CLEVELAND — The Indians had plenty of chances. They blew every one.
With an opportunity to trim its magic number for winning the AL Central to one, Cleveland played sloppily on Saturday night and lost 8-1 to the Chicago White Sox, leaving the title — and a playoff berth — just out of reach.
The Indians squandered early scoring chances against Jose Quintana (13-11) and disappointed a crowd of 32,088 fans who came hoping to see them move closer to the postseason.
“We had some really good chances early, and didn’t do much with it,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “And with a good pitcher like Quintana, he found himself.”
Cleveland’s magic number dropped to two after Detroit lost earlier to Kansas City. The Indians could have trimmed it further, and had a chance to clinch the title on Sunday in their regular-season home fine. However, they’ll now need to win and get some more help from the Royals to wrap up their first division title since 2007 in front of their fans.
Melky Cabrera and Jose Abreu hit RBI singles in the first off Cody Anderson (2-5), and Todd Frazier connected for his 39th homer in the sixth as the White Sox snapped a six-game losing streak.
Quintana (13-11) gave up one run in six innings and beat Cleveland for the second time in 11 days. The Indians, who committed three errors, threw two wild pitches and had a passed ball, had Quintana on the ropes in the first two innings, but managed just one run.
“We had his pitch count up a lot early but we managed one (run),” Francona said. “We let him off the hook.”
With his rotation in disarray because of injuries, Indians manager Francona started Anderson and used seven relievers — hardly an ideal situation for a team trying to lock down a postseason berth.
The Indians, though, wasted the early opportunities against Quintana — he threw 53 pitches in the first two innings — and the left-hander got better as the game progressed.
“It was rough,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Quintana’s first two innings. “Locating-wise was probably the biggest thing. You really didn’t see him like that too often. He gritted through it. He has a lot of heart in him to keep battling like that.”
Cleveland loaded the bases with one out in the first but Quintana got Carlos Santana to hit into an inning-ending double play. They had the bases full again in the second and appeared ready for a huge inning after Rajai Davis hit a one-out RBI single to right. But Coco Crisp got caught in a rundown for the second out and Quintana got Jason Kipnis to ground out.
Jose Ramirez has hit safely in his last 13 home games and is batting .432 (19 of 44) with eight doubles and 11 RBIs in that span. He has 45 doubles, the most by a switch-hitter in club history.
Shortstop Francisco Lindor is hitless in his last 25 at-bats. He also had an error in the eighth, when the White Sox scored four times to make it 8-1.
Cleveland’s pitchers combined for 15 strikeouts and just one walk.
GUYER PLUNKED — AGAIN
Indians right fielder Brandon Guyer was hit for the 31st time, the most in the majors.
Indians: Francona would like to give his players some rest in the season’s final week — if possible. Lindor, for one, could use a break, but Francona acknowledged it’s tough to get fully re-charged at this point.
“I’m not sure a day off just puts the spring back in your legs,” he said. “I think it helps, but I just think you’ve got to learn, that’s part of growing up as a major league player.”
White Sox: Carlos Rondon starts the club’s final road game of 2016. He’s 0-2 with a 12.00 ERA in his past two starts.
Indians: Josh Tomlin’s role in the postseason remains unclear. He could help himself with an outing similar to his last start, when he allowed one run and five hits in 6 2/3 innings.