CLEVELAND – The handwritten note, scribbled on the erasable message board inside their clubhouse, was the most positive sign the reeling Indians have seen for days. It said: “Bring Luggage to Ballpark.”

The Indians are planning a trip to Boston.

Trouble is, they may never get to go.

Cleveland’s comeback season has collapsed. And for the Indians and their fans, it’s come down to this: Win on Sunday and hope the dreaded New York Yankees do, too. How’s that for worst-case scenarios?

Rookie Tadahito Iguchi hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning and the Chicago White Sox held on for a 4-3 victory over Cleveland on Saturday, sending the Indians into the regular season’s final scheduled day without control of their October fate.

“I’m kind of stunned at what has happened,” Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner said.

Iguchi’s shot to center, his 15th, snapped a 1-all tie and helped set up a Sunday in which the Indians, who didn’t deliver with the bases loaded in the eighth and haven’t hit in the clutch for a week, will have to win or have their inspirational season end in disappointment.

On Sunday, Scott Elarton will start against Chicago rookie Brandon McCarthy.

“I hope we can still sneak in there,” third baseman Aaron Boone said. “Hopefully we can get it done and come in here and watch TV.”

It could have been so much easier for the Indians, who lost by one run for the fifth time in six games, jeopardizing a postseason that seemed guaranteed a few days ago when it concluded a 17-2 stretch.

But since dropping a 5-4 decision last Sunday in Kansas City – when center fielder Grady Sizemore lost a ninth-inning fly ball in the sun – the Indians have been sliding backward and can’t seem to stop. Are they choking?

“I think that’s ridiculous,” Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. “Look at what these guys have done, and the fact is we still have a chance to force a playoff game. You guys have written us off 25 times this year. I don’t think you have a right to say that when game 161 is meaningful.”

Jon Garland (18-10) allowed just four hits in 6 2-3 innings, and Chicago’s bullpen was able to hold off the Indians, who have lost a club record 36 one-run games, including all nine to the White Sox.

Bobby Jenks pitched a perfect ninth for his sixth save as the White Sox improved to 13-5 against the Indians this season.

Astros 3, Cubs 1

HOUSTON – Roger Clemens got a little run support and guaranteed the Houston Astros at least a tie in the NL wild-card race.

Clemens allowed one run in seven innings while pitching on a still sore left hamstring, leading the Astros over the Chicago Cubs 3-1 and putting Houston on the brink of a return to the playoffs.

Houston (88-73) headed into the final scheduled day of the regular season with a one-game lead in the wild card over Philadelphia (87-74), which won 8-4 at Washington.

Roy Oswalt (19-12) starts Sunday for Houston, which clinched last year’s wild-card berth on the final day. If the Astros lose and the Phillies win, Houston would go to Philadelphia for a one-game tiebreaker playoff Monday.

Phillies 8, Nationals 4

WASHINGTON – Chase Utley homered twice, Ryan Howard hit an upper-deck shot and a three-run double, and Philadelphia beat the Washington Nationals 8-4 Saturday to send the NL wild-card chase down to the regular season’s final day.

Brett Myers (13-8) had a career-high 12 strikeouts.

while limiting Washington to three runs on six hits and a walk over 6 2-3 innings. He departed with runners on the corners after David Bell’s fielding error, but reliever Ryan Madson got Jamey Carroll to ground out to end the inning.


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