CLEVELAND — The Indians silently packed their bags for the road.
The party was postponed again.
With a chance to clinch its first AL Central title since 2007, Cleveland was shut out 3-0 on Sunday by the Chicago White Sox, who got eight dominant innings from Carlos Rodon and spoiled the Indians’ home finale.
Disappointment could be sensed in every corner of Cleveland’s clubhouse as players stripped off uniforms that remained dry instead of being drenched with champagne.
Like the bottles of bubbly, the championship remains on ice.
“You want to do it in front of the home crowd,” second baseman Jason Kipnis said. “It would have been fun to give high-fives down the line, all that stuff, but we’ll push it back until tomorrow in Detroit, hopefully.”
Rodon struck (8-10) struck out a career-high 11 and blanked the Indians on just two singles. The left-hander easily handled the division leaders who still haven’t wrapped up a playoff spot and have gone flat at the worst time possible. Cleveland needed to win its regular-season finale at home and Detroit to lose to Kansas City for the Indians to win the division crown.
The Tigers lost 12-9 to the Royals, but the Indians didn’t do their part. They’ve clinched a share of the title, and now they’ll try to win it outright on the road against the Tigers, whom they’ve beaten 13 times in 15 games this season. The clubs open a four-game series Monday at Comerica Park.
Nothing has come easy this season for Cleveland, which has overcome major injuries and must now defeat the Tigers, their long-time rivals, to return to the postseason for the first time since 2013.
“It’s a little fitting,” said starter Josh Tomlin, who allowed just one earned run in 6 2/3 innings. “But we have a resilient group. We’re ready for the next challenge. If it has to be in Detroit or Kansas City, wherever it may be, we need to get it done. We know what the task is and we’re prepared for it. Hopefully we get it done sooner rather than later.”
Cleveland had three errors for the second straight game and scored just one in the past two days.
Carlos Sanchez had two RBIs off Tomlin (12-9), who matched Rodon. However, the Indians couldn’t do much against the left-hander, who turned in his best outing this season in Cleveland’s biggest game. Rodon struck out the side in the eighth before David Robertson worked the ninth for his 36th save.
With little to play for, the White Sox enjoyed playing spoiler.
“They’re eventually going to win it but we won’t be around to see them celebrate,” third baseman Todd Frazier said. “You’ve got to take pride in every game and every series, so they’ll have to do it on the road now.”
Maybe feeling some of the pressure to wrap up a division they’ve led since June 4, the Indians didn’t get their first hit until the fifth, when Cleveland threatened to get a run across.
Brandon Guyer singled leading off and took second on a passed ball. Coco Crisp walked and Chris Gimenez sacrificed. But Michael Martinez popped to short right, not deep enough to score Guyer and Rodon struck out Rajai Davis.
Tomlin gave up a leadoff infield single to Tim Anderson in the first and then retired 12 straight, nine on fly balls to the outfield, before Frazier singled to open Chicago’s fifth. He stole second with two outs and scored when Sanchez slapped a single for the only run Chicago would need.
Indians manager Terry Francona didn’t lament a loss that stung more than most.
“The itinerary says go to Detroit,” he said. “We’ll go where they tell us and play who they tell us and try to win. That’s what we always do.”
Before the game, players on both teams stood in front of clubhouse TVs and watched coverage of the tragic death of Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, killed in a boating accident.
White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, who like Fernandez defected from Cuba, sat quietly at his locker with his face turned from the room. Abreu did not speak to reporters following the game.
The Indians drew 202,000 more fans this season than in 2015.
Despite the weekend losses, the Indians went 15-5 at home since Aug. 21.
White Sox: At a loss to explain his struggles since coming to Chicago in June, James Shields is 0-6 in his last 10 starts. The right-hander starts the series opener against Tampa Bay, the team he played for from 2006-12.
Indians: Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber goes for his career-high 19th win as Cleveland begins its final road trip. He’s 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA against the Tigers this season.