Less than a week ago, the Cleveland Indians couldn’t lose. With their season hanging in the balance, wins have suddenly become very difficult to come by.
Still in contention for the AL wild card, the Indians hope to draw closer to the postseason when they continue a three-game series with the AL Central champion Chicago White Sox.
With 17 wins in 19 games, the Indians pulled within 1 1/2 games of the White Sox in the AL Central and took the lead in the wild-card race. Since then, however, they have lost four of five, including Friday’s 3-2 defeat in 13 innings.
“Obviously, this is a tough one,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “We weren’t able to get the big hit. We’ve got two games left and these guys have stepped up all year.”
While Chicago clinched the division Thursday at Detroit, Cleveland has dropped one game behind Boston and the New York Yankees in the wild-card race. The Red Sox beat the Yankees 5-3 on Friday night, pulling into a tie for the AL East lead.
If Cleveland finishes tied with either Boston or New York, the teams will have a one-game playoff Monday. If all three teams finish deadlocked, the Yankees and Red Sox will play Monday for the East title, with the Indians taking on the winner Tuesday for the wild card.
The Indians are 22-35 in one-run games, including an 0-8 mark against the White Sox.
With the victory, the White Sox clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They also set a club record with their 50th road win of the season.
“I want to sweep these guys,” Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said. “We might not. But we’re going to try to win.”
To some baseball purists, Guillen was condemned for the lineup he posted for Friday’s series opener.
But not only did the White Sox backups play hard, they won while knocking the Indians back a bit.
Afterward, Guillen took a few swings of his own.
“People were killing me on national TV,” Guillen said. “They said I wasn’t respecting the game, but that’s only because it was Boston and New York. If it had happened to another team, no one would have talked about it.
“Every manager in baseball does what I did. The day after you clinch, you play your bench guys. (Atlanta manager) Bobby Cox does it and he’s a genius. I do it and everybody says I don’t know what I’m doing.”