Robin Ventura hadn't managed the White Sox out of a game in a while. Hopefully, tonight's slew of strange decisions will tide him over for a while.
The game had overtones of odd logic by the sixth inning, when Sale intentionally walked Jeff Francoeur ... for the second time on the night. Lump it in with a four-pitch "unintentional" walk, and Francoeur had seen 12 pitches, and zero strikes, giving him the first three-walk game of his career.
Those intentional walks didn't burn the Sox. Ventura called for a third intentional walk in the seventh inning -- one to Billy Butler in the seventh inning, which loaded the bases with two outs for Salvador Perez. But even though Perez doubled to give the Royals a 4-2 lead, the intentional walk wasn't the bad decision there.
I just couldn't understand why Ventura left Sale in. The situation basically demanded a change:
- Sale had thrown more than 110 pitches.
- Jesse Crain was warm.
- The Royals had eight hits against Sale over 6 2/3 innings.
- The Royals have the four highest single-game hit totals allowed by Sale this year.
- Perez had seen Sale's stuff well, doubling off him in the previous at-bat.
- Perez sees all lefties well, with a .411 average against them in his young career.
- Crain's allowed a .088 average to right-handers this year.
But really, it's the first two. Sale's 117th pitch was a 1-2 changeup that was below the knees, but split the plate. Perez saw it, got down, and drove it off the left-field wall for the game-deciding two-run double.
After that killer inning, Ventura pulled another strange move in the top of the eighth. The Sox were off to a nice start against Kelvin Herrera, with Dayan Viciedo singling up the middle, and Gordon Beckham dropping a single into short center.
Ventura then pinch-hit Alejandro De Aza for Dewayne Wise, which seemed like a strange move -- especially when Wise showed bunt on the first pitch, and nearly bunted one off the plate into a triple play. Wise didn't run, Salvador Perez came up firing to third. It would have been easy, but Dan Iassogna called the ball foul. Either call could have been defensible.
The Royals had to settle for one out instead. Wise pulled the bat back on strike two to put himself in a hole, and he struck out swinging.
The pinch-hitting call turned out to be defensible, because De Aza's back stiffened up after an unsuccessful steal attempt earlier. But the idea to bunt after two singles -- and Wise's inability to execute the call -- killed the Sox's rally. Herrera went on to strike out Kevin Youkilis and Adam Dunn to end the inning, and Greg Holland stranded runners on the corners in the ninth to earn the save.
Aside from Ventura's strange decisions, it had been a routine Sale-Mendoza matchup. The Royals hit a couple solo homers off Sale, but couldn't do anything with their other hits. The Sox took a lot of tentative swings against Mendoza, getting behind in the count by taking inside strikes, and leaving themselves vulnerable to a good curve later in the count.
The good news is that Paul Konerko put the Sox on the board with a solo homer in his first game back from his stay on the 7-day concussion DL. It also didn't suck to see Gordon Beckham come through with a two-hit game after a two-day stay on the bench. He had two opposite-field singles, and the first one tied the game by driving in Alexei Ramirez with two outs in the fifth inning.
Mendoza had the heart of the White Sox order. Konerko's solo homer was the only hit out of the 2-3-4-5 combination. Youkilis, Dunn, Konerko and Alex Rios went 1-for-15 with a walk.
- Butler has homered off Sale three times. Nobody else has done it more than once.
Chris Getz broke his thumb on a bunt attempt, ending his season. He had his hand wrapped around the barrel for some reason.
- Hector Santiago, fresh from his call-up, pitched a scoreless eighth. He struck out Francoeur twice -- the first was a nice curve called low, and the second was a high fastball that should have been Francouer's fourth walk of the night.