CHICAGO — Facing a rookie pressed into his first major league start, the Cleveland Indians seemed set up to do some damage.
Instead, their playoff chances took a huge hit.
Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez and the Indians were blanked on four hits Thursday night in an 8-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
The Indians dropped two games behind idle Tampa Bay for the second AL wild-card spot. Both teams have three games left — Cleveland visits playoff-bound Washington while the Rays are at Toronto, which is 29 games below .500.
“We can’t let up,” manager Terry Francona said. “Until somebody tells us we have to go home, we got to keep grinding.”
A day after the Indians were beaten by Chicago 8-3, they lost for just the third time in their last 10 games. The White Sox are 20 games under the break-even mark.
“We picked kind of a rough time to go cold,” Francona said.
Cleveland rookie Aaron Civale (3-4) entered his 10th major league start with a 1.82 ERA, and didn’t allow a hit until Yoán Moncada lined a single with one out in the fourth. The 24-year-old right-hander then walked Zack Collins before James McCann hit his 18th home run for a 3-0 lead.
Daniel Palka, who entered 7 for 77 (.091) this season, lined Civale’s next pitch into the right field bullpen for his first homer of the season and first of two on the night. That prompted Francona to relieve Civale with Carlos Carrasco.
“I didn’t think he had a ton of life on the ball, even from the get-go, but he was getting them out,” Francona said. “Then quickly, he was either out of the zone or it was right down the middle, and it happened in a hurry.”
Civale was charged with four runs on three hits in 3 1/3 innings and failed to pitch at least five for the first time in the majors.
“My command was kind of shaky from the start,” Civale said. “I got away with some things early on. Eventually they made me pay.”
Palka later connected again. He hit 27 home runs as a rookie last year, but didn’t have an extra-base hit this season until tagging the Indians.
“The ball looks like a beach ball right now,” Palka said.
The Indians were shut out for the 14th time even though Chicago’s Jose Ruiz made his first major league start when rookie Dylan Cease was scratched minutes before the first pitch with a left hamstring strain. Cease warmed up in the bullpen and the switch was announced after the right-hander walked to the dugout.
Francona and his players had no explanation for their sudden drought at the plate.
“To be honest, I really don’t know,” catcher Roberto Pérez said. “We didn’t take great at-bats. They pitched us tough.”
The Indians loaded the bases with two outs in the second against Ruiz, but reliever Josh Osich got Francisco Lindor to line out to end the Indians’ best threat of the night. Osich (4-0) went on to toss 3 1/3 hitless innings for the win.
Jimmy Cordero followed with two hitless innings as the White Sox bullpen allowed just one hit over 7 1/3 innings, and retired 17 in a row from the second into the eighth inning. Chicago has won five of seven overall and took the season series from the Cleveland 11-8.
Manager Rick Renteria was delighted with his pitching staff’s response after Cease was scratched.
“They did a great job,” Renteria said. “Didn’t expect it. I mean, it was literally five minutes before the game.”
Jose Abreu recorded his AL-leading 123rd RBI on a triple in the fifth as Chicago tacked on two runs off Carrasco to take charge, 6-0. The slugger also doubled and scored two runs.
Tim Anderson, who entered leading the majors with a .339 average, went 1 for 4.
Palka added a second solo shot to right off James Hoyt in the sixth to make it 7-0. Collins had an RBI single off Hunter Wood in the seventh.
White Sox: Rookie OF Eloy Jiménez (ear-throat infection) was out of the lineup for a second straight game. … OF Leury Garcia (sore right shoulder) remained out of the lineup after leaving Wednesday’s the game in the fifth inning. … Cease will have an MRI on Friday and will not pitch again this season. “I don’t think it’s very severe,” he said.
Indians: RHP Zach Plesac (8-6, 3.82) faces RHP Austin Voth (1-1, 3.35) Friday in the opener of a three-game series at Washington.
White Sox: Renteria had not yet named starters for Friday’s doubleheader against Detroit in Chicago and said he might use openers depending on the weather. Rain is forecast for the twinbill that’s scheduled to start at 3:10 p.m. local time. LHP Tyler Alexander (1-4, 4.99) is slated to start the first game for the Tigers.