The Indians have had a penchant for winning close games of late, even with sub-optimal pitchers on the mound in close-and-late situations. In Monday's doubleheader, for instance, Nick Hagadone closed the first game with the tying run at the plate, and Tony Sipp closed the second despite facing all right-handed hitters. So after taking all those risks in order to give the back end of the bullpen a rest, that back end of the bullpen, or namely Chris Perez, gives up the lead in extra innings on Tuesday.
To continue the topsy turvy theme: to this point of the season the top of the rotation (Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson) has been the rotation's weakest links.
Ubaldo turned things around on Sunday with 7 shutout innings, lowering his ERA almost a full run (5.02 to 4.04), leaving Masterson as the only starter with an ERA above 5.00. Based on the first inning, though, it seemed like Justin's early-season troubles would continue, though the defense didn't help matters. After a Gordon Beckham single, Adam Dunn lifted a drive to the wall in right-center that Michael Brantley could have caught, but didn't. That placed runners on second and third with one out. With the infield back, Paul Konerko hit a fairly-hit grounder to Jack Hannahan, but the Tribe third baseman elected to go to first base rather than risk a play at the plate. Then A.J. Pierzynski hit a single through left of the infield, and with Johnny Damon in left, the White Sox sent Adam Dunn home from second. With anyone else in left field, Dunn would have held, but with Damon's famously weak arm, even Dunn scored easily. To complete the not-quite-errors theme, Alex Rios hit a ball that Asdrubal Cabrera should have got to but didn't, leading to Masterson having to throw more pitches than he should have.
After that inning, Masterson was pretty good. He walked five batters, which is unfortunately par for the course for him, but he got out the rest of the jams to got himself into. He, like Jimenez, has been prone to in-game wildness fits, and it happened again tonight, though he didn't let it turn into runs:
"When you know that stuff is kind of going here, there and everywhere," Masterson said, "you're close to the zone, but not close enough, you've got to be able to work through it and really keep it close. They [scored] two there in the first, so my goal the rest of the way was that I was going to be out there to just try to not give up any more."
With the Indians down 2-0, Manny Acta called on Dan Wheeler to pitch the seventh inning. Wheeler allowed two singles, a walk, and a run, making the score 3-0. He pitched a scoreless eighth.
The Indians meanwhile were shut down by John Danks, who they had lit up just last week. Danks has had particular troubles with left-handers this season (he's never had typical splits for a left-handed pitcher because he features a change) but didn't have any problems with the Tribe lineup tonight. He would allow two runs, but those came around to score on Chris Sale's watch.
The White Sox recently moved Sale back to the bullpen, fearing that he would wear down under the rigors of starting, and the left-hander got a ground ball off the bat of Johnny Damon, but shortstop Alexi Ramirez booted the ball, loading the bases with nobody out. Jason Kipnis got one run home with a ground out, and after Asdrubal Cabrera walked to re-load the bases, Carlos Santana smacked a single back up the middle to tie the game.
Usually with the game tied going into the ninth, Chris Perez would pitch, but with the bullpen still very thin, Acta decided to go with Nick Hagadone, who has been very good. The left-hander continued his outstanding season, striking out the side. The Indians failed to score in the ninth, so Acta went with Perez to pitch the tenth.
Last week, Perez and Rios got into a staring/shouting match after Perez retired Rios to end a game, and tonight Rios had his revenge. With a runner on first, Rios smacked a ball up the right-field gap, giving the Sox the lead. He would score on a fielder's choice. It was not a save opportunity for Perez, but it was his first bad outing since Opening Day.