CLEVELAND -- Kevan Smith provided all the offense the White Sox would need Saturday night, as his two RBIs and Carson Fulmer's solid outing led Chicago to a 2-1 victory over the Indians at Progressive Field.Despite the loss, the Indians clinched the top spot in the American League and home-field
CLEVELAND -- Kevan Smith provided all the offense the White Sox would need Saturday night, as his two RBIs and Carson Fulmer's solid outing led Chicago to a 2-1 victory over the Indians at Progressive Field.
Despite the loss, the Indians clinched the top spot in the American League and home-field advantage through the AL Championship Series following the Red Sox's 6-3 win over the Astros earlier in the day.
The loss, however, eliminates Cleveland from contention for the best record in the Majors, which determines home-field advantage in the World Series. The Indians needed to win out and the Dodgers needed to lose out for Cleveland to finish with baseball's best record.
"Obviously it means we had a good season," Indians ace Corey Kluber said of clinching the top seed in the AL. "If we're able to win our first series, we'd rather have four games at home than three. The fans are excited, as we are. We still have another game to play, but everybody's looking forward to getting started Thursday."
Smith blooped an RBI single off Kluber in the fourth inning and later drove in Avisail Garcia with a sixth-inning double off reliever Mike Clevinger, who was handed his sixth loss of the season.
Fulmer stood toe to toe with Kluber and picked up his third win of the season. The rookie right-hander pitched five strong innings, allowing one run on three hits, two walks and one hit batter, with two strikeouts.
"As a young player, I look at a guy like [Kluber] who has had so much success and try to model yourself after what he does and how he keeps his composure in any situation," said Fulmer. "You've got to give respect to him but take this experience and continue to move forward."
• Fulmer finishes rookie year with impressive win
In a tuneup start before the AL Division Series, which begins Thursday, Kluber settled for a no-decision after throwing 81 pitches through five innings. The Tribe righty allowed one run on six hits and no walks.
"We're communicating with him," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I think he felt like that was a good place to stop for the night, and now he's get ready to move forward. If we're going to get where we want to go, he's going to obviously carry a big load."
• Kluber puts stamp on Cy Young-caliber season
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Welcome back, Dr. Smooth: With Yan Gomes on first and one out in the bottom of the fifth, Francona opted to bring in left fielder Michael Brantley -- who was activated from the disabled list before the game -- to pinch-hit for Giovanny Urshela. In his first at-bat since sustaining a right ankle sprain on Aug. 8, Brantley battled Fulmer before pulling the 10th pitch of the at-bat to right for a single, allowing Gomes to advance to third. Gomes then scored the tying run on Francisco Lindor's RBI fielder's choice.
"How about that? That was unbelievable," Francona said. "Every single guy up there stopped and watched the entire at-bat. Just a phenomenal at-bat. His level of concentration, and then to fire a hit in there, that was really something."
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said he was on the dugout railing to watch Brantley's at-bat.
"It looked like he hadn't missed a beat, which was impressive," Kipnis said. "But you knew he was going to go out there and give a competitive AB. He's a professional hitter, and that's exactly what he brings to the plate and exactly why we're excited to hopefully get him back just in time."
Smith does it, again: After Smith gave Chicago its first run in the fourth, the catcher came through once again in the sixth inning to break a 1-1 tie. With Clevinger on the mound and Garcia on first, Smith connected on a 3-1 fastball over the plate and drove it to the gap in right-center, allowing Garcia to come around and score the go-ahead run. Per Statcast™, the two-bagger had an exit velocity of 104 mph and a hit probability of 62 percent.
"He's been quite a leader. He sets the tone for our pitching staff. It's hard to imagine somebody better. When the best pitcher, not only on just your team but probably the league, the way he goes about his business, that's to me what a leader is. He may not be the loudest guy, but boy does he lead by example." -- Francona, on Kluber
"That was really exciting. He makes it look easy, man. The guy's been away for seven weeks and then comes out, gets a nice hit and battles. He was on every pitch. It's really good to see him. I know he's busted his tail to get to play in a game. -- Gomes, on Brantley
"Anybody that had any doubt that maybe he could do this, he's kind of chipped away at that a little bit and shown everyone that there's a possibility of him being able to pitch in a Major League starting rotation." --White Sox manager Rick Renteria, on Fulmer.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With 33,173 in attendance at Progressive Field, the Indians reached their 13th sellout of the season and surpassed 2 million in attendance for the 15th time in club history. It marks the first time since 2008 that the Indians reached at least 2 million.
The White Sox finished September with a 15-14 record, marking their first month at or above .500 since going 13-10 in April.
White Sox: Right-hander Chris Volstad (1-1, 4.73 ERA) starts the season finale at 2:10 p.m. CT at Progressive Field. The veteran will be making his second start since joining the White Sox and second since the end of 2012. In Volstad's last start against the Angels, he allowed six runs in the second inning but threw four perfect innings around the rally.
Indians: Right-hander Josh Tomlin (9-9, 5.11 ERA) will get the nod for Sunday's 3:10 p.m. ET regular-season finale against the White Sox. Tomlin is coming off a rough outing against the Twins on Tuesday, allowing four runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings en route to a no-decision.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.
William Kosileski is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland.
Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.