The White Sox bullpen already figured to be one of the main storylines in everybody's first-half retrospectives, but just in case somebody might have forgotten about them, Javy Guerra provided a reminder heading into the All-Star break.
After the Sox offense broke through against the Cleveland bullpen for two runs in the top of the eighth, the Indians returned the favor, as Yan Gomes' two-run homer made the difference.
In Guerra's defense, he received two different kinds of batted-ball luck over his first two batters. Nick Swisher led off, and his soft liner flare off the end of the bat cleared Conor Gillaspie's head for a weak single. Gomes followed by inside-outing a ball to right. With a good right fielder out there, it looked like a deep flyout off the bat. With Dayan Viciedo out there, it looked like a double. But the wind carried it just over the wall in right for a go-ahead homer, and even Gomes was surprised.
An inning after the Sox bats got John Danks off the hook, they couldn't do the same for Guerra against Cody Allen. who set down the heart of the order groundout-strikeout-strikeout for the save.
Had the bullpen protected the lead, Cleveland fans would've had their own reasons to gripe. Bryan Shaw took over in the eighth trying to protect Trevor Bauer's bid for a win, but he suffered death by singles up the middle. Conor Gillaspie started the rally with a one-out base hit, moved to second on a wild pitch, and scored on Gordon Beckham's single in a similar direction.
But the Sox weren't done. Beckham moved to second on Tyler Flowers' swinging bunt, and then came around to score when Leury Garcia's grounder bounded under Jason Kipnis' piss-poor backhand effort. Kipnis probably should've made the play, and he definitely should've knocked it down, but he came down with a case of "old man back," and Beckham scored to give the Sox the briefest of 2-1 leads.
Up until that point, the Sox were on the losing end of a pitchers' duel. They had their chances against Bauer -- five baserunners over the first two innings -- but Bauer's strikeout stuff (he fanned a career-high 10) neutralized the traffic on the basepaths. The Sox helped him out, too, as Gillaspie was doubled off first on a flyout down the left-field foul in the second inning. That play required a great throw by Mike Aviles and a lack of awareness on Gillaspie's part. Thanks to the TOOTBLAN, the Sox managed to pull off the unfortunate no-runs-on-three-hits inning.
Danks had to battle himself, and somehow escaped allowing just one run over seven innings. He was lucky to limit the damage in the second inning -- four consecutive Indians reached with one out (walk, single, single, error), but Danks struck out Aviles and Kipnis with the bases loaded to leave Cleveland wanting more.
Danks slipped out of similar trouble in the fourth, getting a popout and a groundout to strand runners on second and third. He also loaded the bases in the sixth with two outs, but Asdrubal Cabrera grounded out to end the threat.
He finished his day with a 1-2-3 seventh, which lowered his ERA on the season to 3.99. In contrast to the bullpen, that's a first-half story everybody's happy to write.
*Carlos Sanchez made an MLB debut to forget: 0-for-5 with two strikeouts and an error at shortstop.
*The only White Sox hitter to avoid striking out today? You guessed it -- Flowers. He picked up his second double of July with a squibber that bounced off first base, and that's two more doubles than he had in June.