CLEVELAND (AP) Shelley Duncan's RBI double in the eighth inning gave the Cleveland Indians a soggy 3-2 win over the Chicago White Sox on Monday night and a sweep of their day-night doubleheader.Duncan ripped a pitch from left-hander Matt Thornton (1-2) into the left-field corner, scoring Asdrubal Cabrera.The first-place Indians won the opener 8-6.The White Sox have lost six of seven.Cleveland's Josh Tomlin allowed five hits in 7-1 3 innings - most of the final three in a steady downpour. He struck out a career-high eight, allowed two walks and maintained his control despite slick, slippery conditions on the mound.Joe Smith (2-1) gave up a game-tying single after a lengthy rain delay, but got two outs and was credited with the win after Duncan's single.Tony Sipp worked the ninth for his first save.The Indians are 8-3 in their past 11.Sipp gave up a two-out walk to pinch-hitter Paul Konerko before striking out Tyler Flowers for his second career save - first since July 23, 2010.Cleveland's Travis Hafner homered and tripled in the opener. He struck out twice in the second game but was hit by a pitch for the 79th time in his career, tying him with Nap Lajoie for the team record.Cabrera opened the eighth with a bloop single off Thornton, and Carlos Santana followed with a flair to almost the exact spot in shallow right-center. After Hafner popped out, Duncan pulled Thornton's pitch down the line to make it 3-2 and give the few hundred fans who stuck around after a lengthy rain delay something to cheer.The White Sox tied it 2-all in the eighth, moments after a 1-hour, 25-minute rain delay, on Alex Rios' RBI single.With the sky darkening and radar showing heavy rain approaching, the Indians scored twice in the fifth to take a 2-1 lead and put Tomlin in position for the win.Tomlin retired the White Sox in order in the sixth and seventh before running into trouble in the eighth as the rain intensified. With one out, he walked Alejandro De Aza and gave up a single to Gordon Beckham before manager Manny Acta decided to pull his right-hander and bring in reliever Dan Wheeler.But as Wheeler neared the mound, crew chief Larry Vanover ordered the groundscrew to cover the infield at 9:09 p.m. The rain delay lasted 85 minutes, and when play resumed, Acta put in side-armer Smith to face Rios, who promptly hit an RBI single to tie it 2-2.The Indians hit some solid line drives off Chicago starter Eric Stults in the first three innings, but had nothing to show for it.They had a scoring chance in the fourth after Stults issued consecutive one-out walks. But he recovered by striking out Hafner and getting Duncan to pop out.Stults wasn't so lucky in the fifth, when a two-out walk to catcher Lou Marson, Cleveland's No. 9 hitter batting just .059, came back to haunt him.Marson then got a great jump and stole second on the next pitch before scoring on Michael Brantley's single. Brantley took second on the throw home and scored on Jason Kipnis' RBI single.The White Sox took a 1-0 lead in the fifth on Brent Morel's RBI groundout.Stults' debut with the White Sox was also his first major league start since Aug. 9, 2009, when he pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He spent 2010 pitching in Japan and made six relief appearances for Colorado last season before signing with Chicago as a free agent.The left-hander was recalled before the game from Triple-A Charlotte, where he went 1-1 with a 3.20 ERA in five starts.NOTES: Per the new collective bargaining agreement, teams are allowed to carry 26 players on their roster for unique doubleheaders. ... The day-night twinbill drew just 19,679 total fans. Despite being in first place, the Indians have the lowest average attendance in the majors. ... Tomlin has given up only 47 walks in 273 career innings. ... Hafner's triple in the opener for Cleveland was his first since 2007, prompting a few good-natured jokes about his blazing speed. "I'd say I could beat 75 to 80 percent of the guys on the team in a race, if it came down to it," he quipped.
The Cleveland Indians have the best starting rotation in baseball.
And while that might have been an opinion back before the abbreviated 2020 campaign got underway, it’s a fact at the moment. The Indians’ starting staff leads baseball with a 2.09 ERA and 124 strikeouts. Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger, Carlos Carrasco, Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale — not to mention Adam Plutko, who’s also made one nice start — have dominated opposing lineups.
The Indians have allowed four or fewer runs in each of their first 16 games. The only team who had a a longer such streak to start a season was the 1981 A's (21 games).— Mandy Bell (@MandyBell02) August 8, 2020
Often, they’ve dominated the White Sox lineup.
The South Siders have seen Cleveland’s starting pitchers five times in their first 15 games of the season, and an offense that was talked up as so capable before and since Opening Day has done very little against this superb collection of hurlers. A 2-3 record against the Indians following Saturday’s 7-1 defeat could certainly be much worse. But in five games against them, the White Sox have scored a total of 13 runs. And only five of those came against the starting pitchers.
The first two games of this weekend series at Guaranteed Rate Field have featured more exemplary starting-pitching performances by the Indians. Civale threw seven one-run innings Friday night, and Plesac was again excellent with six shutout innings Saturday afternoon. Neither performance matched what they did against this same White Sox team a little more than a week ago in Cleveland. But it certainly was enough to keep the White Sox bats quiet.
And Bieber, currently running away with the AL Cy Young Award — he’s got an 0.83 ERA and 35 strikeouts in three starts — awaits in Sunday night's nationally televised showdown.
If the White Sox are going to keep pace in the race for the AL Central crown, they’ll need to figure out a way to solve these Indians pitchers.
“These are the types of guys we have to get after,” manager Rick Renteria said after Saturday’s game. “To win, you have to put together the focus, the concentration. It’s not easy, trust me, when you’re facing guys like this. But you have to put things together enough to start a line and keep it moving and scratch away and claw and score a run or two here and there.”
The much discussed White Sox lineup, remade during the offseason with the additions of Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnación and Nomar Mazara and the promotion of Luis Robert, has certainly showed what it’s capable of this season. In the second game of the year, it hung 10 runs on the Minnesota Twins. In back-to-back wins over the Kansas City Royals last weekend, the White Sox exploded for a combined 20 runs on 35 hits.
And granted, this lineup has not been at full strength for even one game this season. The injury bug has chomped down on the White Sox and not let go. Mazara, the team's starting right fielder, started the season on the injured list. Currently, starting shortstop Tim Anderson and starting second baseman Nick Madrigal are on the IL. Encarnación is sidelined, too.
But the White Sox bats have been cool for a bit now, with just nine runs scored in the last five games against the Indians and Milwaukee Brewers. That hasn’t always equaled losses, and they’re 2-3 in those five games, with the pitching coming through to carry the day in certain spots.
Unfortunately for the White Sox, though, a cold snap, a growing list of injuries, three games against Cleveland’s elite pitching and, as Renteria pointed out Saturday, a little fatigue in this most unusual of seasons makes for an unproductive recipe.
“We are facing a club that has solid pitching, really good pitching. And we have to bring our game up,” Renteria said. “It doesn’t matter if you are a little fatigued or tired. Nobody cares about that. The reality is you have to be able to put together and string together really good at-bats, which is not easy to do, but it’s what we have to do.
“I think that maybe today’s game will be a great learning tool for us to understand. No one is going to give us anything. You don’t just turn on and turn off offenses. They are grown through a process, focus, concentration and a prepared attack. When we do that, we are really good.
“For me it’s just a blip. We have to keep playing and keep fighting. There’s not a whole lot of time left, and we are going to try to do the best we possibly can and keep moving forward in a positive direction.”
Since they reported to the South Side in early July for “Summer Camp,” the players have talked about this odd season, how in a 60-game sprint to October every game matters and means a lot. Modest winning streaks and losing streaks can tug an entire season in any direction. Games against division foes mean even more, with each set of 10 games against division rivals representing a full sixth of the schedule.
The White Sox seemed capable of going toe to toe with the Twins and Indians when the season began, though the task was always going to be a tall one. The Twins have one of baseball’s most dangerous lineups, and the White Sox can attest after a pair of opening-weekend thumpings those bats delivered. The Indians have the game’s finest rotation, and the White Sox know that well, too, after five games against their top-flight chuckers.
Despite the dominance of the Cleveland rotation, the two teams have taken turns in second place in the division standings over the first two games of this series. It's not like the AL Central has slipped away from the White Sox just yet.
Indeed, they have the potential to be the most balanced among the group of division contenders, with a potentially potent lineup and a potentially fearsome pitching staff. Injuries are no excuse, especially when the whole league’s going through the same thing, but it’s difficult to live up to that full potential when so many key cogs are on the injured list.
The White Sox won’t use that to wriggle free of any responsibility, of course, and they’ll keep on trying to solve the Twins’ lineup and the Indians’ rotation. If they want to live up to the high expectations they set for themselves before the season started, they’ll have to. There's no other option.
“We’ll have to regroup and go back after them,” Renteria said. “These are the type teams we’ll have to beat. We have to string things together and pull out some victories.”
In the last eight days, the White Sox have put four players on the injured list.
Aaron Bummer, arguably the team's best and most important relief pitcher, became the latest to join the sizable contingent of banged-up South Siders when the team sent him to the 10-day injured list Saturday morning with a biceps strain.
Bummer departed Friday night's game against the Cleveland Indians with biceps soreness after noticing something was amiss when he threw a pitch in the seventh inning. That pitch was immediately preceded by a throwing error, Bummer spiking a throw to first base into the ground and putting two men on base with two outs. Bummer got a visit from the trainer and left shortly thereafter.
The 26-year-old lefty emerged as a key cog in the White Sox bullpen with an excellent 2019 campaign, posting a 2.13 ERA in 67.2 innings of work. He's off to a similarly terrific start this season, with a 1.23 ERA in 7.1 innings.
The White Sox added Bummer to the group of young players they've locked up with long-term contracts in the last few seasons, and after getting that deal in spring training, he's under team control through the 2026 season.
Without him, manager Rick Renteria will have to turn to other options for high-leverage situations. Closer Alex Colomé, as well as Evan Marshall and Jimmy Cordero, have been strong in continuing their late-inning roles from a season ago. Rookie Codi Heuer and veteran Ross Detwiler have also been mighty impressive as part of a generally strong White Sox relief corps so far this season, and both could see more action in higher leverage spots.
Bummer's injury adds to a lengthy list for the White Sox. The team has 40 percent of its Opening Day starting rotation on the injured list along with its starting middle infield and top relief arm.
The injury updates from general manager Rick Hahn earlier this week were relatively positive, and none of the current injuries — aside from that of young pitcher Jimmy Lambert — seem to be of the long-term variety. However, in a season such as this one, which is already more than 23 percent over and done with, even missing the minimum 10 days of an injured-list stay is akin to missing a month during a normal campaign.
Per Hahn, injured starting pitchers Carlos Rodón and Reynaldo López, both on the IL with shoulder soreness, could be back in the next few weeks. Shortstop Tim Anderson, put on the injured list last weekend with a groin strain, is expected back when his 10 days are up in the coming days. Second baseman Nick Madrigal, whose Tuesday-night shoulder separation looked like it could have been something significantly worse, could be back in action in just a couple weeks. And designated hitter Edwin Encarnación, who also left Tuesday night's game early, missed an IL trip altogether, even though he remains out of the lineup for a fourth straight day with SC joint inflammation.
And now Bummer. It's a long list of maladies for these White Sox, worrisome in any scenario but perhaps more costly in a short season in which numerous players talked about staying healthy as a hopeful competitive advantage. But the White Sox are certainly not the only major league team bitten by the injury bug through the first couple weeks of this most unusual season, the months-long layoff and a brief ramp-up period before Opening Day figuring to have something to do with that.
The White Sox, expectedly, will continue to soldier on with pro sports teams' favorite mentality: next man up. The team called on a pair of arms from its alternate training site in Schaumburg, bringing local favorite and 2016 first-round draft pick Zack Burdi to the major leagues, along with Drew Anderson. The bullpen churn also saw the White Sox designate Brady Lail for assignment Saturday morning.