The White Sox came into today’s game reeling, having had a tough sweep at the hands of an excellent Nationals team, and then being shut down by Cleveland’s only good starting pitcher. Chris Sale v. Zach McAllister figured to be a matchup that favored the White Sox. McAllister is a perfectly decent back-of-the-rotation starter, leveraging his decent repertoire into enough strikeouts to deserve a spot in most major league rotations. The White Sox have also been particularly unlucky and bad with runners in scoring position and had a chance to improve on that mark early in the game, and they would and wouldn’t in a way.
Keppinger, batting second, in the first inning scalded a double into the left field corner. Rios tapped a roller past the mound that first baseman in name only Mark Reynolds tossed behind McAllister. Keppinger would score and Rios would advance to second on the error. Dunn followed it up by cranking a ball all the way to the top of the wall that went for an out. Fortunately, the White Sox finally got a timely hit as Konerko laced an outside fastball to right field for a single scoring Rios, and spotting Sale a 2-0 lead before he would even take the mound.
Sale would be attacking a lineup that was missing Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis, and with pitcher-friendly weather in the low 40s. Sale was sitting 91-93 to start the game out, but unfortunately he gave the lead right back. Somehow he managed to walk the abysmal Ryan Raburn after getting up 0-2 and then he hung a flat 87mph pitch at the belt that Swisher put in the seats, tying the game up 2-2. Sale appeared to favor that 2-seamer throughout the early going, throwing lots of pitches in the high 80s.
The White Sox would have another chance with RISP, as Gillaspie and Alexei lead off the 2nd with sharp singles. Unfortunately, Tyler Flowers would continue his cold streak, going down swinging on a 92 mph fastball that missed its spot inside and above the belt. de Aza then just missed with a bunt that rolled foul, putting him behind 0-2, and leading to an eventual strike out on an ugly half swing. Keppinger would ground out weakly, and the White Sox fell to 1-6 on the day with RISP after only two innings.
The Indians would threaten in the bottom of the second, with a groundball single from Aviles, who would then advance to third on an absurd barely-squeaked ball that landed basically on the foul line behind first base from Stubbs. Sale would get out of the jam with a big sweeping slider to strike out Bourn swinging, but it meant a lot more work than the inning should have required. The White Sox would retaliate by going down 1-2-3 on less than 10 pitches with the heart of their lineup. McAllister employed his strategy of throwing fastballs in the low 90s at the belt and thighs over the plate, and the White Sox were helpless against it.
The Indians would threaten again in the bottom of the third. After blowing away Asdrubal Cabrera on two excellent sliders and getting a weak grounder from Raburn, Swisher hit a towering fly ball that landed…basically sandwiched between Viciedo’s glove and the wall and would result in a double. Viciedo really played it horribly. This time Sale wouldn’t be able to escape it, as Mark Reynolds sprayed a weak grounder past a shifted Alexei to put the Indians ahead 3-2.
The White Sox would respond with another 1-2-3 inning, meaning 9 outs in a row for Zach McAllister. These took the form of Viciedo fouling off about 6 fastballs right down the middle and then flailing foolishly on a changeup, and Gillaspie and Alexei grounding out. At this point, I became extremely morose and began looking up statistics, like how the White Sox are 30th in the majors in walks with 15 (Joey Votto has 14 all by himself).
Gillaspie made a nice diving stop on a sinking line drive off the bat of Yan Gomes in the bottom of the fourth. That was the second out after only 4 pitches, which was promising, as Sale had thrown more pitches than you’d like. But then he walked Drew Stubbs – he of the career .310 OBP and 111:27 SB:CS ratio – on four pitches. Although Sale would strike out Bourn on three pitches to end the inning, it was a troubling sign, and once again more work than should have been required.
Flowers would then strike out on four pitches – the final two strikes were straight fastballs that he stared at as they went right down the middle. On Twitter, fans began counting how long his oh-fer streak was piling up to, and calling for Flowers’ head. McAllister’s Retired Batters Streak would end at 11, as Keppinger lined a single to right. Rios would pull a ball sharply to the outfield, but for an out to end the inning.
To lead off the bottom of the 5th, Asdrubal Cabrera poked a single off the end of the bat, and replacement level player Ryan Raburn scalded a hanging slider off the left field wall to put runners on 2nd and 3rd with none out. Sale decided it would be more efficient to doink a slider off of Swisher’s knee on the next pitch instead of an official IBB to load the bases. Another hanging slider, and Reynolds would golf it out of the park to put the Indians ahead 7-2. Sale would follow that by hitting another batter. After throwing a few more pitches nowhere close to their spots, he induced a pop-up and then left the game. Deunte Heath would come in and on his first pitch Yan Gomes drilled a bomb about 410 feet to dead center, putting the White Sox behind 9-2.
By the time the 6th rolled around the game was clearly over, and the home plate umpire agreed, giving McAllister an extra 6 inches off the outside corner on a 3-2 pitch to Dunn. The rain began to fall. de Aza would homer in the 7th to close the deficit to 9-4.
Sale wasn’t sharp at all today, not having a single 1-2-3 inning, and leaning heavily on his offspeed stuff which stopped breaking. It certainly didn’t help that he got unlucky on some balls in play as well. Sale went 4.1IP and gave up 8 runs, striking out only 3 batters and walking two terrible hitters.
Meanwhile, the White Sox continued to be impatient, unable to catch up to ordinary fastballs, unable to hit in a timely fashion, and completely disinterested in working a walk.
The losing streak grows to 5 games, and the White Sox fall to 4-7.
Alexei Ramirez was hit on the right hand/wrist area by an 88mph pitch in the 7th inning, but he would stay in the game.
Robin Ventura decided that since Addison Reed hasn’t pitched since Seattle and needs work he should come in down 9-4 in the 8th instead of using him last night in a 0-0 tie. Ventura’s poor understanding of leverage has clearly not improved over the offseason.