Brantly homers, but Sox fall to Tribe in '17 finale
By Scott Merkin and William Kosileski
CLEVELAND -- With the postseason right around the corner, the American League Central-champion Indians put the finishing touch on their regular season with a 3-1 victory over the White Sox on Sunday at Progressive Field.
The Indians (102-60) will now shift their focus to the avenging last season's World Series loss to the Cubs. The Tribe will host Game 1 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan at 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursday (FS1) at Progressive Field against the winner of Tuesday's AL Wild Card Game between the Twins and the Yankees.
"Now we have, hopefully, more challenges," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "… It'll be time to turn the page quickly, and we start preparing for the next challenge."
With his spot on the Indians' postseason roster in question, Indians starter Josh Tomlin made a strong final case for himself after 5 1/3 strong innings. He allowed one run on four hits, didn't issue a walk and struck out six. Tomlin picked up his 10th win of the season, giving him double-digit wins in back-to-back seasons for the first time in his career.
"I thought he was crisp and sharp," Francona said of Tomlin. "That was a really good day to pitch. With the shadows, they're so -- I don't want to say blatant -- but they're just so contrasting, and he mixed his speeds real well and he had a breaking ball from the beginning."
Cleveland scored all of its runs in the first inning against Chicago starter Chris Volstad. Jay Bruce connected for a two-run single, and Carlos Santana added a sacrifice fly to score Jose Ramirez, who hit his MLB-leading 56th double of the season. Ramirez is only the 17th player ever to reach 56 doubles, and the first since Brian Roberts in 2009.
With one out in the eighth inning, Francona took Ramirez and shortstop Francisco Lindor out of the ballgame. When their names were announced, the Progressive Field crowd offered a standing ovation for the two All-Stars.
"I thought both of them together at the same time, and they had such good years," Francona said. "I think they were both ready to finish the game, which is not atypical. But I thought it was good to let the fans acknowledge [them]. You can't do something like that very often, but today's the one day out of the year where maybe you can."
In only his second start with the White Sox, and his second since the end of 2012, Volstad took the loss after allowing three runs on three hits and four walks in six innings.
The only run Chicago brought across came on Rob Brantly's solo home run to right off Tomlin in the fifth.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED BRUUUCE: After Volstad issued three straight walks to start his outing, Bruce stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one down. The Indians' right fielder connected on an 0-1 sinker on the inner part of the plate and hit a 108-mph liner, per Statcast™, to right for a base hit, scoring Lindor and Jason Kipnis. The two-run single gave Bruce RBIs Nos. 100 and 101 on the season, marking the second time in his career that he has reached the 100-RBI mark.
Tomlin limits the damage: Going into the fifth inning, Tomlin had set down 12 of the first 13 batters he faced, including 11 in a row. That changed when Brantly drilled Tomlin's third pitch of the frame -- a 1-1 curveball -- over the fence in right for a solo homer. Two batters later, Rymer Liriano hit a one-out double off the wall in center and later moved to third on a flyout. He would not get any further, though, as Tomlin struck out Adam Engel looking with a 2-2 sinker to end the threat.
"You obviously want to take a step forward going into the playoffs," Tomlin said. "And fortunate enough for us, I was able to do that [today], and we won the game."
"This is when the fun begins. This is when the work begins, and this is when it becomes one of those things where you come to the ballpark excited every single day. Not that you don't regardless, but these are the games you've played the whole regular season to get to, and now they're here. It's becoming exciting for us." -- Tomlin, on heading into the postseason
"It was pretty cool. Pretty cool. It was a cool moment. I thank the fans. They came out today and supported us. We put on a show for them, for sure." -- Lindor, on the standing ovations from the fans
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Indians reliever Tyler Olson entered the game to face one batter, Brantly, in the seventh inning and struck out the Chicago catcher on four pitches. With the scoreless appearance, Olson has now gone the most games (30) and innings pitched (20) without allowing a run or an earned run in a full season in MLB history. The left-hander passed Eric Gunderson in games (14 in 1994) and Karl Spooner in innings pitched (18 in '54) without allowing a run.
"I think a lot of it goes to the way that I was used," Olson said, "the way Tito put me into situations and trusting that I can go out there and get the job done. A lot of it goes to our bullpen as well. They were in spots where I got picked up by them as well. You know, it's pretty cool."
LEADING THE WAY Jose Abreu didn't get a hit in Sunday's finale, but he still finished as the AL leader in total bases at 343, edging out Ramirez at 341. Abreu joins Albert Belle in 1998 (399), Minnie Minoso in '54 (304) and Shoeless Joe Jackson in 1916 (293) as the only White Sox to lead the league in total bases.
"He's been actually excellent to have as a teammate, and as a competitor, he's everything you would want," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said of Abreu. "He's a man who is growing into and being more comfortable in his own skin." More >
Avisail Garcia, who didn't play Sunday, finished second in the AL in hitting at .330.
THEY ARE NO. 4
By virtue of Sunday's loss and a win by the Reds, the White Sox will select No. 4 in the 2018 MLB Draft.
"Now that the order has been set, we can focus strictly on evaluating the players on and off the field and using all our resources to make sure we add the player next June that fits into our organizational structure and with the impact players we have here already," White Sox director of amateur scouting Nick Hostetler said. "As a staff, we're ready and excited for the challenge of such a high pick. It's going to be an intense eight months." More >