Indians host White Sox with eye on title
CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians can clinch the American League Central Division title Sunday afternoon when they host the Chicago White Sox in the finale of their three-game series.
The teams split the first two games, with Cleveland winning 10-4 on Friday and Chicago prevailing 8-1 on Saturday.
Despite their loss Saturday, the Indians' magic number for clinching the division was reduced to two by virtue of second-place Detroit's loss to Kansas City. So a Cleveland win Sunday coupled with a loss by Detroit would give the Indians their first division title since 2007.
White Sox center fielder Adam Easton is not expected to play Sunday. Eaton sat out Saturday's game as he tried to recover from crashing into the center field wall while catching a fly ball hit by catcher Roberto Perez in the sixth inning of Friday's game.
Eaton, who had to leave the game after the play, said he hit his head, left shoulder and left hip when he collided with the wall, but said he was feeling better Saturday. “If anybody's ever been in a car accident, it's kind of the same thing,” Eaton said. “You're kind of taking inventory of the body parts and making sure everything is back to where it's supposed to be.”
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Eaton will likely play again before the end of the season, but not until he is ready physically.
“It's not anything that you feel like you need to shut him down,” Ventura said. “But he's banged up enough to where it's better for him maybe to get re-evaluated Monday and make sure he's good.”
In Sunday's pitching matchup, the Indians send Josh Tomlin (12-8, 4.75 ERA) to the mound, while Carlos Rodon (7-10, 4.29) starts for the White Sox.
Tomlin is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in two starts versus Chicago this season. In nine career appearances (eight starts) against the White Sox, he is 4-2, 3.08.
Sunday will be his third start since his turn in the rotation was skipped twice after a bumpy month of August in which he was 0-5 with an 11.48 ERA in six starts. In his two starts since being put back in the rotation, he is 1-0 with a 1.54 ERA.
Rodon has started three games against Cleveland this year, going 0-1 with a 5.19 ERA. However, in eight career appearances (seven starts) against the Indians, he is 3-1 with a 2.87 ERA. Rodon's last two starts overall have been ugly: 0-2 with a 12.00 ERA, allowing 17 hits including four home runs in nine innings.
One of those starts was against the Indians, on Sept. 14, a 6-1 loss in which Rodon gave up six runs and nine hits in four innings.
The Indians' loss Saturday was a bullpen game, with manager Terry Francona using eight relief pitchers to get through it because the team's rotation is in a state of flux and there is no true No.5 starter at the moment.
That can make for a long game, which is what it was — a blowout that took almost 3 1/2 hours to play. Francona may have to have one more bullpen game in the last week of the regular season.
“There are a lot of moving parts in a game like that, and when you fall behind it can make for a long night for the position players. I get that,” Francona said. “But that doesn't mean it can't work for a game.”