CLEVELAND – Rookie Hector Santiago allowed just one hit in seven shutout innings and the White Sox beat Cleveland, 11-0, before the Sox were eliminated in the AL Central race.
Santiago (4-1), who began the season as the Sox’s closer, struck out a season-high 10 and allowed only Shin-Soo Choo’s two-out single in the third.
With just their third win in 13 games, the second-place Sox briefly kept their playoff hopes alive. But about an hour after the game, the Sox, who collapsed down the stretch after being in first place for 63 straight days, saw their chances erased when the Tigers won, 6-3, in Kansas City.
“It’s always frustrating, but I told everyone we should walk out of here with our heads held high,” Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “Nobody thought we would so anything this year, but to be in it until Oct. 1st and have a chance, we did everything we could. We don’t have to look back and say we could have done this or we could have done that because at the end of the day, we gave everything we could and did everything we could possibly do.
“We were in the position we wanted to be in and it just didn’t work out.”
The Sox scored four runs in the sixth off Corey Kluber (2-5), and added six in the ninth – four on Dayan Viciedo’s first career grand slam to make it 11-0.
After lining up and slapping high-fives in the infield, the Sox headed to their clubhouse aware that the Tigers were already leading the Royals by four runs.
There was nothing more Chicago could do. It was out of the White Sox’s hands, and they ate their postgame dinners and watched helplessly on TVs in the clubhouse — several were tuned to the Chicago Bears’ Monday night game against the Dallas Cowboys — as the Tigers wrapped up a second straight title.
A season of promise under first-year manager Robin Ventura had crumbled completely.
Santiago and Kluber were locked in a scoreless duel until the sixth, when the White Sox scored four runs on five hits — four coming with two outs.
Dewayne Wise bunted safely with one out, and stole second with two outs before Adam Dunn snapped an 0-for-18 slump by lining a base hit to center. Kluber then walked Paul Konerko before Alex Rios ripped an RBI double off the left-field wall, scoring Dunn to make it 2-0 and forcing a pitching change.
Pierzynski followed with a grounder up the middle off reliever Joe Smith that went off diving second baseman Jason Kipnis’ glove and into center field as Konerko scored. Viciedo’s single then scored Rios to give the White Sox a 4-0 lead and chance to breathe a little easier.
Santiago was never threatened by the Indians, who managed just three baserunners off the left-hander. Cleveland did not get a runner to second base off Santiago, who won for the first time in five starts.
Dunn added an RBI single in the ninth to make it 6-0.
The White Sox didn’t seem to be feeling any pressure before the game. Players sat in front of their lockers, tapping away at the screens of their iPads or watching TV as if it was June 1 and not Oct. 1 with their season hanging by a thread.
Chicago’s players, who had spent 117 total days in first place, seemed resigned to their fate.
“If it does become official, it’s a huge disappointment,” said starter Jake Peavy, who is scheduled to start Tuesday’s game. “We feel like we let one slip away. It’s extremely frustrating the way things have played out.”
It was a monumental collapse for the White Sox, who led the division by three games on Sept. 17. Since then, they’re 4-10 and now have to hope the Royals can somehow sweep three straight from the Tigers.
As for the Indians, they dropped to 2-2 under interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr., who hopes to become Cleveland’s permanent manager.
“It’d be great. It’d be awesome,” Alomar said before the game. “I played here many years. I’m very proud of this organization. They have treated me great. They brought me back. If it’s the time, it’s their choice. If it’s the time, it’s time. if not, there will be some other time.”
Alomar took over last week when the Indians fired Manny Acta with six games left. Alomar, who served Acta’s bench coach this season, will likely interview with the Indians by the end of the week. He and former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona are the only candidates confirmed so far by the club, which has tentatively set up a meeting with Francona on Friday.
NOTES: Pierzynski has 77 RBIs, matching a career-high. ... With his performance, Santiago helped Chicago’s set a club record for strikeouts in a season. The White Sox have fanned 1,225 batters, five more than in 2011. ... The roles were reversed in 2005, when the White Sox came in and swept three from the Indians, denying them a chance to win the AL wild card. The series ended with then-Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen putting his hands around his throat and giving Cleveland fans the choke sign. Alomar was asked if he would repeat the gesture. “I respect Ozzie,” Alomar said, fighting back a smile. “But I’m not going to do that. It has nothing to do with choking or an organizational rivalry or anything like that. We just play the game, respect the game and go out there and play baseball.” ... Dunn has 220 strikeouts, three away from the major league record set by Mark Reynolds with Arizona in 2009.