Representing the go-ahead run with two outs in the ninth, Tyler Flowers crushed a grooved fastball. It sounded incredible, it had beautiful trajectory, and the entire stadium snapped their necks to see it...
... hook foul just in front of the left-field pole.
It was the second fruitless scare of the inning, and two pitches later, Flowers struck out, sealing a doubleheader sweep for the Indians. The White Sox have lost 11 of 14, and six of seven against their chief AL Central rivals.
It would have been less painful had the game been called due to rain. Instead, a one-hour, 25-minute rain delay allowed the Sox to prolong the agony.
The game was halted with runners on first and second, one out and Alex Rios at the plate. When play resume, Rios shot a single through the right side to tie the game, putting runners on the corners and one out. Up came Adam Dunn, and the terrible series of events was about to begin.
On a 3-1 count, Dunn thought he had taken ball four. And he had good reason to believe it, since it was more off the plate than two pitches home plate umpire Tony Randazzo called balls earlier in the at-bat. Instead, the count was full. After two foul balls, Dunn tried to hold up a swing on a pitch even more outside than the second strike -- but he tapped it back to the mound and started a 1-6-3 double play to leave the go-ahead run at third.
In the bottom of the eighth, in came Matt Thornton, who started by getting Asdrubal Cabrera to hit a weak fly to center. Problem was, the entire outfield was nearly playing on the warning track, and neither Alejandro De Aza nor Rios could get to it in time. Another Thornton-brand broken-bat single, and Cleveland had runners on the corners.
Thornton came back to get Travis Hafner to pop up for one out, which brought right-handed Shelley Duncan to the plate. With Addison Reed warm, Robin Ventura stuck with Thornton, and you'll never guess what happened -- a double down the left-field line, giving the Indians a 3-2 lead. It was another bloop-and-a-blast affair for Thornton, but the blast stayed in the park this time.
Thornton got out of the inning by getting a double play, but the Indians had all the runs they needed. Alexei Ramirez's fly to left was caught at the base of the wall, and then Ventura made the baffling move of hitting Brent Lillibridge for Kosuke Fukudome, even with Paul Konerko on the bench. After Lillibridge struck out, Ventura tapped Konerko to hit for Dayan Viciedo. So it was essentially replacing Viciedo with Lillibridge, which is a downgrade. Konerko took a five-pitch walk, and then Flowers struck out in dramatic fashion to end it.
But why would the ninth go any better when the entire day was so damn frustrating?
Take Eric Stults. When looking at the results, he did what anybody could hope for -- six innings of two-run ball against a team that pulverized Philip Humber in the front half of the doubleheader. That's great, but he allowed those two runs in the least likely way.
It started with walking No. 9 hitter Lou Marson (who entered the game 1-for-17). It continued with Stultz not looking at Marson when delivering his pitch. Marson went on first movement, and probably would have stolen the bag even if Tyler Flowers didn't fumble the exchange.
Marson came around to score on Michael Brantley's single between first and second. The single was so perfectly placed that it had both Adam Dunn and Gordon Beckham in hot pursuit, and so when Alex Rios came up firing, neither player was in the cutoff spot. The throw went home, Brantley took second, and he scored on another single to right to give the Indians the lead.
Then again, Stults should have had a bigger cushion to work with. In the top of the fifth, Dayan Viciedo singled and Flowers doubled to left, putting runners on second and third with nobody out. Brent Morel's weak grounder to short got the job done, scoring Viciedo and moving Flowers to third. That's where Flowers would stay, though, as Alejandro De Aza grounded out to second, and Gordon Beckham to third to end the threat.
That's par for the course when it comes to trying to hit Josh Tomlin. For the second time this year, Tomlin used the Sox to set a career high in strikeouts for the second time this year. Outside of that brief uprising in the fifth, the Sox could only get one runner to second base over the first seven innings.
- Flowers' perfect season throwing out baserunners came to an end on Marson's steal.
- The game ended with Chris Sale warming up in the bullpen. This is probably going to be a common occurrence.