CLEVELAND -- With the American League Central crown already wrapped up, there are goals that the Indians want to accomplish down the stretch. One mentioned by manager Terry Francona this week was finding spots to get sidearmer Adam Cimber to face multiple batters.Thursday night, when a late push by the
CLEVELAND -- With the American League Central crown already wrapped up, there are goals that the Indians want to accomplish down the stretch. One mentioned by manager Terry Francona this week was finding spots to get sidearmer Adam Cimber to face multiple batters.
Thursday night, when a late push by the Tribe sent the game against the White Sox into extra innings, Francona allowed Cimber to stay on the mound for two full frames. That decision came at a cost, as Cimber flinched in the 11th to send the Indians to a 5-4 loss at Progressive Field.
"We talked about that at the beginning of the week, so that was good," Francona said of stretching Cimber out. "He's been coming in and throwing five, six pitches. This allowed him to settle in and actually pitch. He hit a couple of guys, but he was able to stay in the game, actually get out of that inning. I think it was really beneficial for him."
With the loss, Cleveland clinched the AL's third seed for the postseason, meaning the team will open on the road. As things currently stand, the Indians project to play the winner of the AL West, which is still unsettled between the Astros and A's.
The Indians, who won on a walk-off grand slam by Jason Kipnis on Wednesday night, had chances to pull off another walk-off in the ninth, 10th and 11th innings. Over those three frames, though, the Tribe's lineup collected just one hit with runners on base -- a single by Kipnis on a ball that struck baserunner Brandon Barnes for the final out in the 10th.
Longtime Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin -- perhaps appearing for the last time at Progressive Field -- walked away with a no-decision after giving up four runs on eight hits in four innings. The White Sox struck for three runs off the righty in the first two frames before Omar Narvaez put the Tribe in a 4-0 hole with a solo homer off Tomlin in the third.
"I thought he was way better than his line," Francona said. "He made some good pitches. He made a couple not-so-good pitches and really paid for it."
Cleveland's comeback began against White Sox starter James Shields in the third inning, when Francisco Lindor (36 homers this season) and Michael Brantley (17) belted back-to-back home runs. That was all Shields allowed in his six innings, which resulted in a no-decision when the Tribe scratched across two more runs in the eighth to knot the score at 4.
Cimber hit two batters with two outs in the 10th, but he escaped with a strikeout against Yoan Moncada (3-for-5 with a walk and two RBIs in the game). In the 11th, Cimber gave up a leadoff double and later tried to set up a double play with a one-out intentional walk to Avisail Garcia.
After Cimber struck out Ryan Cordell, that set the stage for Matt Davidson, who brought Yolmer Sanchez in from third base with a slashed single through the right side of the infield. Cimber avoided further harm, but the silver lining for Francona was finding a time to get the right-handed-matchup reliever extended work.
Cimber logged 32 pitches, faced 11 batters and notched his first two-inning outing in a Cleveland uniform. Heading into the night, he was averaging 9.6 pitches per game and just under two outs per appearance in his 24 trips to the mound since coming from San Diego via trade on July 19. In 42 appearances for the Padres, he averaged 16.2 pitches per game and more than one inning per outing.
With a matchup lefty in veteran Oliver Perez, plus two late-inning southpaws between Andrew Miller and Brad Hand, Francona has limited Cimber's exposure to lefty batters. In San Diego, Cimber saw lefties in 36.1 percent of plate appearances. That rate dropped to 17.6 percent with the Indians, entering Thursday.
It has taken Cimber time to adjust to the altered role with Cleveland.
"I think I've tried to do a little too much since I got here," Cimber said. "So it's just be myself, relax and attack the way I've done my whole career. I think I just need to simplify things and just get back to slowing the game down and executing."
Against the White Sox, Cimber recorded a pair of strikeouts (Moncada and Cordell) and generated three groundouts.
"If I'm gonna help this team out, I have to get more outs than just one or two here and there," Cimber said. "It didn't end the way I wanted it to tonight … but I feel like I'm getting on the right track. Whether that shows, I don't know. But I feel it, and I'm looking forward to the coming weeks and October."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Back-to-back, again: Lindor is the spark that can ignite the Indians' offense in the blink of an eye out of the leadoff spot. Brantley is the steady hand behind him. Twice in the span of five games, the duo electrified the Progressive Field crowd with back-to-back power displays. Lindor crushed a 1-1 changeup from Shields out to right and Brantley sent a first-pitch heater over the wall in center, cutting Chicago's lead to 4-2. They also had consecutive homers to open Saturday's game against the Tigers.
Run before you walk: Lindor started a two-run rally in the eighth with a triple to the wall in center, where outfielder Adam Engel closed in on the deep fly but could not make the catch. Lindor then sprinted home on a wild pitch to pull Cleveland within one run. The Indians eventually loaded the bases, setting up a game-tying walk by Melky Cabrera with Sox reliever Juan Minaya on the hill.
Lindor's home run gave the Indians' shortstop 35 homers this year out of the leadoff spot, which is tied for the fourth most in a season in MLB history. Alfonso Soriano set the record with 39 home runs out of the No. 1 slot with the Nationals in 2006.
The Indians and Red Sox could meet up in the postseason, making this weekend's series between the AL powers a potential preview of October. For Friday's 7:10 p.m. ET series opener, Cleveland plans on activating righty Trevor Bauer (12-6, 2.22 ERA) from the disabled list. He will renew his AL Cy Young Award candidacy against lefty Chris Sale (12-4, 1.92 ERA), who is also in the conversation for the annual award.
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.