A 1-0 loss to Kansas City on Sunday kept the Indians' magic number at 2 over Milwaukee and Chicago. Since the White Sox are idle tonight, the Indians can't clinch no matter what they do against the Royals in their 15th game in a 12-day, four-city road trip.
"It's been a tough road trip," manager Mike Hargrove said. "We've got a lot of guys who are tired, a lot of bodies that are sore. It's really tough. But we still have to push it a little bit."
After tonight's game, the Indians go home for their final seven games at Jacobs Field, including a day-night doubleheader Saturday against the Twins.
The Indians were 7-0 against the Royals coming into this five-game series, but have lost three of four and had starting pitcher John Smiley go down for the year when he broke his arm while warming up Saturday night.
"'He knows we wish him the best," said Chad Ogea, who matched Kansas City starter Kevin Appier with seven scoreless innings Sunday. "He's a big part of our lineup and a big part of our rotation. It's our turn to pick him up."
Although winning the division crown is almost inevitable, the tension and day-to-day grind is wearing on the Indians, who got a good chewing-out Friday night after losing the first game of a doubleheader.
"You get a little antsy. You want to get it done because there are some people I'd like to give days off, get their feet back up under them," Hargrove said. "It would sure be nice to do it. We sure want to do it as soon as possible."
After eight scoreless innings Sunday, Yamil Benitez drew a leadoff walk in the ninth off Mike Jackson (2-5) and Mike Macfarlane sacrificed. Jose Offerman was intentionally walked and the Indians brought in left-hander Paul Assenmacher to face the left-handed hitting Rod Myers, who smacked a 2-0 pitch through the middle for the game-winning RBI..
"I was just trying to keep the ball away from (shortstop Omar) Vizquel," Myers said. "You got to keep it away from that Gold Glove."
Brian Bevil (1-2) got the last out in the top of the ninth for his second major league win. His only other victory came last year against Cleveland.
Ogea didn't allow a hit until the fourth and Appier nearly matched a team strikeout record.
With four pitchers combining on the shutout, the Royals ran their scoreless inning streak against the Indians to 13.
Appier had 10 strikeouts and gave up four hits before Hipolito Pichardo relieved him to start the eighth. He struck out five consecutive batters in the second and third innings, one short of the team mark. Then, after retiring Vizquel on a fly ball to open the fourth, he fanned Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome.
"In the bullpen, I felt like crud," Appier said. "Sometimes you have a good bullpen and then don't pitch well in the game. Today I didn't feel good in the pen."
Ogea gave up just three hits in seven innings.
"You want to avoid worrying about postseason play because you still have to finish the business at hand," he said. "We still haven't clinched it. We need to do that before we can look ahead."