It’s tough to beat Shane Bieber.
And when you spot him six runs, it’s nearly impossible.
Despite taking an early lead against the ace, the White Sox (33-22) couldn’t contain Cleveland’s underwhelming lineup, and left the bases loaded to end a 6-5 loss on Tuesday.
The White Sox had chances to steal a road win, even as they trailed 6-3 in the ninth inning with James Karinchak on the mound. They handed the Cleveland reliever his second loss of the season on Monday, and came close to tagging him with another on Tuesday.
Jake Lamb, who finished 2-for-2 with two walks, singled to start the rally, and then scored on Zack Collins’ one-run single with one out. Following Adam Eaton’s strikeout, Tim Anderson and Nick Madrigal both singled up the middle to cut the deficit to 6-5. Yoán Moncada capped a 2-for-3 day with his second walk, to load the bases for MVP José Abreu.
But Abreu’s rough day at the plate concluded on a 2-0 pitch, when he chopped a ground out on a 96.4-mph fastball low and outside to end the game. He finished 0-for-5 and personally stranded eight men on base, which included a double play earlier in the game. The ninth inning presented the White Sox’s best offensive inning, but like all night, ended one hit away from truly making a mark on the scoreboard.
If not for early contributions from Andrew Vaughn and Billy Hamilton, it could’ve became an insurmountable lead. Instead, it was a game the White Sox held a lead in, and had multiple chances later to retake the lead.
Vaughn made a running catch and diving grab in the first inning to prevent Cleveland from padding an early 2-0 lead. His web-gem-worthy diving catch to end the frame concluded a wild first inning for the equally-wild Dylan Cease.
It came after a dropped third strike on Eddie Rosario kept the first inning alive, as Cleveland hit a pair of weak RBI singles around a balk to take an early lead. While Cleveland’s later runs were due to Cease’s command issues, hanging breaking pitches and high pitch count, it was a wild sight for a seemingly harmless first frame to turn into a multi-run deficit.
Then, Bieber met Billy the Hitter.
In the second inning, Hamilton drove a fastball into right-center field, turning a near-major-league home run into a Little League home run. He doubled home Lamb and Collins, advanced to third on the throw home, and then scored when the relay throw got away from catcher Austin Hedges. The White Sox took a 3-2 lead, while Hamilton had a swollen face from the slide to remember the play.
Cease never had a 1-2-3 inning, and Bieber’s first clean inning came in the fifth. But as the White Sox grounded into double plays, Cleveland drove Cease out of the game after 3 1⁄3 innings.
Cease finished with 11 whiffs, including only two on his 4-seam fastball, as he never found his put-away pitch. Cleveland fouled off 17 pitches, and put 17 balls in play.
Harold Ramirez tied the game with a two-out, RBI single on a hanging slider in the third inning, with Cease coming a strike away from working around a leadoff double. An inning later, Cease hung a slider in the middle of the zone to Hedges, who hit a two-run homer to left field. His final pitching line closed after José Ruiz gave up an RBI-double to José Ramírez, giving Cleveland a 6-3 lead. It was the only hit allowed by the bullpen of Ruiz, Ryan Burr and Garrett Crochet.
Cease finished 3 1⁄3 innings allowing six earned runs, eight hits, and a walk while only striking out two batters. Cleveland recorded six hard-hit balls, as well. Cease’s start simply wasn’t enough, even as the White Sox had their most success this season against Bieber.
They put a runner on base in each of the first four innings. Also, after recording 10 hard-hit balls combined in Bieber’s first two starts, the White Sox finished with eight hard-hit balls against him on Tuesday.
The problem is other than Hamilton’s double, they failed to translate the loud contact into runs. Moncada, Lamb, Collins and Anderson all recorded two hits during the 10-hit game, but a pair of double plays stymied chances. Bieber also retired nine of 10 batters — Lamb drew a walk to prevent three perfect frames — in his final three innings, with four of his seven strikeouts coming during those innings. He recorded four strikeouts on his slider and three with his curveball.
Bieber left after throwing 103 pitches in a seven-inning start, giving up three runs (two earned) on five hits and two walks.
The White Sox brought the tying run to the plate in both innings pitched by Cleveland relievers. But Abreu was retired twice, and Yermín Mercedes struck out on a bad slider from Bryan Shaw to conclude the eighth inning.
The White Sox go for the series split at 12:10 p.m. CT on Wednesday. Bill Meincke has the recap coverage, while Chrystal O’Keefe takes the Six Pack of Stats.