Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
The Indians played their best baseball of the second half this week in Chicago, and finished off their series with a 6-4 victory in a game in which neither starter lasted long into the game.
Had the White Sox not been in contention for a playoff spot, this would have felt like a typical late September game. There were lots of pitching changes and lots of position player changes, and the game at times dragged on at an agonizing rate. But Chicago entered tonight's game in a tie for the division lead, and so this game (and every game until the end of the season) was critical to their playoff chances.
Chicago manager Robin Ventura held Jake Peavy back a day both in order to give one of his better starters a rest as well as to throw yet another left-handed pitcher against the Indians. This move backfired, however, as Hector Santiago would be pulled before he got out of the fourth inning, and by that time the Indians had come back to tie the game.
Justin Masterson didn't fare much better. He had to throw 37 pitches before getting out of the first inning, giving up three runs in the process. We've seen starts like this before with both Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez, and the ending was predictable; Justin would be pulled in the fifth inning, having thrown 109 pitches. Justin walked four in his outing, also allowing 7 hits. Chicago would once again take the lead, holding a 4-3 advantage going into the sixth inning.
From that sixth inning on, it was a battle of the bullpens, and this battle the Indians would decisively win. While Frank Herrmann, Tony Sipp, Joe Smith, Esmil Rogers, and Chris Perez would hold the White Sox scoreless over the remainder of the contest, just about every Chicago reliever would be touch for a run. Donnie Veal allowed the tying run to reach base in the sixth when Shin-Soo Choo led off the inning with a double. Veal then walked Kipnis, and he was pulled in favor of Nate Jones, who would walk Brent Lillibridge (who was in the game because Asdrubal Cabrera left due to a back injury) would walk, bring Carlos Santana to the plate with the bases loaded. In an outstanding at-bat, which feature two foul balls that had grand slam distance, Santana walked to force home the tying run.
Chicago would get out of the sixth inning with no further damage done, but the Indians weren't done by a lot shot. They would take the lead in the seventh thanks to an RBI groundout, and tacked on an insurance via a Vinny Rottino home run.
There was some momentary drama in the ninth when Brent Lillibridge air-mailed a routine throw that would have ended the game, but Chris Perez got Paul Konerko to pop up to clinch the victory.
The White Sox had an excellent opportunity to gain ground on the Tigers; the Indians have been the AL's worst club in the second half of the year, and the Chicago was getting them at home. But now, after losing two out of three to the Indians and next facing a four-game series against the Rays, the tables have turned, with plenty of thanks due to the Indians.