Robin Ventura is going to find himself in a lot of these predicaments over the final two months: trailing by a not-out-of-it-margin, but not wanting to use his two only good relievers in any game where a comeback is feasible.
Tonight, the White Sox trailed 4-2 going into the eighth against a team with one of the game’s best closers. He tried to get away with the guys you often forget are around — Tommy Kahnle, Michael Ynoa and Jacob Turner -- which wasn’t a bad idea. He just used them in the wrong order, apparently.
Kahnle gave up a Borchard-lite blast to Pedro Alvarez with one out to make it a three-run game, and the next three Orioles reached on a single, double and single (all line drives). Robin Ventura called for Ynoa, who gave up a sacrifice fly, but no further runs. Alas, the Orioles built a big-enough cushion that a surprising White Sox rally in the bottom of the eighth went for naught.
I don’t think Ventura expected his offense to be able to raise Darren O’Day’s 2.45 ERA by a full run. Jose Abreu greeted him with a single to left, after which O’Day fought his control, walking Justin Morneau and Todd Frazier.
Then the Baltimore defense, which had already committed three errors, joined the fun. First, Jonathan Schoop tried to turn two on an Avisail Garcia grounder up the middle that developed so slowly that Todd Frazier almost beat the play at second. Schoop threw well wide even though Garcia was well safe, which allowed Morneau to follow Abreu home, cutting Baltimore’s defense to 7-4. Dioner Navarro then kicked O’Day out of the game with a single to center.
In came Logan Ondrusek, who faced Carlos Sanchez and gave up a surprisingly well-hit ball to right. Alleged defensive replacement Nolan Reimold couldn’t make the catch on the warning track, and Sanchez was credited with an RBI double on a play that should've been made. That flipped the order over to Adam Eaton with runners on second and third and just one out.
Two pitches later, the inning was over. Eaton grounded out to first with the corners pinched, and Chris Davis caught Navarro straying too far from third. Davis took too long to throw there, but third base umpire Marty Foster still thought the tag beat Navarro to the base, and Navarro’s hand kicked up too much dirt for the replay to confirm whether Foster was wrong.
(It seemed like a TOOTBLAN on Navarro, but Ventura pinned it on Sanchez for running too far toward third and pressuring Navarro toward home.)
After all that, the Sox entered the ninth like they did the eighth -- down two runs and with Zach Britton looming. Turner somehow struck out two during a 1-2-3 top of the ninth, but Britton answered with three strikeouts to end it. He had a chance for four K's because Abreu made it to first on a wild pitch strike three, bringing Morneau to the plate.
Morneau avoided that embarrassment by supposedly grounding out to first, although he suffered the indignity of a curious ruling by the umpiring crew. He thought he fouled the ball off his foot, so he didn't run to first. The replays agreed with him. Morneau argued with home plate umpire Mike Winters, as did Ventura. After a brief conference, the umpires refused Ventura’s request for a review, which is something you rarely see.
And so a bizarre final two innings capped off a rather ordinary first seven. Miguel Gonzalez squeezed out a quality start against a quality offense, which is fine. Alvarez hit the first of his two homers in the second, and Manny Machado took him to the right-center gap for a two-run double in the third. Tyler Saladino added a fourth run on his tab when he tried to make a cross-body throw to first instead of flipping to third to get Machado, who ended up scoring when the throw went well wide. That run was unearned.
The Sox were able to get on the board against Yovani Gallardo in the fourth to make it interesting. Abreu homered for the second straight day, crushing an unimpressive fastball out to left. Two batters later, Frazier kept the inning alive with a single to right, and Avisail Garcia cashed him in by shooting a double past third base.
A subsequent two-out threat in the fifth went unconverted, and Gallardo ended up picking up just his fourth win of the season for his six innings of work.
*Abreu had an encouraging evening at the plate, going 3-for-5. Besides the homer, he also hit two line drives to left, as he’s finally getting some elevation to the pull field.
*Eaton and Cabrera both went 0-for-5, with nine stranded between them. The Sox were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position overall.