I don’t like being the guy who blames umpires/refs/officials for a loss. I’d say every year you lose one game in baseball strictly thanks to terrible umpiring. That game was last night.
Sure, you can point the finger at Ubaldo Jimenez, who was very unimpressive and unable to get out of the fifth inning. You could look at Shin-Soo Choo who had the winning run on third with one out in the 13th and K’d. He was also bailed out in the bottom of the ninth when his one out double play ball was booted by Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham, allowing the tying run to score. But the biggest factor in this game was clearly the umpiring.
To call it embarrassing doesn’t do it justice. Home plate umpire Laz Diaz had a seemingly one way strike zone wider than the Grand Canyon for 14 innings while also calling pitches at the ankles as strikes. First base ump Wally Bell was constantly out of position, including what could have been a game winning blown call in the 10th. Third base umpire Scott Barry called every single check swing a strike, no matter how far a player went (Travis Hafner’s K in the ninth was the most egregious with the winning run on second and two out) and blew a huge call at third. Second base umpire John Hirshbeck had issues of his own on Choo’s “single” in the fourth. Lets look at the worst of the worst:
Trailing 5-2 in the fourth with two on and one out, Asdrubal Cabrera was called out on a 3-2 pitch that was clearly a foot outside. It wasn’t even close. The next four Indians reached on two singles and two walks. The “called third strike” cost the Tribe one run there.
With the score tied at five Alejandro De Aza tripled in Brent Morel, to put the Sox ahead. Choo threw an absolute strike to third that beat De Aza to the bag. He was clearly out, yet Barry ruled him safe. Paul Konerko followed by singling De Aza in. That was the second run the umpires cost the Indians.
While it didn’t cost them a run in the 10th thanks to a double play by Konerko, Bell missed Matt LaPorta tagging De Aza in the back on a drag bunt. Replays clearly showed he was out. Tony Sipp, who was lifted for Chris Perez after the blown call, was so frustrated he was screaming at Bell on his way off the field and was tossed. Sipp went back to get in his face and get his moneys worth.
Which brings me to Acta. Last year I was very critical of him not sticking up for his players with close plays on the field. I respect the fact that he is a mild mannered, calm guy. But last night screamed for him to get tossed and make a scene. How many more times can his team get screwed in one game before he comes out and loses it? If there was ever a night to do it, it was last night.
Ugh. Did I really stay up until 1:45 for this?
Back to Jimenez. I will give the guy the benefit of the doubt, but last night was the type of game that you traded for him to show up and win. Instead, he wet himself.
“I didn’t have any command of my pitches,” said Jimenez. “I couldn’t throw my fastball or breaking ball for a strike. They knew it. Everytime I was falling behind in the count, they looked for a fastball and did what they were supposed to do.”
That’s not what you want to here from your newly minted #1 starter against the team that is directly chasing his team. To put things into perspective, think about the fact that Jimenez was knocked out of the game in the fifth inning, allowing four earned runs on nine hits in 105 pitches. Josh Tomlin hasn’t gone less than five innings in any of his 36 career starts.
But while Jimenez was getting worked over, the Indians offense continued to battle back. They trailed 2-0 in the fourth, but got one back on an Asdrubal Cabrera sac fly. The inning could have been bigger, but Choo’s gap shot to the wall was stopped because of an interference call between SS Alexi Ramirez and Michael Brantley, who ran into each other as Brantley hit second base. Choo was half way to second when Brantley was knocked down. It was clear Choo would be into second with a double, yet the play was stopped. Hirshbeck asked for help, didn’t get any, and Choo was stopped at first. After the sac fly by AC where Choo would have been moved to third, Hafner grounded into an inning ending DP.
After Jimenez gave up a solo homer to Juan Pierre (he of no power and one homer entering last night) in the fourth, they got it back on a Jason Donald sac fly. Ubaldo was knocked out by three Sox runs in the fifth, and once again the Wahoos came back with a vengeance.
Facing starter Gavin Floyd who struck out seven of the first nine guys he faced, they scored twice on two-out RBI singles by Hafner and Carlos Santana to chase Floyd. In came lefty Will Ohman who couldn’t find the plate, despite Diaz’s joe of a strikezone. He walked Kosuke Fukudome to load the bases and Donald to force in the tying run. After five and a half, we were tied at five.
The Tribe offense was showing the grit that had been lacking for long stretches of the season.
Frank Herrmann, who relieved Jimenez in the fifth, was touched up for two runs as the Sox again forged ahead 7-5. The first run came on the afformentioned De Aza “triple” where he was clearly out. He would score on Konerko’s single.
Hafner’s solo bomb off of lefty Chris Sale in the eighth got the Tribe to within a run. In the bottom of the ninth, they had one last chance, this time against Sox closer Sergio Santos. He made the mistake of walking pinch hitter Ezequiel Carrera with one out. Michael Brantley, who had three hits in his return to the lineup, blooped a single in front of Alex Rios in Center with Carrera moving the whole way. It was a risk Zeke took, but a smart one. They were in business with runners at the corners and one out. Choo then brought in Zeke to tie the game on a fielder’s choice that Beckham bobbled at second. Cabrera singled moving Choo to second, but Hafner K’d to end the threat.
Vinnie Pestano got the Sox in the ninth and on to extras we went where both teams took turns failing to come through and win the game.
The Sox put two on in the 10th against Sipp and Chris Perez, but didn’t score thanks to a one-out DP from Konerko. In the 11th, they managed to strand Rios after a leadoff triple, quite the Houdini act by the Tribe closer.
Cabrera never moved after his leadoff walk in the 12th. The Sox left Brent Morel on second in the bottom half of the inning against Chad Durbin, the Tribe’s last reliever.
In the 13th, the Indians had their best chance to take the lead. They loaded the bases against Jesse Crain with one out on two walks and a Brantley single. But Crain came back to K Choo and get Cabrera to ground out.
Finally, the Sox broke through in the bottom of the 14th. Beckham doubled with one out and was moved to third on an infield single by Morel. David Huff, scheduled to start this weekend in Detroit, was summoned to face the lefty Pierre and Pierre got him with an RBI single to left to win it for the Sox.
“This one hurts, obviously,” Perez said. “But we’re not going anywhere. And I’m sure that the Tigers and White Sox are waiting for us to drop out, like, ‘Oh, they’re not supposed to be here.’ We’re not going to go anywhere.”
The Sox sit just a half game back of the Indians, who are three back of the Tigers. Where the Indians are right now can be traced right back to their lack of success against Chicago, who are now 7-1 against them. That number is exactly why this is a three-team race and the Indians haven’t been able to shake their South Side nemesis.
“It’s definitely something we need to change — 7-1 against a team,” Perez said. “That’s not a fluke. At the same time, it doesn’t bury us. But it would be nice to hold our own.”