Trevor Bauer’s performance was encouraging, and Carlos Carrasco was even better — until a late meltdown.
Bauer took a step toward returning to Cleveland’s rotation for the postseason by tossing four effective innings, but the Chicago White Sox overcame a two-run, ninth-inning deficit to beat the Indians and Carrasco 5-4 Tuesday night.
Bauer allowed two runs — on Avisail Garcia’s career-high-19th homer in the first — in his second start since suffering a stress fracture in his right leg on Aug. 11. The right-hander also allowed four singles while striking out four and walking none. He threw 43 strikes in the 60-pitch limit set by manager Terry Francona.
“He looked more like himself, which is really a good thing,” Francona said.
Bauer said he felt “fantastic” on the mound.
“I’m really encouraged today again,” Bauer said. “Commanded the ball pretty darn well.
“My stuff has been good. I’m still a tad out of sync mechanically, which is to be expected after missing six weeks. So, I fully expect that to be better the next time out.”
Cleveland will open its Division Series at Houston on Oct. 5. The Astros defeated Toronto 4-1 and were assured the AL West title when Oakland lost at Seattle 10-8.
Pitching coach Carl Willis said Carrasco will start on Sunday at Kansas City, with Bauer coming out of the bullpen.
“Hopefully, I’ll get 85 pitches in on Sunday, which is the next progression, then cleared for just normal activity,” Bauer said.
Carrasco (16-10) followed Bauer on Tuesday with his second relief appearance this season. The right-hander tossed one-hit, shutout ball through four innings and entered the ninth with a 4-2 lead before the White Sox scored three times and snapped a three-game losing streak.
“He was terrific up until the end,” Francona said.
Daniel Palka’s game-ending single up the middle with one out drove in two runs and capped Chicago’s rally.
Yoan Moncada led off the ninth with a walk, Adam Engel and Yolmer Sanchez followed with singles that cut the score to 4-3. Leury Garcia’s sacrifice bunt advanced Engel to third and Sanchez to second, then Palka delivered the game-winning hit.
Palka said the comeback had nothing do with Carrasco, who has started 29 games, tiring.
“I think we just got kind of got hot and were feeding off each other,” Palka said. “I don’t think it matters how many innings it is for him. He’s a baller and he’s going to go out and pitch.”
“Luckily it was my third AB off of him and I saw everything he was getting me out with,” Palka said.
The White Sox need to win one of their last five games to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1970, when they went 56-106.
Yan Gomes hit his 16th homer and Yonder Alonso had two RBI as Cleveland stumbled late in game that was delayed 51 minutes at the start due to rain. The Indians, who have won the AL Central three straight years, will open a division series next week at the winner of the AL West.
White Sox starter James Shields allowed four runs on six hits and four walks in six innings. Reliever Ian Hamilton (1-2) got one out in the ninth to earn the win
Bauer was limited to 1 1/3 innings and 34 pitches against Boston last Friday in his first outing since returning from the disabled list.
An All-Star for the first time in 2018, Bauer was in the midst of his best season — and on a roll — when Jose Abreu’s liner hit him in the leg in the seventh inning of a 3-1 Indians win at Guaranteed Rate Field last month.
When the 27-year-old righty landed on the disabled list on Aug. 14, he was 12-6 with a 2.22 ERA, and 4-0 with 1.05 ERA in his last four starts. Including his Aug. 11 win over the White Sox, Bauer had thrown 100 or more pitches in each of his first 25 starts this season.
In this one, Avisail Garcia drove a belt-high breaking pitch from Bauer into the left-center bleachers with two outs in the first to put the White Sox ahead 2-0.
Cleveland scored three runs with two outs in the third off Shields for a 3-2 lead. Jose Ramirez drove in the first run with a sharp single. After the Indians loaded the bases, Alonso’s single drove in two more.
Bauer allowed singles to Leury Garcia and Daniel Palka with two outs in the bottom half, but escaped on Avisail Garcia’ soft comebacker.
Gomes’ solo shot in the fourth made it 4-2.
Indians: OF Michael Brantley left the game in the sixth with a right calf contusion.
White Sox: Avisail Garcia, an All-Star in 2017 who finished second in the AL with a .330 batting average, said he has played with discomfort in his right knee during all of 2018 and will have surgery in the offseason. Garcia didn’t disclose the injury, but said “it’s nothing major” and he expects to be 100 percent for spring training. Garcia, who started in right field on Tuesday, is hitting .238 with 19 homers and 48 RBI in 89 games. … LF Nicky Delmonico left the game in the fifth with right shoulder soreness after making a diving catch on Francisco Lindor’s liner.
Indians RHP Shane Bieber (10-5, 4.80) starts on Wednesday against White Sox LHP Jace Fry (2-2, 4.32)