The White Sox desperately needed to see somebody else besides Corey Kluber. Thanks to a pitch count and an ordained closer, John Axford was just the guy they were looking for.
Axford walked two of the first three batters he faced, and even when he pushed Dayan Viciedo into a 2-2 count, he still had nothing but a fastball. He tried throwing his hardest heater to put Viciedo away, but instead Viciedo crushed a line drive over the wall in right for a three-run homer. The White Sox were only awake for two innings all game, but that turned out to be enough after Matt Lindstrom pitched around a two-out single and passed ball to record the save.
Terry Francona went to his bullpen because Kluber had thrown 110 pitches ... but it was a pretty easy 110 pitches. After Jose Abreu turned on an inside-corner seamer and blasted it for a solo shot to left, Kluber relied heavily on his slider to immense success. He had command of the outside corner (and just off it), and Sox hitters could not commit to it and try taking it the other way -- especially Abreu, who struck out three times after his homer. Leury Garcia was the only Sox hitter who gave Kluber a fight in two consecutive plate appearances (a single and a walk), and even he struck out in his third trip.
At one point, Kluber set an Indians record by striking out seven consecutive hitters, which provided the creamy center of a sweet final line (8 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 13 K). He certainly outpitched Andre Rienzo, who survived 4⅔ innings despite battling his two old nemeses -- the walk and the home run. He issued four free passes on top of seven hits, and he allowed two solo shots to George Kottaras, but he limited the damage to three earned runs.
(Kottaras was an emergency callup for Yan Gomes, who is on paternity leave. After hitting .080 at Triple-A Columbus, he became the first player in Indians history to homer in his first tries for Cleveland. Baseball.)
Even though White Sox relievers had to cover four times as many innings, they still won the battle of the bullpens. Zach Putnam stranded two runners to record the final out of the fifth, then took care of the sixth. Ronald Belisario pitched around a plunking, and Daniel Webb dodged damage from a two-out single and a two-out walk (Alexei Ramirez knocked down a hot shot by Nick Swisher to end the inning, which helped). Webb picked up the win, and Lindstrom picked up his fourth save to end the four-game losing streak.
*Both of Axford's blown saves this season have come courtesy of the White Sox. Alexei Ramirez hit a walk-off homer against him on April 13.
Record: 15-17 | Box score | Play-by-play | Highlights