Bullpen springs late leak in White Sox loss
With no more relievers, Garcia gives up two-run double in 14th inning
CHICAGO -- John Danks sat at his locker following Thursday's 6-4 loss to the Red Sox in 14 innings and smiled as the media approached.
"Come on, I pitched yesterday," said Danks with a laugh.
Danks was telling the truth. He threw the first pitch of the game at 7:10 p.m. CT on Wednesday and the final out was recorded at 12:27 a.m. on Thursday.
In between those five hours and 17 minutes of action, the White Sox (8-7) held Red Sox hitters to two infield hits from the fourth batter of the game to Jackie Bradley Jr.'s two-run, game-winning double with two outs in the 14th.
Bradley's line drive barely stayed fair down the right-field line and came off White Sox infielder Leury Garcia, who pitched for the first time in his Major League career. The infielder became the first White Sox position player to pitch in a game since Casper Wells on June 28, 2013, against the Indians.
"The first time in my career," said Garcia with a smile of his 25-pitch effort. "So that was awesome."
"He's got good stuff," said Danks of Garcia. "I want him to teach me a sinker like that."
Garcia would have never been in this game if a large portion of the White Sox bullpen before him could throw strikes. Danks allowed one run on three hits over six innings and exited with a 3-1 lead, courtesy of Alexei Ramirez's two-run homer off Clay Buchholz in the sixth. Ramirez has hit in all 15 games this season, tying Frank Thomas' franchise record for a hitting streak to start the season from 1996.
But after Ronald Belisario threw a perfect seventh, the walks began to pile up. It was a total that reached 15 for the contest when factoring in the four from Danks. Scott Downs faced David Ortiz to lead off the eighth and walked him. Jake Petricka was next and walked Jonny Gomes. It was then Donnie Veal's turn, who allowed A.J. Pierzynski's sacrifice fly and walked Daniel Nava.
Maikel Cleto walked pinch-hitter Mike Carp before stranding the bases loaded, but he walked Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts to start the ninth when given the chance to finish the game. Matt Lindstrom limited the damage in his appearance, but he was charged with his third blown save after Gomes' infield hit and Grady Sizemore's sacrifice fly.
Downs, Petricka, Veal and Cleto combined to throw just 16 of their 45 pitches for strikes.
"For one reason or another, we didn't seem to throw it over," manager Robin Ventura said. "So, you know, a game that if you are going to give them that many opportunities, you are a little surprised you are in it that late into the game. You just can't give them that many opportunities."
"I was just seeing pitcher after pitcher," Bradley said. "You were just trying to focus on that guy who's in there right then and there."
With the White Sox out of relievers, Daniel Webb had to throw 59 pitches over three innings. He was in line for the loss in the 11th before Tyler Flowers' two-out, two-strike single off Edward Mujica scored Jordan Danks in the bottom of the frame.
One major post-loss question for Ventura centered on why he stuck with Cleto in the ninth and didn't start with Lindstrom, who he usually likes to present a full inning to and labeled as still his closer before the game. Ventura said that they were running out of pitchers and hoped to get through without using those extra guys.
Lindstrom started warming up right as the top of the ninth inning began.
"They just told me to be ready to follow Cleto, so I did as told," Lindstrom said. "I could kind of see how they wouldn't be confident in me in that situation, but I was feeling good before BP throwing. I felt like I was ready and did my normal routine to get ready to go out there in the ninth.
"It was a tough loss. Our guys battled their butts off today. Even watching Leury pitch, he did a pretty good job. Webb, he threw three innings, great job. Obviously the walks kind of hurt us. It was a great team effort. The Red Sox are a tough team and we just fell a little short there and it's unfortunate, but we've still got a chance tomorrow to go out and win the series."
Cutting down on the walks will be a necessary first step to the White Sox winning more games. Lindstrom suggested a talk among the relievers during Thursday's contest to start focusing on trusting their good stuff and not giving the opposing hitters too much credit.
"As long as we can make sure we understand we have a good defense behind us and attack the zone, it's going to be tough to hit," Lindstrom said. "I found that out myself a little tonight. I attacked the zone a little bit better with my sinker and I got outs even when I wasn't trying to do too much with it."
There was a chance for the White Sox to go three games over .500 with this victory, a spot they never reached last year. But after 504 combined pitches on the night, the Red Sox walked away with the victory.
"We battled together as a team, especially our hitters," Lindstrom said. "They put together some pretty good at-bats against a pretty good pitcher and bullpen. We'll get 'em tomorrow."