The Cleveland Indians were very much in need of some positive momentum before a weekend series in Minnesota. The White Sox had other plans.
If not for the heroic effort of Oscar Mercado on arguably the best defensive play of the entire 2019 MLB season, the Cleveland Indians would probably be heading to Minnesota off a 3-1 series loss to the White Sox.
Mercado bailed out Nick Wittgren from what would’ve been at least a game-tying, two-run double in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s contest, and instead the Tribe will walk away with a 2-2 split. Wittgren shouldn’t have even been in that situation to begin with, but that’s neither here nor there.
If the series had been closely contested by both the Indians and White Sox for four straight days, a 2-2 split would be disappointing but acceptable. The way it all actually played out on the field, however, the last four days feel more like a string of losses than a trading back-and-forth of wins.
Two bullpen catastrophes turned two certain victories into a loss on Tuesday and nearly a second on Wednesday. Tuesday’s defeat wasted another gem from the right arm of Mike Clevinger, a statement that simply cannot afford to be true one more solitary time for the rest of the regular season.
Wednesday’s narrow evasion of disaster may have resulted in a win, but it would not qualify as an encouraging one. When Shane Bieber tosses seven innings of two-run ball and gets eight runs of support, that game needs to end in lopsided fashion–not in a bases-loaded save situation where your rookie center fielder has to make one of the most improbable catches of the last decade.
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Thursday’s matinee was as difficult to watch as those late-game meltdowns, but not for the same reasons or in the same fashion. White Sox starter Reynaldo Lopez entered the game with a 5.41 ERA. He didn’t make it out of the first inning of his most recent start.
And on Thursday, he one-hit the Indians for nine full innings, striking out 11 in a 7-1 Chicago triumph. A tip of the hat must be extended to Chicago for making this one of the most unpleasant 2-2 series splits in recent memory. The White Sox certainly didn’t treat this series like a team that had mailed in the 2019 season.
The Indians, on the other hand, have started to make things incredibly difficult on themselves of late. The Twins await them for a three-game weekend series in Minnesota, where the Tribe will look to recapture the early-August magic that has very much gone missing in action since the last time they left Target Field.