Trailing 6-0 in the bottom of the ninth, the Tigers rallied for six runs against the White Sox bullpen to send the game into extra innings. They pushed across a bases-loaded run for the walk-off win in the 12th inning, reducing their magic number over the Indians in the AL Central to two.
Tigers starter Rick Porcello was solid through six innings, matching White Sox starter Chris Sale with zero after zero. In the top of the seventh, however, the White Sox pushed across two runs on a Jeff Keppinger double and a Gordon Beckham single. The Sox continued to tack on runs. Paul Konerko put his team up 3-0 in the eighth with an RBI single. In the ninth, Bryan Anderson hit a two-run double to center, and Marcus Semien followed up with an RBI ground-rule double to bring the score to 6-0.
White Sox reliever Nate Jones, who relieved Sale in the bottom of the eighth, took the hill in the bottom of the ninth looking for a quick exit against the division rival Tigers, but the Tiger offense had other ideas. Torii Hunter led off with a triple and promptly scored on Miguel Cabrera’s RBI single to center. Prince Fielder singled to put runners on first and second and no outs for Victor Martinez. Martinez doubled to right, knocking in Cabrera to make it 6-3. With Jones still in the game, Andy Dirks drove a fly ball to right-center for a three-run home run, putting the Tigers within a run at 6-5.
Finally, Jones was replaced with Addison Reed. Unfortunately for the Sox, Reed couldn’t find the strike zone. Omar Infante walked, then advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt. Reed then walked Alex Avila and Austin Jackson to load the bases. Hunter lifted a sacrifice fly to right field to push across the tying run. Reed then walked Cabrera to re-load the bases before being pulled for lefty Donny Veal. Veal retired Fielder to escape the jam.
In the 12th, walks continued to hurt the White Sox bullpen. Don Kelly, pinch-hitting for Cabrera who left with an injured groin, walked to lead off the inning against Jake Petricka. Fielder grounded out, but moved Kelly to second in the process. Petricka intentionally walked Martinez, then unintentionally walked Dirks. Finally, Infante reached on an infield single to push across Kelly for the walk-off 7-6 victory. Quite an exhilarating final four innings, as you can see in the game graph on FanGraphs.
In a show of good sportsmanship, the Cleveland Cavaliers have moved their championship ring ceremony start time back to 7 PM EDT to avoid conflicting with the start of the World Series opener on Tuesday. The Indians are set to host Game 1 at Progressive Field on October 25, while the Cavs will open the 2016-17 NBA season against the New York Knicks at the nearby Quicken Loans Arena, preceded by a ceremony recognizing their first franchise title.
In the event that the Indians clinch a World Series title, it’ll be the first time Cleveland has seen two championships in the same calendar year since 1948, when the Indians’ last Series title came on the back of the Cleveland Browns’ All-American Football Conference championship against the Buffalo Bills. The same was true for the Dodgers in 1988, when their World Series win against the Athletics coincided with the Los Angeles Lakers’ 11th championship, while Chicago has yet to see a multi-title year among their NBA, NHL, NFL, and MLB franchises.
Regardless of the Series’ outcome, Cleveland fans will get the chance to revel in one long-awaited championship win on Tuesday before watching the beginning of a nail-biting conclusion to another long-awaited playoff run. The Cavaliers are scheduled for 7 PM EDT on October 25, while the Indians will take the field at 8 PM EDT.
If any team can turn a six-day rest period into an advantage, it’s the Indians. The club polished off their pennant race with another injured starter and an overtaxed bullpen, as Trevor Bauer exited in Game 3 of the ALCS with a laceration on his right pinky finger, leaving the bullpen to shoulder 16 innings through the last three games of the series. On Friday, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reported that injured starter Danny Salazar could rejoin the rotation in the World Series, though he’ll need at least one more simulated game before Terry Francona determines whether or not he’s fit to return for the team’s last postseason push.
Bauer, who has been under the close watch of hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham, told the press that he feels confident that he’ll be ready for a World Series start when the final showdown commences on Tuesday. Keeping the wound bandaged is not an option during games, and Bauer said that Dr. Graham decided against additional stitches to keep the laceration from re-opening. Instead, they’re banking on extra days of rest to heal the cut naturally. Should Francona pencil the right-hander into the lineup for Game 3 or 4, he’ll have had 10-11 days to rest his finger between starts — just a hair under the seven games Bauer said he was prepared to pitch.
Salazar, too, has been preparing for a World Series showdown. He’s scheduled to pitch three innings of a simulated game this weekend, and if it goes well, it could land him a spot in the starting rotation alongside Bauer, Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin, and newcomer Ryan Merritt. Salazar has been sidelined since September 9 with a right forearm strain, and even after undergoing a rigorous throwing program over the last several weeks, any kind of comeback is expected to be curbed by a strict innings limit. Francona has been understandably tight-lipped about his World Series roster, but he hasn’t yet nixed the idea of utilizing Salazar out of the rotation, provided the right-hander remains healthy for another week or so.
The Indians have had to remain flexible throughout their seven-game playoff run after weathering injuries to Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, pushing their rotation through several games on short rest and relying heavily on Andrew Miller and Cody Allen‘s one-two punch in the ‘pen to clinch more than a few postseason victories. While history doesn’t always favor the first team to secure their league’s pennant race, an extra week of rest should only benefit Cleveland’s beleaguered pitching staff.