Second Thoughts: Game #160 White Sox 11, Indians 0
What started as a pitcher’s duel gave way to an eleven-run thumping from the White Sox. There were no runs scored through five, but Corey Kluber unraveled and the Tribe ‘pen didn’t have any answers. The recently hot Indians offense (hitting .325 and averaging 6.8 runs per game over the last ten games) could do little against starter Hector Santiago and the Sox relief corps, as they were shut out, while amassing a mere two hits. Aside from Kluber’s sharp five innings to begin the game, there wasn’t much to enjoy about this one from a Tribe fan’s perspective.
Sox pounce in sixth, explode late: Although a cold offensive month of September (.241 team batting average, 3.8 runs a game) helped sink Chicago’s chances of capturing the American League Central title, the Sox bats came alive in the 6th inning against Kluber. Dewayne Wise laid down a beautifully placed one-out bunt single and stole second. Following a Kevin Youkilis strikeout, Adam Dunn worked a full count and smacked a fastball back up the box for an RBI single to open the scoring. Paul Konerko walked, and then Alex Rios tattooed a change up off the left field wall for the second two-out RBI single. A.J. Pierzynski and Dayan Viciedo continued the two-out barrage with RBI singles of their own, to give Chicago four, two-out RBI in the inning.
Alexei Ramirez had an RBI single of his own in the 8th, but the real fireworks took off in the final frame. With Esmil Rogers pitching, Wise, Youkilis, Dunn, and Konerko started the inning with four consecutive singles; the latter two plated the sixth and seventh runs, respectively. Unable to record an out, Rogers was pulled in favor of Scott Maine, who promptly served up a fastball middle-in for Viciedo’s grand slam. Chicago recorded eleven runs, 15 hits, and went 8-for-15 with RISP. Aside from Viciedo’s bomb, which was the only extra-base hit of the game, the White Sox strung together singles to steadily batter Tribe pitching.
Santiago stymies Tribe bats: Watching Chicago’s starter, Hector Santiago dominate the Indians lineup for seven innings was especially curious after he was only able to go 3.1 innings, while walking four and allowing three runs last Wednesday against the Tribe. Simply put, he was an absolutely different pitcher in this game. Nothing short of dazzling, he went seven shutout frames, while allowing one hit, one walk, and one hit batsman to go along with ten strikeouts.
Walks were a problem in his last start, but on Monday he continuously pounded the zone, throwing 78 of his 108 pitches for strikes. Santiago demonstrated great location with his sinking fastball and slider, while working both sides of the plate. His key to success in this start was getting ahead of hitters, as he threw first pitch strikes to 17 of the 23 hitters he faced. The seven innings are impressive, too for a pitcher who was making just his fourth start after spending most of the season in the bullpen.
Kluber cruises, then crashes: For the first five innings of this game, Kluber was flat out stifling. Unfortunately, that dominance came to a screeching halt in the 6th when Chicago chased him while plating four runs. Kluber tossed 1-2-3 innings in the 1st, 3rd, and 5th innings. He skated around back-to-back singles and a Carlos Santana passed ball in the 2nd, in addition to inducing an inning-ending double play in the 4th. Kluber had crisp command, while effectively mixing his pitches to keep White Sox hitters off-balance. Through the first five frames he threw first pitch strikes to 12 of the 17 hitters he faced.
He looked more confident than usual on the mound, while attacking the zone. One thing that stood out was Kluber’s newfound trust in his changeup. If he can get his off-speed stuff to locate as well as he did in the first five innings, he could have a very legitimate shot at securing a rotation spot out spring training, depending on what happens in free agency. To do so, he has to learn how to avoid collapsing for the big inning, a typical issue for young starters.
No relief: The Indians bullpen had a night to forget, as they allowed ten hits and seven runs in 3.1 innings pitched. Joe Smith allowed both of his inherited runners to score before getting the final out of the 6th. After getting the first two outs in the 8th, Cody Allen locked horns with Pierzynski for a twelve-pitch at-bat that ended with a single. The young reliever was unable to recover without allowing a run, as he walked Viciedo before giving up Ramirez’s RBI single. Esmil Rogers came on to end the 8th, but allowed the first four batters of the 9th to single, netting the Sox a pair of runs. The rotten cherry on this sundae was Viciedo’s grand slam off Scott Maine.
Two-out RBI: Before Chicago’s late offensive explosion that turned this once-pitchers’ duel into a route, the first five White Sox runs all came on two-out hits. The inability to escape an inning without allowing two-out RBI has plagued Cleveland all season. The Indians have far and away allowed the most two-out runs in the American League (337), an amazing 55 more than the 2nd highest total.
Chisenhall’s chiseled defense: In spite of a tough game at the dish (0-for-3 with three strikeouts), Lonnie Chisenhall played some solid defense at third base. With two outs in the 5th, Ramirez hit a swinging bunt toward third. Chisenhall charged, bare-handed the ball, and threw in one motion to gun down the relatively speedy Ramirez at first. In the 6th, Wise laid down a perfect bunt down the third base line, which Chisenhall wisely put in his pocket. With the game still scoreless at that point, an errant throw could’ve facilitated the White Sox momentum. With some questions about his defense coming into this season, it’s encouraging to see some progression from the 23 year old at the hot corner.
3 Most Wanted
Continued offensive production: After notching their second 15-run game in a week on Sunday, it would have been a positive to see that momentum carry over into the opening game of the final series of the season. Heading into Monday’s game, the Indians had double-digit hits in nine of their last ten games. However, on Monday the Tribe only collected two hits and didn’t have a runner reach scoring position until the 9th inning.
Better defensive focus from Santana: Carlos Santana didn’t do anything in this game to dispel concerns about his defensive prowess. He had two passed balls, both of which advanced a pair of runners. The first came in the 2nd frame, when he lazily stabbed at a high— but by no means unreachable— fastball that skipped off his glove. In the 9th inning, he failed to squeeze a fastball, which slipped out of his glove, again advancing base runners to second and third. Whether you call it laziness, a lack of focus, or poor execution, this kind of performance out of a very important defensive position is inexcusable.
No Rottino or LaPorta: Watching Vinny Rottino and Matt LaPorta 0-fer in this game makes little sense, considering neither player has a chance at contributing for the Tribe next season. What does the team have to lose by plugging Thomas Neal and Cord Phelps in their spots in the lineup? Clearly, with each being 25 years old, they have a better chance at providing long term value to the organization and should be getting playing time over these last couple games.
As for Rottino, he is in the role as an extra guy here for the final month of the season. A guy with no future in the org, but just fills time as needed. Sorta like when they had Niuman Romero up three years ago. And with Kluber, I like him, but I'd like him to be more Major League starting depth than a guy that is locked into the rotation next year.
Kluber pitched great for 5 2/3 innings until giving up the singles to Dunn and Rios in the 6th. He still would have escaped with 2 runs allowed in 5 2/3 innings if Smith could have gotten the next out. Overall a nice performance and I think he's earned a starting job for next year.
Hector Santiago was unhittable. Along with Sale and Quintana the White Sox have three lefties who the Indians will have to contend with next year, all of whom have had success against the Tribe this year. They really need to get some right-handed bats to balance the lineup.