Whoever's the closer in this bullpen is going to need support. Tonight, Ronald Belisario didn't get it in the top of the ninth. Fortunately, Moises Sierra backed him up with the game's last at-bat.
A bunch of factors contributed to Belisario's blown save, but the Indians handed the Sox their defensive miscue back in the bottom of the inning, and it turned into the game-winning run on Sierra's walk-off single. It wasn't pretty, but the White Sox swept the Indians regardless and hoisted their record back over the .500 mark.
Give Flowers credit for battling Shaw. He didn't take a lot of good swings against Cleveland's sidewinder (he threw his bat again), but he put the 11th pitch of the at-bat into play, and his bouncer to the left side turned into a baserunner when Mike Aviles bounced the throw, and Lonnie Chisenhall (updated) couldn't handle it.
Leury Garcia entered as a pinch runner and made his presence felt. He stole second, took third on Marcus Semien's fly to right center, and scored when Moises Sierra slapped a full-count cutter into right field for the winner.
The walk-off moment gave the blown save a sense of purpose. Otherwise, Robin Ventura would be under the microscope.
The top of the ninth started ominously when Belisario took a Michael Brantley line drive off his hip for an infield single. He stayed in the game, but he paid for poor decisions from elsewhere. For instance, he looked like he induced a double play ball when Jason Kipnis hit a hard grounder right at Adam Dunn. Dunn stepped on first, and had time to throw to second. Instead, he airmailed it over Alexei Ramirez' head and allowed Brantley to take second.
Belisario responded by getting Chisenhall to pop out. But that brought Jason Giambi to the plate.
Pop quiz: Which one of these batters would you rather face with two outs in the ninth, based on their numbers since 2013 entering the game:
- Player A: .176/.277/.361
- Player B: .284/.335/.468
Robin Ventura chose Player B, because Player A homered earlier in the game on a fat changeup. And so Ventura had Belisario walk the 43-year-old Giambi to bring a better hitter to the plate, and that better hitter lined a single to right to tie the game, despite Sierra's best efforts to save the game with his arm. His bat had to do it instead.
Nevertheless, the big picture says it's an impressive win. Hector Noesi started and turned in his best outing yet, allowing just the one run on five hits and zero walks over 7⅓ innings, and Javy Guerra picked him up to get through the eighth scoreless.
Meanwhile, the Sox persevered through failing to pick up much of what T.J. House threw. Cleveland's rookie starter outpitched Noesi through six, but he ended up with a no-decision thanks to the return of Semien's clutch hitting. Semien had to pick up a couple teammates -- Ramirez, who was thrown out at second for the first out after singling Dunn to third, and Flowers, who grounded out to short with the infield in to force the action on Semien. But Semien's seen worse, and he shot a pitch right back at Scott Atchison, who lifted his foot and let it pass on through to center for the game-tying single.
One inning later, the Sox grunted another run across the plate. Gordon Beckham drew a tough-assed nine-pitch walk, then took third on a hit-and-run with Conor Gillaspie's knockdown-shot single. Dayan Viciedo walked to load the bases, and Dunn cashed in the run with a sac fly to give the Sox their first lead of the game eight frames in.
*Beckham opened the game with an impressive diving stab and throw to take a single away from Brantley in the first inning.
*Noesi had to record the third out of the sixth twice, as a balk made one "final" pitch moot. That moved two runners into scoring position, but Kipnis grounded out to Dunn for the second third out.