Anatomy of a meltdown: Sox implode vs. Baltimore

Anatomy of a meltdown: Sox implode vs. Baltimore
April 17, 2012, 4:25 am
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A 4-1 lead heading into the eighth inning. That sounds pretty good for a White Sox bullpen that was lining up Jesse Crain and Hector Santiago to finish the game off.

The Orioles practically handed the White Sox that three-run lead, playing generally deplorable baseball through the first seven innings of Monday's contest. So when Matt Wieters went deep off Crain in the eighth, it didn't seem like much of a threat. One solo home run wasn't going to be the undoing of the Sox.

Crain scuffled through the rest of the inning, walking Mark Reynolds and giving up a single to Chris Davis with two out before striking out Robert Andino looking to hold the Orioles at bay.

The Sox were put away easily in the eighth outside of an A.J. Pierzynski single. Whatever, just get Santiago in, nail down the save and improve to 6-3.

Santiago was pretty well squeezed against Nolan Reimold to lead off the top of the ninth, throwing two pitches that were in the strike zone that were called balls. The latter of those pitches should've been strike three, and it was followed up with a home run. 4-3. The sequence, via Brooks Baseball:

That sixth pitch was a mid-90's fastball just out of the strike zone on the outer third. Given the inside corner was taken away in the sequence, though, Santiago could've stood to elevate that pitch more, or get it a little further outside. Reimold was able to cheat to the outer third, and it helped him make it a one-run game.

Should Santiago have struck Reimold out? Absolutely. Should he have thrown a better 3-2 offering? Absolutely. You can only blame umpires for so much, and Lance Barrett didn't throw a hittable payoff pitch.

Barrett then gave Santiago some generous calls in the next two at-bats -- Don Cooper's argument and subsequent ejection maybe helped with that -- which left Adam Jones as the last remaining player standing between the Sox and a win.

But Santiago absolutely grooved a 2-1 fastball, which Jones promptly belted for a game-tying home run. There wasn't much to this one. It was just a fastball right down the middle, and Jones, possessing good power, whacked it over the fence.

Okay, so that's a rough way to lose a lead. But it only tied the game, and at home, the Sox did have a chance to win it in the bottom of the frame. A 1-2-3 bottom of the inning, which ended with a soft Gordon Beckham flyout on a hanging slider, washed away that chance.

And then the top of the 10th happened. The gory details don't really need to be re-hashed, but needless to say it wasn't the finest hour for Zach Stewart, Alejandro De Aza and the right side of the White Sox infield.

When the dust settled, Baltimore led 10-4. After being down 4-1 heading into the eighth.

This is the kind of loss the White Sox can't afford to take. The Orioles gave the Sox every possible opportunity to win the game, but the Sox didn't take advantage. And the Orioles are not a good team, no matter what their 6-4 record may show.

The White Sox don't have a big margin for error in 2012. Even a handful of losses like Monday's could be the difference between contention and not playing meaningful games in August and September.