Second Thoughts: Game #154 - Indians 4, White Sox 5
The Indians fought admirably, but Vinnie Pestano had a rare stumble and a two-out, 9th inning rally came up just short, as the Tribe dropped its sixth straight game against the White Sox. The Cleveland offense hung in there against a tough southpaw 17-game winner, Chris Sale. Yet, it was Adam Dunn’s pair of home runs, his 40th and 41st of the season that was the difference, spoiling a very solid—even spectacular at times—start from Zach McAllister. Even though the Indians couldn’t hang on for the win, it was refreshing to see them slug it out in a competitive, exciting game.
Dunn’s twin taters: Adam Dunn’s home runs, a solo blast in the 6th and a crushing three-run bomb in the 8th, accounted for 80% of Chicago’s runs. The latter big fly was the difference in this game, giving the White Sox bullpen the lead and an insurance run that they exercised, while preserving the win. Both bombs came with two-outs, further accentuating their impact on the outcome. He took advantage of a Zach McAllister fastball that was up in the zone and tailing over the heart of the plate, lifting it over the center field wall for his solo shot. The decisive three-run homer came off Vinnie Pestano, who had Dunn down 0-2, with two-down and runners on the corners, before missing badly with a fastball that was right down Broadway.
Chicago’s first run came on an RBI fielder’s choice off the bat of Alexi Ramirez in the 5th. With 199 home runs on the season, the White Sox have the 2nd most long balls in the big leagues; they followed that formula by clubbing their way to victory in this contest.
Canzler’s homer paces patient offense: Even though the Tribe bats exploded for 15 runs on Sunday against Kansas City, it appeared that an inauspicious matchup loomed between the Indians lefty-heavy lineup and left-handed White Sox starter, Chris Sale. However, Indians hitters remained patient throughout the game, as they utilized well-balanced swings and the opposite field to take advantage of whatever Sale would give them. Cleveland churned out ten hits and two walks against a pitcher who is having a Cy Young-caliber season. They worked the count and didn’t try to do too much with Sale’s unorthodox windup and sharp movement. After registering the third two-out hit in as many innings, Asdrubal Cabrera cashed in on Jason Kipnis’ two-out single by smacking a double the other way to plate Kipnis and give the Indians an early one-run advantage.
Following a leadoff single from Carlos Santana to start the 6th, Russ Canzler took a fastball that was over the plate and rode it out of the ballpark the other way with a smooth swing for a two-run bomb that gave the Tribe a 3-1 advantage. The offense tried to help take Pestano off the hook, but a Lou Marson double play erased a pinch-hit single from Casey Kotchman, who led off the 9th. Zeke Carrera kept the game alive with a bloop single, followed by a Shin-Soo Choo RBI double on a hanging breaking ball that was middle-in. Kipnis grounded out to end the game, leaving the tying run in scoring position. The good news is the offense hung in there and consistently worked the count against Sale, while scoring three runs, but the bad news is he still went seven innings and kept his team in the game. Indians hitters had a sound offensive approach against a tough opponent, but their inability to notch a hit with a runner in scoring position, plus a trio of caught-stealing outs, as well as three ground ball double plays sunk their chances for big innings.
McAllister shows shades of brilliance: Although a line of six innings pitched, while giving up two earned runs looks rather ordinarily solid, it belies the moments of sheer dominance from the 24 year old Tribe starter in this promising start. McAllister dripped with confidence early on, throwing 14 fastballs in the 1st inning, ranging from 91-96 MPH, as he retired Chicago in order. He attacked hitters and his array of fastballs showed good movement and location. McAllister demonstrated his usual fearlessness, while attacking the inside corner against this home run-hitting lineup, to keep them honest. Through the first nine outs, he had five strike outs, while peppering both sides of the plate with strikes.
In the 4th and 5th frames he allowed the first two batters of each inning to reach base, but it only cost him one run. McAllister navigated through danger by fighting back to put hitters away, after falling behind in the count. The ability to not allow location lapses to cost him big innings is a huge step in McAllister’s maturation. He took a step forward in this area, by recovering in the 4th and 5th to minimize the damage. After retiring Alejandro De Aza and Kevin Youkilis to start his 6th and final inning of work, he caught too much of the zone with a 1-2 offering and Dunn burned him for a solo homer. All told, McAllister had a very solid outing to build on, as he allowed just four hits, while striking out seven.
Bullpen Mafia can’t match Sox relievers: In spite of being the strong point of the team, the bullpen couldn’t preserve a one-run lead. Joe Smith came on for the 7th and absolutely mowed down Alex Rios, A.J. Pierzynski, and Dayan Viciedo with three consecutive punch outs. He had great bite on his slider and fastball, while dominating the three hitters he faced. Unfortunately, the best of the bullpen bunch, Vinnie Pestano faltered in the 8th. He fell behind hitters too often, evidenced by his 30 pitches. Even though he had to tip-toe through a handful of tense at-bats, Pestano had two outs and two strikes on Dunn, a chance to escape unscathed. One mistake pitch over the heart of the plate enabled the White Sox to plate three runs on one swing of the bat from Dunn.
A trio of Chicago relievers: Brett Myers, Matt Thornton, and Donnie Veal combined for two innings of one-run ball, while recording the win, hold, and save, respectively. The White Sox won the battle of the bullpens, and it subsequently netted them the win in this game.
De Aza out at home, Rios safe at 2nd: These two close calls in the middle of the game shaped the early scoring. In the 4th, De Aza led off with a walk, before being thrown out at the plate while trying to score on a Youkilis double. Lonnie Chisenhall backed up a Vinny Rottino throw that missed the initial cutoff man before delivering a seed to the plate to nail De Aza. This controversial call got Chicago fans and manager Robin Ventura in a tizzy, and understandably so, as it looked like De Aza beat the throw. However, a slow-mo close-up showed that De Aza’s extended leg actually slid above the plate, as opposed to immediately touching it with the slide. This play was huge early, as it kept the Sox off the board.
Alex Rios reached down to slice a leadoff single down the right field line to lead off the 5th frame. With Pierzynski batting, Rios took off for second base. Lou Marson’s throw easily beat Rios to the bag, as he was tagged out in what appeared to be plenty of time before touching the base. Yet, Rios was ruled safe, and ultimately came around to score Chicago’s first run of the game.
Two-out hits: Of Cleveland’s 13 hits in this game, seven of them came with two-outs. Although the Tribe had plenty of base runners, they too often came with two-outs, limiting the chance for a sustained rally. Cabrera and Choo each had two-out RBI, but four of the White Sox’s five runs came with two outs.
3 Most Wanted
Brantley back: Michael Brantley was held out of Monday’s game due to a groin injury. The Indians could have really used his quality at-bats in this close contest. As one of the few hitters on the team capable of consistently putting together professional at-bats, he is sorely missed when absent from the lineup.
Appropriate pressure: With a mere eight games left in the 2012 season, including five more meetings with the White Sox, the Indians should continue to play with the understanding the pressure is on the opposition, not themselves. The Tribe should play loosely, as they have no reason to press; put the strain on Chicago, who is in the thick of a division race.
Prolonged success with RISP: The Indians went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position during Monday’s loss, following a 7-for-12 mark in Sunday’s rout over the Royals. It would have been a plus to see the team flash some extended execution with runners in scoring position. Although, with the holes in this lineup, it’s hard to expect the handful of offensive threats to consistently overcome the warm bodies that act as lineup filler.