CLEVELAND – On another dreary night, there was finally some good news for the White Sox: They're done playing the Indians.
With Paul Konerko out of the lineup with a bruised kneecap, Chicago, crawling to the end of the season, dropped its 14th straight game to Cleveland on Wednesday night, 7-2.
The White Sox finished an embarrassing 2-17 against the Indians, who are powering toward the playoffs and shoved Chicago out of the way.
"They're hitting their stride really when you need it, that push to be able to win games late," Ventura said. "They're better than us this year. They had our number. They outplayed us. We had leads late, but they seemed to fight and come back. They had a few walk-offs."
Konerko sat out Chicago's last road game after fouling a pitch from Joe Smith off his right knee in Tuesday's loss. The White Sox were also without second baseman Gordon Beckham, who has been dealing with a leg injury.
The injuries made things tougher on a team that has lost 96 games and fell to 25-47 in the AL Central. Unless they sweep Kansas City at home, the White Sox will finish last in the division for the first time since 1989.
They went 26-55 on the road, and before the game Konerko had trouble pinpointing what went wrong.
"Every year there's players who have good years and players who have bad years," said Konerko, who expects to play in the next four games. "There's no rhyme or reason to some of it. There are always little moments that shape a season. It just seemed like everything that could go wrong went wrong, between the lines, outside the lines."
Nick Swisher hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning off Dylan Axelrod (4-11), who allowed three earned runs and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings.
Cleveland starter Danny Salazar (2-3) gave up two runs and six hits in 5 1-3 innings and he had eight of 16 strikeouts recorded by Indians pitchers.
Axelrod and his teammates only had to look across the diamond to see what might have been in 2013.
"They're a real quality team," he said of the Indians, who won six straight at home over Houston and Chicago. "They do the little things right. They take extra bases. They play good defense. They have timely hitting. They're hot right now. They might surprise some people if they get in the playoffs."
Cleveland hasn't made the postseason since 2007 but it's closing in on a berth under manager Terry Francona, who guided Boston to two World Series titles and has helped the Indians to 20 more wins than they had a year ago.
A spray-painted bedsheet in the upper deck of Progressive Field said: "Playoff Bound." The Indians have some work to do before that can happen.
They haven't won it all since 1948, but if they can win their next four games in Minnesota, the Indians will give themselves a chance to end the drought.
"We've just got to play baseball, that's all we gotta do," said Jason Giambi, who may have saved Cleveland's season with a pinch-hit, two-run homer in the ninth inning Tuesday night that beat Chicago 5-4 . "We don't have to worry about anybody else beating anybody else. We've just get to go out and play baseball, which is the fun part of the game."
Asivail Garcia homered for the White Sox, just 6-19 since Aug. 30.
Swisher's two-run shot in the fifth gave the Indians a 4-1 lead and allowed 30,942 fans to breathe a little easier following the emotional rollercoaster of Tuesday night, when Giambi's majestic homer bailed out closer Chris Perez, who gave up two homers in the top of the inning.
With the Indians leading 2-1 in the fifth, Michael Brantley, who has been using one of Carlos Santana's bats, doubled with one out and Swisher, who was 0 for 13 against Axelrod, followed with a shot into the Indians' bullpen in center.
The Indians packed their travel bags for a four-game series against Minnesota not knowing if they'll play again this season after Sunday. They could be coming back to Cleveland for the winter, playing a one-game playoff just to get to into the wild-card game or maybe headed to either Tampa Bay or Texas for one game with the winner advancing to the division series.
"The ball is in our court," said Brantley, who is batting .514 (18 of 35) during a nine-game hitting streak. "As long as we handle what we need to take care of, we'll be just fine. We took care of business at home and now we just have to go on the road and continue to do what we're doing."
Indians ace Justin Masterson, sidelined since Sept. 2 with an oblique injury, pitched the ninth. It's possible the All-Star right-hander could start again this season if the Indians get in the playoffs.
NOTES: White Sox DH Adam Dunn was given the night off, though it appears he's been idle for several weeks. After striking out four times Tuesday, he's batting .115 (12 of 104) in his last 29 games. ... Garcia, who came over in July in the three-team trade that sent ace Jack Peavy to Boston, connected on a 419-foot shot in the second. He's batting .385 (10 of 26) with three homers and eight RBis in a six-game hitting streak. In 38 games with Chicago, he has five homers and 21 RBIs.