CHICAGO -- In the end, all that remained were the Indians, the White Sox, and a few dozen of their closest friends. It was early Tuesday morning by the time the Indians put the finishing touches on a 6-2 victory in a game that began Monday night. A two-hour, 23-minute rain delay before the eighth inning might have thinned the crowd at U.S. Cellular Field to a precious few, but it did nothing to dissipate the significance of a win that preserved the Tribe's American League Central lead at six games. The Indians paid their dues in this one. Sleep was at a premium, the rain fell in sheets, and puddles filled the playing surface. But the Tribe persevered, with Asdrubal Cabrera's two-run homer in the seventh proving to be the deciding blow.
"It was a long evening," manager Eric Wedge said. "But the guys played great baseball before [the delay] and great baseball after. It was good to see." Wedge's players were seeing the world with bleary eyes when their charter from Anaheim arrived in Chicago around 4:30 a.m. local time Monday morning. Their sleepiness showed early in this game. Fausto Carmona plunked Darin Erstad with a pitch to let the Sox load the bases with one out in the first. He appeared, however, to get out of the jam when he forced A.J. Pierzynski to hit into a potential double-play ball at short. But shortstop Jhonny Peralta's relay throw to Carmona, who was covering first, was off-target. It turned the would-be double play into a mere fielder's choice that allowed Josh Fields to score from third. Jim Thome came all the way around from second on the throwing error to make it 2-0. "The ball hit my glove," Carmona said through interpreter Luis Rivera. "It was a tough play." Carmona, though, proved tough enough to overcome it. He retired the next seven batters he faced. And when he had two on with one out in the fourth, he used his trusty sinker to get both Juan Uribe and Danny Richar to groundout. "He made pitches when he needed to," Wedge said of Carmona, who had a career ERA of 7.59 in six previous appearances against the Sox. "He did a great job of just going out and pitching, and not trying to do too much. He let his pitches work for themselves." Unfortunately for Carmona, his tired teammates' efforts to work behind him were fruitless in the early going. Right-hander Gavin Floyd held them hitless until the fourth. And in that inning, with the bases loaded and one out, Peralta grounded into an inning-ending double play to prolong his rough night. It wasn't until the fifth that the Indians began to shake off the rust of the long trip. When Chris Gomez advanced all the way to second on third baseman Andy Gonzalez's throwing error, Grady Sizemore was opportunistic -- in the form of an RBI single that cut the Sox's lead down to 2-1. With Carmona fighting through the elements and getting a better feel for his sinker as the game wore on, the Indians remained in striking distance as the late innings approach. Finally, in the seventh, they broke through. The game-changing inning was initiated by Kenny Lofton's perfect leadoff bunt single down the third-base line. He advanced to second on Gomez's sac bunt, and the bunting brilliance was rewarded when Ben Francisco lined an RBI single to left. In truth, left fielder Josh Fields could have nabbed Lofton at home, but he made a terrible throw. That play knocked Floyd out of the game. In came reliever Mike Myers, and out went Cabrera's two-run homer -- a line-drive shot into the Sox bullpen that put the Tribe up for good. Cabrera's blast was his third since his call-up from Triple-A Buffalo a month ago. Considering he never had more than five homers in any of his four previous professional seasons, this can certainly be called a surge. "He's done a fantastic job," Wedge said of Cabrera, who extended his hitting streak to nine games. "He's been in the middle of everything in the short time he's been here." Once Cabrera's homer cleared the wall, the only remaining drama was waiting out the delay after the seventh. The conditions had looked downright dangerous up to that point, but Wedge credited the umpiring crew with knowing when to say when. "The umpires did a good job keeping a close eye on it," Wedge said. "They knew a harder rain was coming in, and the infield wasn't going to be able to take it. So they had to stop it and get the tarp down." They stopped it, all right. An entire ballgame could have been played in the time it took the rain to trail off. Once it mercifully stopped and the tarp was cleared, play resumed shortly before midnight. Then, the Indians went back to work -- without missing a beat. They added an insurance run in the eighth on Gomez's sac fly and another in the ninth on Cabrera's sac fly to stake Carmona to his 16th win. The real victory might have been the mere fact that the Indians got this one off without having to play a makeup doubleheader. They did as they intended -- tearing another page off the calendar and further hindering the Tigers' already faint chances of a comeback in the Central race. "You worry about a game like this because you can get started and not get it in and still lose your starter," Wedge said. "We didn't want that."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.