The Reds are in danger of missing the postseason as well. They fell two games behind Chicago in the NL wild-card race with just three games left.
The Guardians strung together five straight hits in the second inning off Reds starter Andrew Abbott (8-6), who didn’t get out of the third inning. Tyler Freeman and rookie Brayan Rocchio had RBI singles in Cleveland’s second.
Down 4-1, the Reds rallied with a pair of runs in the eighth off reliever Trevor Stephan. Pinch-hitter Nick Martini and Jonathan India hit consecutive doubles and Spencer Steer’s RBI groundout brought Cincinnati within one run.
Cleveland’s Emmanuel Clase worked the ninth for his MLB-best 43rd save. The right-hander got a big assist from right fielder Ramón Laureano, who threw out Noelvi Marte trying to stretch a single into a double.
Francona was honored before the game with a touching video tribute chronicling his long tenure in Cleveland, a run that actually began in his boyhood as his dad, Tito, played six seasons as an outfielder with the Indians.
The 64-year-old Francona has been slowed by major health issues in recent years, and said he made the decision to step away after a tough, two-month stretch earlier this season.
He’s the winningest manager in Cleveland history, 13th on the career list and his two World Series titles in Boston — along with a memorable run in 2016 with the Guardians that came just short — all but guarantee enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.
After the final out, Francona was serenaded with “Tito! Tito!” chants from the crowd with many of the fans wearing “Thank You Tito” T-shirts.
Cincinnati needed this win. Bieber didn’t cooperate.
The 2020 AL CY Young winner was dialed in, pitching like the staff ace he’s been for years in Cleveland and could be elsewhere going forward. He walked none and struck out seven in one of his most efficient starts this season.
The Guardians were likely going to trade him before the deadline if Bieber hadn’t gotten hurt and shut down, and Cleveland’s front office may pursue a deal this winter before he enters his final arbitration eligible season.
Reds: Off Thursday before a three-game series to end the regular season in St. Louis. Rookie RHP Connor Phillips (1-0, 5.66 ERA) starts the opener against RHP Jake Woodford (2-2, 5.09).
Guardians: Following a day off, Cleveland begins a three-game, season-ending series in Detroit with RHP Cal Quantrill (3-7, 5.13) facing LHP Joey Wentz (3-12, 6.45) on Friday.