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Angels 5, White Sox 3: Missed strike accelerates Mike Pelfrey’s unraveling

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Back-to-back homers at expected time turn three-run lead into one-run deficit

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Los Angeles Angels Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight precisely illustrated Mike Pelfrey’s margin for error.

Entering the game, he had little effectiveness against hitters the third time through the order. Opponents were 7-for-10 with two doubles and a triple in 10 such plate appearances.

Like we’d seen in previous starts, he navigated through the first four innings with few problems. As his command started unraveling, the hope was that he could complete five innings before the top of the order swung through for a third trip.

And he might’ve gotten away with it if it weren’t for meddling home plate umpire Mike DiMuro.

With one out and nobody on in the fifth, Cameron Maybin took a 3-2 pitch that looked pretty good, whether you’re looking at the pitch data ...

... or the pitch itself:

Instead of two outs and the bases empty, Pelfrey had one out and one on. Normally that wouldn’t represent a crisis with a 3-0 lead. Given Pelfrey’s narrow window of effectiveness, though, this missed call effectively clipped the wrong wire on the time bomb, causing the clock to speed up and everybody watching to sweat profusely.

Sure enough, Pelfrey walked Danny Espinosa (tickticktick). Then he gave up a near-homer to No. 9 hitter Martin Maldonado (ticktickticktick), which turned over the order with two outs. Pelfrey faced only two more batters, which made it easy to update the league’s third-time-through line against him.

  • Before: 7-for-10, 2 2B, 1 3B
  • After: 9-for-12, 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR

Yeeeeeeeeeeeep. Kole Calhoun went deep to tie the game, and then Mike Trout followed with a solo shot, giving him four consecutive games with a homer. Both hitters turned on low-and-in pitches — Calhoun on a 1-0 sinker, and Trout on a 1-2 splitter.

That sequence pretty much decided the game, although Maldonado hit a line drive that just cleared the short left-field wall for an insurance solo blast off Tommy Kahnle in the seventh. If wins and losses were paramount this season, one could point the finger at Rick Renteria for not heeding all the warning signs, both before Calhoun came to the plate, and especially before Trout did.

The White Sox offense had moments — at least after they saw Jesse Chavez one time through. They couldn’t get on base until Leury Garcia led off the fourth with a single, but Jose Abreu made up for lost time by maxing out a hit-and-run with a two-run homer to right-center. Tyler Saladino then tacked on a run with a two-out RBI triple in the fifth.

Alas, they couldn’t figure out how to move leadoff runners in three of the last four innings. A single to start the sixth couldn’t even get into scoring position. A battling walk by Saladino in the eighth moved to second on a sac bunt by Leury Garcia (a useful bunt single attempt), but a pair of groundouts stranded him.

In the ninth, Avisail Garcia took one for team with an inning-opening HBP. Todd Frazier flied out to deep center and Matt Davidson struck out, but Yolmer Sanchez kept the inning alive with a walk to put the tying run on base. Alas, Bud Norris froze Kevan Smith with a perfect 1-2 fastball after Smith had seen five sliders in a row. I might also question why Omar Narvaez wasn’t in the game if the goal was to keep the line moving, but this is the season to marvel at Trout homers instead.

Bullet points:

*Both Sanchez and Saladino reached twice. Saladino is starting to string together quality plate appearances, but it’s hard to gain ground on Sanchez right now.

*Gregory Infante made his first MLB appearance since Oct. 1, 2010, and pitched a scoreless inning. He allowed a double to right by C.J. Cron — one that didn’t stick in the glove of a leaping Avi Garcia in right — but he came back to get a weak groundout on a slider before freezing Maybin with a 2-2 fastball on the inside corner. DiMuro rung him up that time.

Record: 17-19 | Box score | Highlights