both teams wear throwback uniforms from 1917 — one of three seasons when the Sox won the World Series. But for the kind of season the White Sox are having this year, there wasn’t quite enough magic even in the century-old reminders of happier times.
This 5-4 Indians’ victory was one strange game, marked by a historic milestone of their own. Tribe ace Corey Kluber became the first pitcher in Indians’ history to notch 12 or more strikeouts in three consecutive starts. Yet Kluber didn’t get the win even with 12 Ks, because he made just enough mistakes and got a couple of bad breaks to leave after six innings with the score knotted at 4 runs apiece.
That fact marked the first anomaly of this game. The Indians had won 55 games when they gave Kluber at least 4 runs of support. And even though they notched another win, Andrew Miller got the W.
Early on, with Klubot on the mound, it looked like this contest was going to be a runaway Tribe victory. The Tribe scored in the second inning when Carlos Santana drew the first of his 4 walks on the night, advanced to third base when Austin Jackson hit a deep fly that the White Sox right fielder misplayed for an error, then scored on a Yan Gomes sac fly to center.
In the next inning, the Indians scored 3 more runs on 5 hits. Smart base running also was a factor. Bradley Zimmer led off with a single. When Francisco Lindor blooped another single, Zimmer alertly went from first to third, and the throw to third allowed Lindor to take second. Michael Brantley hit a sac fly to score Zimmer. Then Edwin Encarnacion scorched a line drive single to score Lindor. Santana hit a single to advance Encarnacion. Austin Jackson followed with a deep double that scored Encarnacion and would have easily scored Santana from first, but the ball bounced off the hard warning track and over the fence to keep Santana from advancing past third. That extra run would have been enough to give Kluber the win. But Yan Gomes grounded out to end the inning and keep the Tribe score at 4.
In the bottom of the third, the White Sox bounced right back. Kluber made his first mistake by hitting the ninth batter, Adam Engel, to give the Sox a base runner. Melky Cabrera got his second of 4 hits off Kluber. Then Corey left a fast ball in the middle of the plate, which Jose Abreu promptly turned around and over the left field fence. Suddenly, the Indians’ margin was cut to one.
The score remained that way until the bottom of the sixth. After notching his 11th and 12th strikeouts to start the inning, Kluber left another pitch in the middle of the plate, and Alen Hanson smoked it down the right field line for a double. Then came another touch of bad luck for Kluber. Tim Anderson hit a blooper down the right field line that a sprinting Austin Jackson missed catching by an inch or less as it ticked off his glove for a run-scoring double. Tie game.
Andrew Miller came on in relief with one out in the seventh and Sox runners on first and third. Ironically, hit batters almost cost the Indians the game, but this time, they got a lucky break. Miller hit the first batter he faced, Yoan Moncada, to load the bases. Miller also hit the next batter, Matt Davidson, but fortunately he had swung at the inside pitch. In a moment of confusion when the ball bounced away from Yan Gomes, it looked like Melky Cabrera had scored from third. But after the umps cleared up the situation and correctly ruled that the pitch was a strike instead of a hit batter, Cabrera had to retreat back to third base. Davidson ended up striking out for the fourth time in the game.
White Sox reliever Aaron Bummer retired the first two Tribe batters in the ninth. Santana drew his fourth walk and Jackson followed with a single to keep the inning alive. The Sox brought in Infante for the dubious ending. Turns out, Infante was the real Bummer for Chicago. Cody Allen pitched a perfect ninth to seal the victory.