After storms delayed the start of this game by 56 minutes, it looked like the White Sox left their best baseball in the clubhouse. Dayan Viciedo broke in on a flyball that went over his head for an RBI double in the second inning, and in the third, Chris Sale capped off one of the worst rundowns I've ever seen with an errant throw, turning a pickoff into a stolen base.
But Cleveland's defense made the Sox look like a Tom Emanski video. In a contest of which team wanted it less, the Indians wanted it more.
It started in the bottom of the third, when Gordon Beckham took Ubaldo Jimenez's 3-1 fastball well over the left-field fence to give the Sox a 2-1 lead. The smoke from the resulting fireworks drifted over the infield, and caused problems for the Indians' infield with the very next batter. Alejandro De Aza hit a pop-up to the left side, and Jason Donald yielded to Asdrubal Cabrera, who lost it in the smoke. The shortstop and third baseman made a last-minute scramble, but the ball fell to the ground, and a hustling De Aza slid safely into second for the rare infield double.
Cabrera couldn't blame the smoke when he fumbled Ramirez's routine grounder, putting runners on the corners with nobody out. Then Jimenez lost control, walking Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko (who pulled a 3-0 pitch foul) to bring home another run.
Jimenez appeared to regain composure when A.J. Pierzynski popped out with a runner on third for the first out (although the infield fly rule ended up making the play, as Cabrera dropped the ball), and Alex Rios grounded into a fielder's choice (UPDATE: I had these events flipped). But infield problems resumed when Dayan Viciedo followed with a hard-hit grounder through the middle. Cabrera made a beautiful diving stab, transferred the ball to make a quick flip ... but second baseman Jason Kipnis wasn't covering.
White Sox led 5-1 after three, and the solo shots by Beckham and Pierzynski (who homered in the second) were the only runs the Sox truly earned.
The Sox changed that in subsequent innings thanks to the stolen base. De Aza swiped second on Jimenez with one out and scored on Ramirez's single to right -- with Joe McEwing making another aggressive call. In the fifth, Brent Morel singled with two outs, stole second and scored when Beckham poked a single to right for his third hit of the game.
That's not to say the Indians stopped screwing up. It just didn't result in runs. In the seventh, Rios reached when Kipnis didn't call off Carlos Santana on a pop-up to the right side, even though Santana was backpedaling and in trouble. Then, Kipnis didn't cover second on time when Rios stole second, and ended up catching Lou Marson's on-target throw 10 feet behind the bag.
The Sox's defense innings were drama-free after the third. Sale had a nice and easy night. The Sox gave him a six-run lead, and so Robin Ventura pulled him after six innings and 88 pitches. He allowed just one run (thanks to Viciedo's misread) on three hits and a walk, and retired 12 of the last 13 batters he faced.
Hector Santiago made it a little more interesting than it needed to be. He started the ninth by striking out Carlos Santana and Travis Hafner, but then walked two batters around an infield single to load the bases. Ramirez came to the mound for a "Why aren't you throwing strikes?" visit, and then backed up the pep talk when he made a nice charging play on a slow chopper to end the game.
- When Will Ohman gave up a solo shot to Shelley Duncan in the seventh, it was the Indians' first homer since April 17.
- While Beckham had three hits, Morel had a solid day himself. He went 1-for-4 with a steal, tattooed a ball to short for one of the outs, and made two tough plays at third (a diving stab and a tough short-hop pick).