A free fall is no way to enter the postseason.
Perhaps the White Sox can get well against the Cubs this weekend.
It will take some doing after the latest loss to the Indians, a 5-4 crusher Thursday after the Sox had positioned themselves to avoid a four-game sweep by getting another good start from left-hander Dallas Keuchel and building a 4-1 lead with a three-run rally in the seventh inning.
The Indians scored four in the seventh against Jimmy Cordero, who loaded the bases, and left-hander Carlos Rodon, who gave up a two-run single and a two-run double in consecutive at-bats in his first appearance since Aug. 3 and first relief appearance in five years. The loss completed the sweep by Cleveland that extended the Sox’ losing streak to five.
Blowing a chance to move into a first-place tie with the Twins in the American League Central with three games to go, the Sox lost for the sixth time in seven games, all on a road trip that followed their postseason-clinching victory against the Twins last Thursday.
The Indians (33-24), who won their fifth in a row, are one game behind the Sox (34-23) for the fourth seed and home-field advantage in the first round of the postseason. They are 8-2 against the Sox.
“It’s a little somber,” said Keuchel, who allowed one run in six innings in his second start since being sidelined with back spasms. Keuchel lowered his ERA to 1.99, second-best in the AL.
Keuchel’s ERA is 0.45 in four September starts.
“We take all losses hard, which makes it tough.”
It was Keuchel who admonished his teammates when they were getting off to a 10-11 start — and the Sox seemed to respond, going on a 22-5 run — but no such talk is necessary now, he said.
“I don’t think we think about the stretch that we’re on,” Keuchel said. “You kind of chalk it up . . . there were two walk-off homers in the series. That doesn’t normally happen, especially back-to-back nights. We’re playing good ballclubs. It doesn’t get any easier with the Cubs [this weekend], and it’s not going to get any easier with who we match up with in the AL wild card.’’
Yolmer Sanchez, starting in place of rookie Nick Madrigal, hit his first homer against Indians righty Zach Plesac to put the Sox in front in the third inning. The Indians tied it on doubles by Roberto Perez and Cesar Hernandez in the bottom of the inning.
Yoan Moncada tripled and scored on Yasmani Grandal’s ground ball that first baseman Carlos Santana couldn’t get a handle on, and after Jose Abreu walked and Eloy Jimenez doubled, Nomar Mazara singled to left to make it 4-1 against Plesac in the seventh.
The Sox looked like they might salvage a win in the series, but Rodon couldn’t lock it down.
“His name’s called, and he was man enough to say he didn’t get the job done and made no excuses about it,” Keuchel said. “We’re starters for a reason. There’s bullpen guys for a reason.”
Cam Hill (2-0) pitched 1⅓ scoreless innings for the win before Brad Hand struck out Grandal and Abreu and got James McCann on a groundout in the ninth for his AL-high 15th save in 15 chances.
“It is what it is,” manager Rick Renteria said. “The guys did a nice job of putting us ahead that inning, started opening it up.
“And we had a chance to stop it right there. Obviously, it didn’t happen.”
The Sox seem to be thinking more about the postseason than first place.
“We’re going to have to learn quick about how to really put our stamp on the end of games, and I believe in this team,” Keuchel said. “We’ve showed the ability to weather storms.
“We’ll see how it plays out, and we’ll see if we’re good enough to host [the first round]. And if not, we’ll go on the road and try to do our thing.”