I have seen this game way too many times before. The Cleveland Indians get great starting pitching from an unlikely source, can’t get anything going with the bats, make an ill-timed error, and lose a winnable game. It is getting to become a real tired act.
Poor T.J. House pitched as well as anyone could have possibly hoped for. Coming up from Columbus to replace the injured and ineffective Zach McAllister, the left-hander was borderline dominant. Heading into the seventh, House was working on a three-hit shutout. There was a lot to like from the Southpaw. He was mixing and matching his breaking stuff with his fastball. The command was impeccable. The White Sox had little answer for him.
“I thought he was tremendous,” said manager Terry Francona of his rookie starter. “He pounded the zone on both sides of the plate, worked down in the strike zone and worked quick. On a night when we’re going home pretty frustrated that was as encouraging a start as you’ll see.”
House deserved much better. Chicago was out for the sweep and sent journeyman Hector Noesi to the hill. The righty has bounced around much of his young career and the White Sox are already his third team THIS YEAR. That doesn’t mean anything to the Indians offense, which turned Noesi into the second coming of Curt Schilling in his prime. Other than Jason Giambi’s solo homer in the second, the Tribe couldn’t get anything going. Not even the return of All-Star Jason Kipnis made a difference. Noesi did House one better, pitching into the eighth, giving up just one run on five hits without a walk. The approach was far from effective.
“He was locating. He was throwing his changeup,” said Giambi of Noesi. “He hit both the inside corner and outside corner. You have to tip your cap. He threw the ball great tonight.”
It certainly helps when you get to face an Indians offense that has scored just seven runs during this now-four game losing streak. The injuries aren’t helping matters – the Indians are without both Carlos Santana and Nick Swisher and just welcomed back Kipnis – but the is professional baseball here. It is next man up. The offense just isn’t doing enough.
Meanwhile, the Indians had that 1-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh when the Sox had a man on second and one out. House was pulled for right-hander Scott Atchison, who got Tyler Flowers to ground out. But with two out, Marcus Semien came through with a game-tying single right between the wickets of Atchison, who pounded his glove in disgust. The Sox would then take the lead in the eighth on an Adam Dunn sac fly. Cody Allen had come in to relieve Atchison had had real trouble finding the strike zone. He walked two and gave up a single to Connor Gillaspie.
Interim closer Ronald Belisario looked to finish out the sweep for the Sox, but it was a trick of the Tribe that would bite them. Michael Brantley led off with a sharp single that hit right off of the hip of Belisario. Kipnis was next. He hit a double-play ball right to Dunn at first base. He stepped on the bag and then fired to second, but the throw sailed into left field. It was the kind of error the Indians have committed all year long. With first base open, Sox manager Robin Ventura, still smarting from last year’s heroics, decided to intentionally walk the lead run, Giambi, to set to double play. Pitcher Josh Tomlin was brought in to pinch run for Big G.
Lonnie Chisenhall flied out for the second out, but the Tribe still had one more bullet remaining. Yan Gomes came into the at bat zero for his last 11. But the Yanimal came through with a single to left that scored Brantley and tied the game at two. Unfortunately, the excitement would be short lived.
Flowers started the home half of the ninth with a routine groundball to third. Mike Aviles had come in to pinch run for Jesus Aguilar in the eighth, threw low to the first baseman Chisenhall, who had moved across the diamond an inning earlier. Chiz couldn’t scoop it out and Flowers was safe on the Aviles error. This is what happens when you have a second baseman playing third and a third baseman playing first.
“Routine ground ball, play that’s gotta be made, and I didn’t make it,” Aviles said. “I mean, usually make it, I’d say almost every time. But, for whatever reason, I threw the ball and didn’t have anything behind it. Just messed it up, I guess.”
Pinch runner Leurys Garcia stole second, was moved to third on a Semien fly ball, and scored the game-winning run on a Moises Sierra single. The sweep was complete and once again, bad defense and a lack of offense were the recipe for Tribe disaster.
“When you’re on the road, you’re a mistake away from something. We didn’t convert the first ground ball and we end up — we were on the road. You make a mistake [and] that’s what has a chance of happening,” said Francona.
The Indians now come home looking to find themselves and get this offense going. It won’t be easy with the Colorado Rockies coming in town Friday. The off day Thursday is welcomed by all.
“Yeah, it’ll be good for us,” Francona said. “Everybody’s dragging a little bit, and we need to go home and take the day off, use it to our advantage and then come out and get after it.”
(AP Photo/ Matt Marton)