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White Sox 3, Indians 2: Poor relief pitching and poor defense waste outstanding start by TJ House

A late error once again leads to an Indians loss.

TJ House's outstanding start was wasted thanks to poor relief pitching and poor defense
TJ House's outstanding start was wasted thanks to poor relief pitching and poor defense
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Game 54: White Sox 3, Indians 2

Box Score

Neither the White Sox nor the Indians, when the season started, ever thought they'd be sending tonight's starters to the mound. Hector Noesi wasn't even in the White Sox organization when the season began; he was part of the much-ballyhooed Pineda-Montero deal in 2012, and had been awful in 135 career innings. The Mariners dealt him to pitching-hungry Texas early in the season, and after a couple appearances with the Rangers, hit the waiver wire. The White Sox saw some correctable flaws in his delivery, and claimed him. He was placed in the rotation, and had been almost decent.

As for the Indians, House was the eighth of eight starting pitchers on the 40-man roster when the season, but less than two months into the season had entered the rotation because of injuries (Zach McAllister) and ineffectiveness (Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar).

So of course both pitchers pitched gems tonight. House, who was making just his second MLB start, pounded the strike zone, and more importantly, pounded both sides of the plate, striking out eight White Sox while maintaining a low pitch count, which is a difficult feat for any starter. Facing a lineup full of right-handed hitters, House was able to establish his pitches inside, which was key for him. House threw the ball in the low-90s tonight, which is good enough for a starter, but still, he wouldn't have had success had he just stayed on the outer half of the plate.

Noesi, who coming into tonight's game owned a career ERA of 5.73, pitched just as well. Noesi pitched into the eighth inning, allowing one run on 5 hits, having struck out 5 and not walking a batter. The Indians seemed to be overly aggressive tonight, with many batters (especially Asdrubal Cabrera) swinging at the first pitch that was remotely close to the strike zone. Perhaps Noesi has found his home in baseball, but until tonight it looked as though he was a couple bad starts from being sent to the minors permanently.

The Tribe got on the board first when Jason Giambi hit his second homer of the year, a line drive that cleared the wall about 10 feet from the right field foul pole. Giambi has just three hits on the season, but two of them are homers. And the blast tonight marked the third homer against the White Sox since he signed with the Indians in 2013.

The Indians took that 1-0 lead into the seventh, with House returning to the mound. His pitch count was still comfortably low (in the low 80s), but he was facing the White Sox hitters for the third time, so Terry Francona had Scott Atchison pitching behind him. And as it turned out, Atchison would be used in the inning, as House gave up hits to both Adam Dunn and Alexei Ramirez. Dunn went to third on Ramirez's single (though Ramirez was thrown trying for second), giving the White Sox the tying run at third with one out. Atchison would come into the game and retire Flowers on a weak grounder to the drawn-in infield, but Marcus Semien picked a low fastball inches off the ground and lined it up the middle to score the tying run.

Cody Allen came on to pitch the eighth, and couldn't find the strike zone. He walked Gordon Beckham with one out, allowed a single to Connor Gillaspie, and walked Dayan Viciedo to load the bases. Even with Josh Outman warming in the bullpen, Francona allowed Allen to face Adam Dunn, and Dunn drove home the go-ahead run with a fly ball to medium-deep left field. Beckham scored on the sacrifice fly, and just like that the Indians were three out from losing a game they led 1-0 going into the seventh.

The Whirte Sox, though, allowed the Indians to get back into the game thanks to some shoddy defense. After Michael Brantley led off the ninth with a single, Jason Kipnis (who returned after a month on the DL) hit a liner that Adam Dunn short-hopped at the first base bag. He stepped on first, and with Michael Brantley in no-man's land between first and second, just had to make a decent throw to double up Brantley, but he air-mailed the throw, and Brantley was now in scoring position. Lonnie Chisenhall popped out to shallow left field, and then Chicago manager Robin Ventura did a curious thing: he intentionally walked Jason Giambi, placing the go-ahead run on at first base. Undoubtedly thoughts of Giambi's home run still were vivid memories, as well as Giambi's two walk-off homers against the White Sox last year, but still, it was a rather unconventional move. Yan Gomes fell behind closer Ronald Bellisario1-2, but lined a game-tying single to right field. Right fielder Moises Sierra made it a close play at the plate, but Brantley was able to slide in ahead of the tag to tie the game.

But bad defense again popped up at the worst possible time. A couple innings earlier, Francona removed Jesus Aguilar for a pinch-runner (Mike Aviles), which meant that Aviles came in to play third, with Lonnie Chisenhall moving from third to first. And wouldn't you know it, Tyler Flowers, the first batter of the ninth inning, hit a routine grounder to Aviles, who threw low to first base, and Chisenhall, who hadn't had much experience at first, couldn't catch the short hop. Leury Garcia pinch-ran for Flowers, stole second base, and went to third on a sacrifice fly (on a 3-0 pitch) by Marcus Semien. Moises Sierra then stuck the dagger in by lining a game-winning single into right field, completing a sweep of the Indians.

Just a frustrating loss all around. An outstanding pitching performance thrown away thanks to walks and and an error.

Win-Expectancy Chart

Source: FanGraphs

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