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Ten straight balls pin White Sox to the wall

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An eighth-inning bullpen meltdown, and defensive chicanery throughout, played South Side fans for April fools

Chicago White Sox v Cleveland Indians
Victory snatched: Nova’s stellar seven innings disintegrated in a bullpen meltdown.
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

With the way Cleveland starter Mike Clevinger pitched on Monday, the Chicago White Sox had no business winning the game.

By the end, after the Sox sprung on Cleveland’s shaky pen to steal a lead, the South Siders proved they believed that was the case, handing the game back to the home club on the wings of shoddy relief pitching and defense.

The game should never have been close, but thanks to a roughshod Cleveland offense, Chicago was allowed to hang in for 7 12 innings. After Clevenger struck out the side in the first inning, pouring fastballs past (ostensibly) the best three hitters on the White Sox, the Pale Hose defense gave Cleveland at least five outs to score in the bottom of the frame.

Five outs? Well, it might have been six, if the White Sox boasted even remedial right field defense. Leonys Martin led off with a shot to right that an Adam Engel-level defender would have caught, and a Dan Pasqua-level defender could have read properly to cut off as a single. Instead, Martin stood on second base once the ball pooted into the gap. Thankfully, Martin was unable to advance on José Ramírez’s pop-up single (nobody-calling-it-in-left-field style) that fell between a bashful Eloy Jiménez and a confused José Rondón.

Iván Nova, it being early in the game, did not claw his eyes out or rip away any scalp hair watching the defense behind him, instead calmly inducing a double-play grounder back to the mound — which Rondón failed to convert, after a languid throw.

Three hitters, three possible outs lost.

The tweet from sister site Let’s Go Tribe:

But Nova, who would have been excused for running into the dugout and trashing a Gatorade tub full of wasabi sunflower seeds between batters, kept a cool hand and whiffed fourth and fifth hitters, Carlos Santana and Hanley Ramírez, with dying-quail changeups.

A slightly dirtier half-inning, but one just as clean as Clevinger’s where it counted, on the scoreboard.

Offensively, things would get no better for the White Sox against Clevinger. It took until the fifth inning before the White Sox even tapped a hit, and thank goodness for the righty’s three walks and 12 Ks on the day doing their job to chew up pitches, because Clevinger was gassed after seven, and 106 pitches.

Cleveland amassed its one run against an equally-efficient Nova, thanks to a José Ramírez double and two-out Santana single. And even on that sole earned run, Nova got a bum hand, as the White Sox were in deep-shift formation; had second baseman Yolmer Sánchez been set up in the infield proper, the result would have been an inning-ending ground out.

So the White Sox were down, 1-0, with the wind chill and win expectancy dropping in equal measure. But hope was reborn after Clevinger was yanked after the seventh and people named Adam Cimber, Oliver Pérez and Jon Edwards were charged with bridging one inning to closer Brad Hand.

They did not.

Rondón reached on Cimber’s throwing error to first, advancing to second on the play and moving to third on Adam Engel’s sac bunt. Pérez came in to turn Yoán Moncada around with the tying run on third, and on 1-2 Moncada jumped out of his cleats to crush a juicy fastball down the left-field line for a game-tying double.

Edwards entered to preserve the tie, wasted a slider on pinch-hitter (for Palka!) Ryan Cordell, then left a fastball up in just about the same juicy spot Pérez did to YoYo, and Cordell crushed it out deep to center field, where Martin had been playing him at least 100 feet in front of the fence.

Just like that, the White Sox were up, 3-1, with a chance to see the Progressive field bunting soaked with the frozen tears of thousands of chilled Clevelanders.

After the earlier smartassery from the LGT tweeters, Brett saw fit to sass ’em back:

and the cap-tip:

Nova had thrown just 93 pitches in the game and was positively pounding Cleveland with the fastball-change combo (to the tune of seven innings, six hits, one earned, one walk, four Ks). But the veteran was unable to stake a claim to a deserved win, as manager Ricky Renteria pulled him in favor of Jace Fry, despite knowing that his bullpen was a bit stretched (Alex Colomé and Kelvin Herrera with two days of work in a row, Nate Jones rendered completely ineffectual by, whatever):

So, as uplifting as the top of the eighth was, the bottom half was gutting.

When Fry wasn’t walking batters (leadoff man Martin), he was getting the ball scalded off him (a violent José Ramírez line out to center, a Jake Bauers double off the wall in left-center). Exit Fry, enter Dylan Covey.

With runners on second and third, Renteria opted to put the lead run on base by intentionally walking Santana to get to Hanley Ramírez. Hanley floated a first-pitch fastball out to Sánchez, who saw the ball Whiffle-flop off of the top of his glove for an error, pulling Cleveland to within 3-2.

On the very next pitch, Max Moroff slapped a fastball to left, tying the game with a single.

OK. Tie game. Extra out given Cleveland, by Sánchez.

But from there, Covey (four) and fireman Caleb Frare (six!) threw 10 straight balls, forcing in eventual winning runs four and five with walks. Covey’s walk was beyond egregious, as it was given to catcher Robert Perez, who bats seventh in an awful Cleveland lineup, was 0-for-10 on the season, and hit .168 in 2018. Yeah, he walked. On. Four. Pitches.

And that was all she wrote. Mr. Hand came in for the ninth, and it was aloha, White Sox. Welington Castillo managed to get hit with a pitch to bring the tying run to the plate, but after a Sánchez fly out, Rondón and Engel ended the game with whiffs of the most pathetic nature.

And in the end, a love note from LGT:

White Sox Baseball 2019: Missed You More.