White Sox reeling after doubleheader sweep
By TOM WITHERS
CLEVELAND (AP) Although he's their first-year manager, Robin Ventura has been around long enough to know there would be tough times for the Chicago White Sox.
Chicago dropped both games in a day-night doubleheader Monday to the Cleveland Indians, who won the nightcap 3-2 on Shelley Duncan's RBI double in the eighth inning off reliever Matt Thornton, shortly after an 85-minute rain delay.
The White Sox have dropped six of seven and four in a row to the first-place Indians.
"It's no fun to go through it," Ventura said. "It gets frustrating. The way guys are grinding, you can't fault them for anything. It's just the way it goes. You battle, battle, battle and then they come out and get that last one at the end."
Chicago lost the opener 8-6 and was swept in a doubleheader in Cleveland for the first time since 1976.
The White Sox also fell to 2-6 more than halfway through a stretch of 15 straight games against division foes.
However, despite losing the two games, the White Sox may have found a replacement for Chris Sale, who was recently named the closer after a short stint as a starter.
Eric Stults was recalled from Triple-A Charlotte to start the night game and allowed two runs and four hits in six innings, the last in a steady downpour.
In the first game, reliever Jose Quintana, who was added to Chicago's roster as the 26th-man exemption for a doubleheader, pitched 5 2-3 shutout innings in his major league debut. Quintana will be sent back to Double-A Birmingham while Stults will stay with the major league club for a while.
Stults, who made his first start in the majors since 2009 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, doesn't know when he'll get a second start.
"I haven't heard a thing from here on out about their plans," Stults said. "I took today and tried to pitch as well as I could."
In the second game, Duncan ripped a pitch from left-hander Matt Thornton (1-2) into the left-field corner, scoring Asdrubal Cabrera as the first-place Indians won for the eighth time in 11 games. After leading the AL Central for nearly five months last season before fading, Duncan believes the Indians are better prepared to finish what they've started.
"I don't feel like we're playing over our shoes," he said. "We're more in control. We're a good team."
The Indians won the opener 8-6 behind Zach McAllister, who came up from Triple-A Columbus and an offense that pounded Philip Humber into submission. Also, Nick Hagadone got his first major league save in the opener and Tony Sipp earned the second save of his career in the nightcap, saving manager Manny Acta's bullpen.
"We're playing good baseball," said Acta, whose team got off to a 30-15 start in 2011 before the late-season collapse. "We're playing better baseball at home, and it seems like we're getting the hang of it again."
Cleveland's Josh Tomlin allowed five hits in 7-1 3 innings - most of the final three in a steady downpour. He struck out a career-high eight, allowed two walks and maintained his control despite slick, slippery conditions on the mound.
Joe Smith (2-1) gave up a game-tying single after a lengthy rain delay, but got two outs and was credited with the win after Duncan's single.
Sipp worked the ninth for his first save, getting Tyler Flowers to ground to second with one on for the final out a few pitches after Chicago's catcher hit a long fly ball that nearly left the ballpark.
"Get ahead (in the count), right?," Smith said, poking fun at Sipp, who got his first save since July 23, 2010. "It doesn't matter if it goes 500 feet as long as it goes foul."
Cleveland's Travis Hafner homered and tripled in the opener. He struck out twice in the second game but was hit by a pitch for the 79th time in his career, tying him with Nap Lajoie for the team record.
Cabrera opened the eighth with a bloop single off Thornton, and Carlos Santana followed with a flair to almost the exact spot in shallow right-center. After Hafner popped out, Duncan pulled Thornton's pitch down the line to make it 3-2 and give the few hundred fans who stuck around after a lengthy rain delay something to cheer.
The White Sox tied it 2-all in the eighth, moments after a 1-hour, 25-minute rain delay, on Alex Rios' RBI single.
With the sky darkening and radar showing heavy rain approaching, the Indians scored twice in the fifth to take a 2-1 lead and put Tomlin in position for the win.
Tomlin retired the White Sox in order in the sixth and seventh before running into trouble in the eighth as the rain intensified. With one out, he walked Alejandro De Aza and gave up a single to Gordon Beckham before Acta decided to pull his right-hander and bring in reliever Dan Wheeler.
But as Wheeler neared the mound, crew chief Larry Vanover ordered the groundscrew to cover the infield at 9:09 p.m. The rain delay lasted 85 minutes, and when play resumed, Acta put in side-armer Smith, who wasn't supposed to pitch to face Rios, who promptly hit an RBI single to tie it 2-2.
The Indians, though, pulled this one out in the late innings as they did so many times last season.
"I think we have more confidence that a year ago," Smith said. "We had young guys who gained a lot of experience and we're building off that and hopefully we can keep it going."
Meanwhile, Humber has gone from perfect to perfectly flawed.
Humber (2-1) couldn't get out of the third inning as the Indians tagged him for eight runs and nine hits in 2 1-3 innings. He hasn't been sharp since pitching the 21st perfect game in major league history last month. Since then, Humber has allowed 20 runs in 13 1-3 innings and gone 0-2 with a no-decision.
"I'm frustrated," Humber said. "I'm doing my best, it's just the last two or three times out there, it's been rough. I'm definitely hoping for better results. I'm doing the best I can to make that happen, but right now it's kind of a grind."
NOTES: Chicago's Adam Dunn went hitless in six at-bats, grounded into a double play is in a 3-for-17 slump. He has struck out once in 34 consecutive games. .... Cleveland moved six games over .500 for the first time this year. ... The day-night twinbill drew just 19,679 total fans. Despite being in first place, the Indians have the lowest average attendance in the majors.
Updated May 8, 2012