CHICAGO -- The Indians entered Wednesday with a 43.9-percent chance to make the postseason, per FanGraphs, but after a tough loss to the White Sox, that percentage plummeted to 13.6. After Thursday, those playoff odds have taken another big hit.
With the Rays off, the Tribe knew it had to take advantage and gain some ground in the race for the second American League Wild Card. However, the Indians’ 8-0 loss to the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field pushed Cleveland two games back of Tampa Bay with three to play, putting its elimination number at two and dropping its playoff odds to 3.2 percent.
“I mean, the natural feeling is to feel sorry for yourself,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “We can’t do that. We haven’t done it yet, and until somebody tells us we have to go home, we've got to keep grinding. We've got to find a way. That’s the only thing I know.”
The Indians' pitching staff struggled the past two nights, giving up eight runs in each game in a series loss to the White Sox. On Thursday, Aaron Civale, who hadn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of his first nine career starts, gave up four runs, all coming on a pair of back-to-back homers in the fourth inning. That ended his night after only 3 1/3 innings, after he had given up only two homers in 53 1/3 innings entering this start.
“Command was kind of shaky from the start,” Civale said. “Got away with some things early on and, eventually, they made me pay. Tried to set the tone, and it just didn’t go my way tonight. I made some mistakes, and they made me pay.”
Cleveland's bats also went silent two nights after scoring 11 runs. After Tuesday's victory, the Tribe had won 12 of their previous 16 games, outscoring opponents 90-45 in that span (an average of 5.6 runs per game). Entering Wednesday, the Indians trailed the Rays by a half-game.
“You can’t pick your spots when you’re going to get hot or cold,” Francona said. “I mean, we picked kind of a rough time to go cold. … It’s been two nights now where they really shut us down.”
On Thursday, the Tribe mustered only four hits. After the top five batters in its lineup went 0-for-20 the night before, they combined to go 1-for-17 in this one. It was the 14th time the Indians have been shut out this season, including the third against the White Sox.
“To be honest, I really don’t know,” Tribe catcher Roberto Perez said when asked what’s happened with the offense. “All I know is that we didn’t take great at-bats. I mean, they pitched us tough. That’s baseball, man. I’m sure nobody in here wants to be struggling in a situation where we’re trying to make a push, but it’s just part of the game.”
This was the first time the Indians have lost consecutive games since getting swept in a doubleheader by the Twins on Sept. 14.
“I think, as everybody knows, we’re trying to make a push,” Perez said. “It’s hard not to put a lot of pressure on ourselves when our backs are pretty much up against the wall.”
In order for the Indians to keep their postseason hopes alive, they'll have to sweep the Nationals, who have clinched a National League Wild Card berth, over the weekend, and they'll need the Rays to lose at least two of their three games against the 65-94 Blue Jays. If Tampa Bay lost two in that scenario, it would set up a tiebreaker game on Monday.
“We've got to focus on winning the next three games, and hopefully, [the Rays] lose,” Perez said. “We cannot think about the past. We've just got to continue to get to Washington and continue to win games, you know? We cannot feel sorry for ourselves. We've just got to put it in the back of our minds and continue. We've got to refresh and go to Washington and see what happens.”