CHICAGO -- The Indians came to U.S. Cellular Field looking for some clarity on their chances of getting back in the division race. This was not the kind of clarity they were hoping for. A three-game sweep at the hands of the first-place White Sox, capped by Wednesday's 6-5, 10-inning loss on A.J. Pierzynski's solo shot off Masa Kobayashi, has placed the Indians a season-high 12 1/2 games back of the Sox in the American League Central standings.
"We're frustrated," said center fielder Grady Sizemore, whose ninth-inning solo homer forced the game into extras. "It can change day to day or week to week, but we've got a long way to go." Before the game, general manager Mark Shapiro admitted the Tribe's division fate is "pretty obvious." And as the Indians continue to sink, it becomes more and more obvious that staff ace C.C. Sabathia may find himself on the trading block. On this night, though, Sabathia found himself on the mound. But even he was unable to stop this club's slide. Sabathia had been downright dominant in his previous four starts. In this one, however, he was in trouble early, as he allowed solo homers to Pierzynski and Jermaine Dye in the bottom of the first to give Chicago a 2-1 lead. "The ball down the middle to A.J. was supposed to be away," Sabathia said. "With Jermaine, the ball down the middle was supposed to be in. They did a good job coming out and swinging early. They attacked and hit some balls hard." The Indians had some hard hits of their own, though not always at opportune times. David Dellucci struck out with the bases loaded and two outs in the first and flew out to left with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth. "You get a hit in that situation, even just one of those times," Wedge said, "and it's a different ballgame." Still, the Indians did enough offensively to stay in this ballgame. The teams traded runs in the second, and the Tribe tied it at 3 with Jamey Carroll's RBI triple off Jose Contreras in the fifth. Sizemore went deep for the 20th time this season, becoming the American League's first 20-homer, 20-stolen base guy, with a solo shot in the sixth to give the Tribe a 4-3 lead. With Sabathia still hurling, that lead seemed safe. Though he had struggled early in this outing, Sabathia began to rein the Sox in as it progressed. "All of a sudden," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said, "he started pitching better and throwing more changeups and sliders to defend himself." But it was a lack of defense that hurt Sabathia in the seventh. Pablo Ozuna led off the inning by reaching on a Casey Blake throwing error, and Alexei Ramirez singled on ball that bounced off Blake's glove. Brian Anderson brought both runners home with a double to the gap in left-center field to give Chicago a 5-4 lead. "He just got a good pitch to hit -- a fastball down the middle," Sabathia said of Anderson. "I was trying to go in, and he put a good swing on it." This game had no shortage of momentum swings, but the Indians seemed to create a big one in their favor when Sizemore jacked Scott Linebrink's 1-1 offering out to right to lead off the ninth. "It was tied [at 5] at that point," Sizemore said, "but I thought we took the momentum there. I was confident we were going to win." Kobayashi set the White Sox down in order in the ninth to enhance that belief. But the Indians came up empty-handed against North Olmstead, Ohio, native Adam Russell in the top of the 10th. By this point, rain showers, which had delayed the start of the game 24 minutes, had returned. They were particularly persistent as Kobayashi returned to the mound for the bottom of the 10th. The rain delayed neither the game nor the inevitable. Kobayashi threw just one pitch to Pierzynski -- a fastball over the middle -- and Pierzynski pounded it out to center to end it. This sweep may have all but ended the Indians' already faint title hopes. The club called this a "make or break" road trip, and three games in, it looks broken. "It's tough," Sabathia said, "especially the way we lost the last two nights." The Indians could stand to lose a lot more. Sabathia, a free agent-to-be, might not be with the club by month's end. "I'm just worried about day-to-day pitching when I get the ball, and that's it," he said. This team has left its manager with plenty to worry about. Wedge will meet with his coaching staff during Thursday's off-day to discuss possible personnel changes. "Obviously, it's disappointing," Wedge said. "You don't ever like to come in here and have things play out the way they did. We were one hit away or one play away. When you're playing a team like Chicago, that's not good enough."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.