The 10th inning of Cleveland’s 5-3 walk-off victory over the White Sox on Tuesday night at Progressive Field seemingly had enough twists and turns to cover an entire series.
Let’s start with the worst news first for the American League Central-leading White Sox. José Ramírez’s three-run homer off José Ruiz completed a four-run rally and clinched a playoff spot for the Indians, while giving Chicago (34-21) its third straight loss and fifth in seven games. The White Sox magic number to capture the division stayed at four, as the Twins moved within a half-game of the lead by virtue of their extra-innings win over Detroit, although Chicago holds the tiebreaker based upon its better division record. Cleveland moved within three games with two tilts left in this series.
“Having conversations with all these guys, they know where we are at,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “They know it’s not about talking about it. It’s about going out there and performing.”
Ruiz wasn’t supposed to be in the game, and neither was Matt Foster, who was charged with the first three runs (two earned) of the rally and suffered his first career loss. Alex Colomé, the team’s closer -- who threw a six-pitch ninth -- was unable to return for the 10th due to back spasms.
“He was going to go back out in that particular inning, but he couldn't,” Renteria said. “He doesn't think it's going to be anything big but he didn't feel good. Talked to our trainers and they said there shouldn't be any concern, but we'll see where he's at tomorrow.”
Foster retired the first two hitters with Roberto Pérez on second, but he gave up a Francisco Lindor double to cut the lead to one. Lindor thought the ball was gone off the bat and center fielder Luis Robert actually had a chance to catch it for the final out, but he sort of jumped over it on his attempt.
Renteria thought Robert might have come a little too close to the wall. After a Foster walk to Cesar Hernandez, bench coach Joe McEwing made the switch to Ruiz, looking for more of a power pitcher, according to Renteria. Why was McEwing making the pitching change at that point?
In the top half of the 10th, Renteria and shortstop Tim Anderson were ejected for arguing a check-swing third strike against Robert ruled by home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez, who did not seek help on the call from first-base umpire Will Little. The White Sox had issues with Hernandez’s strike zone throughout the contest.
“He just turned around, he heard Timmy talking,” Renteria said. “He was already into the game and continued to, I guess, keep his ears open to whatever was going on in the dugout as opposed to just staying on to the field. He ejected him, which obviously put us in a little bit of a bind there.
“You kind of saw the outcome of the frustration. We were disappointed with some of the calls that we thought were occurring. And that's it.”
Adam Engel delivered the go-ahead triple off Phil Maton in the 10th, followed by Nick Madrigal’s run-scoring single. But it was not enough.
Now for the good news. José Abreu hit his 19th home run of the season in the sixth, giving him 198 for his career and a Major League-best 56 RBIs, while Reynaldo López became the first White Sox starting pitcher to work at least five innings in the fifth game of this seven-game road trip. Dallas Keuchel pitched four scoreless Saturday in Cincinnati, but it was the southpaw’s first start since coming off the injured list. López gave up a Hernandez home run in the first but nothing else over five frames and 85 pitches, striking out three and walking two.
Garrett Crochet all but cemented his case for a spot on the playoff roster, pitching a scoreless frame in a preplanned eighth-inning appearance, which happened to come against the top of Cleveland’s order. Crochet threw 18 four-seam fastballs among his 19 pitches, topping 100 mph on 11 of them, giving him 24 pitches over 100 in his three scoreless innings. The team’s top pick in the 2020 Draft started the inning with 3-0 counts on Lindor and Hernandez, but he retired them both.
“Great talent. It's impressive to see a young guy like him throwing as hard as he's done,” said López through interpreter Billy Russo. “I think today he threw a fastball up to 102 mph or something like that.
“I'm just glad that he is with us. He's very good, and he's not afraid. He throws hard, and he has command of his pitches and he throws strikes. That's all that you can ask.”