For the briefest of moments, the White Sox looked like they would take the lead of a game they had no business controlling.
Trailing 3-0 in the seventh, Jose Abreu (shallow flyout) and Adam Dunn (backwards K) couldn't cash in runners on second and third. Yet Avisail Garcia bailed them out by drilling a two-run single through the right side, cutting Baltimore's lead to 3-2.
Conor Gillaspie followed by squaring up a 1-1 fastball and sending a deep fly to right. Nick Markakis retreated to the track, jumped ... and robbed Gillaspie of a go-ahead homer (and us of an incredible Moises Sierra GIF) for the final out.
The heartbreak was short-lived, because stunningly awful relief work by Eric Surkamp and Matt Lindstrom made it clear how little one-run leads are worth these days.
Ronald Belisario, who pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, started the eighth with two more outs. A J.J. Hardy single kept the inning alive, and with lefty Chris Davis -- who hit a walk-off homer against Belisario earlier this season -- coming to the plate, Ventura answered with Surkamp. Surkamp got ahead 1-2 on Davis, then plunked him in the backside with a curveball.
Then came Lindstorm, who got ahead 1-2 on Caleb Joseph ... and then walked him on three straight not-close pitches. After a Don Cooper mound visit, Lindstrom started Jonathan Schoop with a grooved fastball, and Schoop smacked it to the left-center gap for a bases-clearing double to make it a 6-2 game.
But that wasn't all -- Lindstrom hung a slider to Markakis, who hit it farther than Gillaspie did for a solo shot, and Steave Pearce crushed a cutter off the wall in left. Lindstrom left without retiring any of the four batters he faced, and Maikel Cleto finally put out the fire to end the inning, after which the Sox trailed by six. So yeah, any sting the Sox felt from Markakis' catch in the seventh had to be overshadowed by the humiliation of the eighth.
Lost in it was an OK start by Chris Sale. The Orioles have given him a hard time in both starts this season, but he could've come away with a worse line. Despite giving up eight hits, two walks and two home runs, he escaped allowing only three earned runs.
Fortunately the home runs were only solo shots -- including one by Nelson Cruz, who jumped ahead of Abreu on the home-run leaderboard -- and the other run scored on a double that glanced off the glove of a diving Jordan Danks. Sale worked hard, throwing 122 pitches over six innings, but he stranded runners on the corners with his eighth and final strikeout of the night to keep the Sox in the game (theoretically).
The question was whether the Sox offense would take advantage of the opportunity. Baltimore starter Bud Norris faced the minimum over the first six innings, as Jordan Danks' single in the third was erased when Joseph thwarted his attempted steal of second. He lost the chance of facing 27 when Alexei Ramirez followed Alejandro De Aza's HBP with a double down the right field line, and the shutout slipped away later on Garcia's single.
You can't blame the eight runs on the White Sox defense. Danks might've missed saving a run in center, but Gordon Beckham took a run off the board in the fifth by stopping a grounder from going through the middle, and gathering himself quickly enough to throw out Pearce, who tried going from second to home on the play. The Sox benefited from a fortuitous bounce off the mound, which found its way to Flowers in time for the tag. Buck Showalter challenged the play, but the review showed that Flowers 1) placed the tag, and 2) did not block the plate).
Chris Sale's word of the day: extricate. #WhiteSox— Dan Hayes (@CSNHayes) August 19, 2014