Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010
Updated 12:14 AM
By Brett Ballantini
CLEVELAND What began as a laugher got a little tense, and then nearly tragic.
Thankfully for the Chicago White Sox, already doing the equivalent of treading water while waiting for unbalanced slugger Manny Ramirez to be their sunrise out of the West, the club got its head back above water after slipping below the surface and nearly drowning in a fall-from-ahead, surge back in the 11th, 10-6 win over the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on Monday night.
With a 1-2 count and two outs, Brent Lillibridge launched a solo shot off of Rafael Perez to provide what would be the deciding run. It also answered a 2-for-27 stretch for the utilityman.
Thats an ugly game, no matter if you win or lose, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. I felt like I was in spring training at Tucson. It was a very bad game. Thank God we won it. You look up at the scoreboard and see 35 people left on base, 36 base hits but when you win, you feel a little bit better.
Lillibridge, whod earlier made an error that led to the tying run scoring in the ninth, had a decidedly brighter reaction: I just thanked God. I was squared up, got it over the fence. I just wanted to get us out of this game, get us home, get a win.
The White Sox added three more tallies in the 11th, including an RBI double from Alex Rios on his fifth hit of the evening.
Alex was huge for us, Guillen said. Rios has been very consistent all year long. Its been a very great year for him.
Manny will change a lot, but check the scoreboard and see how many hits were getting. Our offense has been pretty sturdy the last couple of weeks. We score one or two runs for a game here or there and everybody says, Oh, we need a hitter.
In the empty space of the glass, the White Sox stranded a wholly impeachable 15 runners, including leaving the bases full in three separate innings, with A.J. Pierzynski twice tapping out with the sacks packed, Juan Pierre once.
The White Sox jumped out to a 5-0 lead in just the first two innings, Paul Konerko supplying a two-run double in the first, and Mark Kotsay and Rios supplied three more runs in the second to pace what quickly looked like a runaway.
But the fourth inning featured the revenge of Jayson Nix, who rainbowed a two-run homer deep to left, and in the very next frame Travis Hafner plated another with a long double. But Chisox starter Mark Buehrle bore down, catching Nix looking and, after walking Andy Marte to fill the bases, got Jason Donald swinging.
It wasnt the last Cleveland rally of the night. After Rios clocked a solo homer in the sixth to restore the Chicago lead to three, the Wahoos again put runners on second and third in the eighth. But rather than walking them full, Bobby Jenks came on in relief of Sergio Santos to strike out Asdrubal Cabrera and end the threat.
Jenks would fail to succeed in a too-common inning-plus save. As nails were bitten to nubs, Jenks commenced his blown save with a dreaded leadoff walk to Shin-Soo Choo. After a defensive indifference placed him on second, Shelley Duncan looped a soft single to left, cutting the White Sox lead to 6-4. Hafner then doubled, and with runners on second and third Luis Valbuena singled, scoring Duncan. On Valbuenas Baltimore chop, Lillibridge threw wide to first, the error plating Hafner for the tie. With Valbuena moving to second on the error and third on a groundout, Jenks retired Trevor Crowe on a groundout to Lillibridge.
Im just trying to do my job, Lillibridge said of the game-tying play. It was an in-between play, whether I should have thrown it. Im still going to take a chance on it and be aggressive, but it was a barehand, awkward throw. Im just trying to get Bobby an out. It was a rough inning, and we battled through it.
Both manager and team saw Jenks' effort as heroic, rather than falling short.
Its not Bobbys fault, Guillen said. Our bullpen has to pick him up. Bobbys been throwing a lot of innings. Weve been short in the bullpen so for Jenks to go out and throw 30-40 pitches, thats not easy. Meanwhile, we fought back and score the runs we needed to come back.
What are you going to do, hes missing with balls downhes not catching too much of the plateand all of a sudden theres a trampoline in front of home plate bouncing balls all over the place.
Scott Linebrink relieved Jenks and earned his second win of the season with two perfect innings.
We didnt really plan on drawing the win up like that, Linebrink said. But they got some cheap stuff there in the ninth inning, high choppers and the bloops to the outfield. That stuffs gonna happen sometimes and we were able to battle back."
In what is becoming a tedious trend in White Sox contests as the team wheezes to the end of August, an apparent significant injury was suffered, even in this winning cause. Gordon Beckham, who entered the game hitting .342 over his past 43 games, was hit in his right wrist with a pitch in the seventh. After hitting the dirt and writhing in pain, Beckham walked off the field and was replaced by Lillibridge.
Beckham was in a great deal of pain postgame, but nonetheless felt he would be ready to play by the weekend, at worst. It looked uglier to begin with, when the X-ray technician initially told the second baseman that his hand was broken. Beckham was stunned, before learning that, no, in fact, his hand was merely bruised.
Rookie League, assessed the irritated sophomore.
But in spite of comebacks, fallbacks, injuries and heroism, there were silver linings on Monday night. They just took a little longer to see.
I know we were out here a little bit longer than we wanted to be, but to win a big game like thisif wed have lost this one, it would have been a heartbreaking loss, Linebrink said. So it kind of shifts the momentum right back around and hopefully well catch a wave here and ride it. You battle in games like this, especially on the road, and come up with a victory, that can give you a huge boost of confidence, just like how we strung those hits together in the 11th inning. The same thing can happen with a few games in a row here, with winning.
For all the doomsday scenarios that could have played out progressively, as tired heads hit pillows tonight, its a wonderful way to start a long and crucial road trip.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.