Seems so simple.
The White Sox had rallied to make it a game late Monday night and were one measly out away from a quick half inning.
Then the bullpen self-destructed yet again.
By the time it was over the Baltimore Orioles waltzed out of U.S. Cellular Field with an 8-2 victory over the White Sox in the opener of a three-game series. Chris Sale lost for only the third time in 13 decisions after the bullpen allowed five runs during an eighth-inning rally.
“They came back there with two huge runs to get us within one and all we needed was to get one out right there and go back in the dugout,” reliever Matt Lindstrom said. “I ended up pretty much not being able to have the game close any more.”
The bullpen’s problems are no secret.
They have been known to lay dormant for a game or two, maybe even a week at a time, just long enough to convince one they have been completely eradicated.
And then boom — they return in all their glory.
The White Sox trailed 3-2 entering the eighth inning.
But a bullpen that entered the game with a 4.43 ERA couldn’t keep the deficit at one.
Ronald Belisario recorded five outs in relief of Sale, but couldn’t get out of the eighth inning as he gave up a two-out single to J.J. Hardy. Eric Surkamp then hit Chris Davis and on came Lindstrom.
Lindstrom walked Caleb Joseph to load the bases and Jonathan Schoop unloaded them with a three-run double to left-center field to make it 6-2. Then Nick Markakis followed with a two-run homer to right to give Baltimore an 8-2 advantage.
Since he returned from nearly three months on the disabled list, Lindstrom has allowed six earned runs and seven hits in two innings over three games.
“He's probably more in the middle of the plate than he wants to be,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Any time you see guys hitting it that hard, you're probably more in the middle of the plate than you'd like to be. The slider and everything else, he needs to be able to hit the corners and get guys chasing. That's when he's really at his best.”
But the Orioles didn’t just hit the White Sox bullpen on Monday -- they got to Sale, too.
Hardy ripped a 0-1 fastball from Sale out in the second inning for a 1-0 lead. Steve Pearce doubled in another run with two outs in the fifth inning to make it 2-0 and it could have been three runs if not for a fantastic diving stop and throw home by Gordon Beckham on the ensuing single by Adam Jones.
Nelson Cruz then homered off Sale in the sixth inning to put Baltimore ahead by three. It was the first two-homer game Sale has allowed this season as he entered the game with seven yielded in 130 innings.
Sale allowed three earned runs and eight hits with two walks and eight strikeouts over six innings.
“I felt good,” Sale said. “I felt loose, just kind of sporadic. I felt like maybe early in the game it was fine, but there late it was just throwing a lot of pitches, giving up hits, and getting deep into counts giving up hits.”
Baltimore starter Bud Norris took advantage and was flawless until the seventh. Avisail Garcia’s two-out, two-run single got the White Sox within a run, however. Conor Gillaspie then appeared to put the Sox ahead with a two-run homer to right only for Markakis to rob him.
From there things only got worse for the White Sox and their troubled bullpen.
“I can get strike two on everybody, it's a matter of finishing the hitter,” Lindstrom said. “It's a little frustrating right now. I can get guys strike one, strike two, it's just a matter of put them away. That's been kind of elusive for me the last couple outings. That's been kind of a tough pill to swallow, especially since the game is so close right there. I get ahead of Joseph and then end up walking him. Then trying to get a ground ball right there first pitch and he (Schoop) ends up turning on it. It's frustrating right now, for sure.”