Ray Alex. It was you.
It may have taken an inning too long with one blown three-run lead too many, but tonight's game was still a tale of redemption. The original subject was a late scratch.
It should have been about John Danks, who started the evening with seven scoreless innings against a lineup that thumped him good just five days ago. The swing-and-miss stuff still isn't quite there (two walks, three strikeouts), but he didn't create his own messes this time. The game could have changed in the second inning when he engaged Shelley Duncan in a 14-pitch duel that ended with a popout. Had Danks walked Duncan and put two on with nobody out, he could have found himself in hot water early.
But Danks will have to wait for the rewards, because as it turns out, he still doesn't know how to win. The offense gave him two runs in the first, but could only muster one more run off Justin Masterson out of four scoring chances. Double plays were a killer, in particular.
Sure enough, three runs wasn't enough when Danks' luck ran out. The eighth started with two bloop singles (including one Dayan Viciedo couldn't get to, but a defensive replacement would have), and that was the end of Danks' night. In came Chris Sale, who got Johnny Damon to hit a weak grounder to short. Alexei Ramirez charged hard since Damon was running, and the ball clanked off the heel of his mitt. The error loaded the bases, and all three runs would score -- one on a groundout to first, and two on a single to center, tying the game. While not a traditional save situation, it's a blown save for the newly appointed closer nevertheless.
So Danks had a nice night with an empty ending. Alex Rios, on the other hand, will leave Progressive Field quite satisfied.
Cleveland closer Chris Perez entered to pitch the 10th, and both Scott Merkin and Mark Gonzales immediately tweeted that Rios was due third. They took notice because of the way last Thursday's game ended -- with Rios taking umbrage at Perez's celebratory screaming, and players and umpires separating them after the final out.
Rios would get a chance at revenge when he came to the plate with one out and Brent Lillibridge at first (pinch-running for Paul Konerko after a leadoff single). On an 0-1 pitch, Rios stayed with an outer-half fastball and drilled it over the head of Jason Kipnis, bisecting the right-center gap for an easy go-ahead triple. Ramirez followed and battled Perez to a chopper to the right side. Kipnis had to move to his left, which meant he needed two extra moves to get into throwing position. That gave Rios enough time to slide in safely, and the Sox cashed in an insurance run they couldn't get before.
With a 5-3 lead entering the bottom of the 10th, Robin Ventura gave the ball to Addison Reed. It's hard to know whether Ventura really wanted to -- the plan was to go with Sale for a six-out save, and after that failed, he went with Hector Santiago in the ninth. Santiago allowed a pair of singles with two outs before getting a flyout to left-center to end the threat.
Nevertheless, Ventura finally went to his best reliever, and Reed lived up to the billing. He froze Asdrubal Cabrera with a fastball for the first out, got Santana to fly out to left for the second, and overmatched Travis Hafner with fastballs before putting him away with a changeup to end the game. It was Reed's second major-league save, preserving Santiago's first major-league win.
Lost in the shuffle, Adam Dunn struck out looking in his final at-bat, extending his strikeout streak to 35 games. Thankfully, it's more of a fun trivia item than an indictment, because he had another productive night. He ignited the first-inning rally with a deep fly to center that Michael Brantley couldn't hold onto as he hit the wall. The double put runners on second and third, and a groundout and a single gave the Sox a 2-0 lead. He followed the double with three walks, so it was a great night for his triple-slash line.
- Konerko bailed out Danks in the seventh when he caught a screaming liner hit by Brantley, then placed the tag on Santana for the double play. In a second, it went from runners on the corners and one out to inning over.
- Rios and Ramirez each stole a base easily on Santana.