CHICAGO: Perhaps even Mother Nature did not want the Indians to face Chris Sale.
The White Sox ace left-hander, a two-time All-Star, came into Tuesday night’s game against the Indians at U.S. Cellular Field having retired 23 consecutive left-handed batters. The Indians were 6-12 this season against left-handed starters.
Sale stretched his streak to 27 straight, pitching three innings before the rain came and delayed the game one hour and 58 minutes. But even a gift from above could not stop the Indians’ stumbles against lefties. Conor Gillaspie’s RBI single in the third inning and Gordon Beckham’s solo home run in the fifth were all the White Sox needed in a 2-1 victory.
The game was delayed for a total of two hours and 39 minutes. It started 41 minutes late because of rain in the area. It resumed for good at 11:47 p.m. EDT.
“Any time you don’t have to face Sale it is a blessing,” Indians third baseman Mike Aviles said. “Everybody knows how nasty that guy can be and is. The whole American League knows that.
“Any time you get him out after three innings, usually it’s because you did something good. In this situation it was rain. We thought we could get to their bullpen, but their bullpen was lights out tonight. They did a great job with men on base and pretty much kept their team in the game.”
The outcome spoiled arguably the best catch of the season in the eighth inning, when Indians center fielder Michael Bourn robbed Paul Konerko of a two-run home run. Bourn went up against the fence, leaped and stretched his glove over the yellow padding, slamming his back as he made the catch.
Aviles thought it was SportsCenter-worthy.
“That was unbelievable,” Aviles said. “I mean, I’m pretty sure that’s going to be a No. 1 play. I didn’t think he was going to get to it, then all of a sudden he sprung up and made a sick catch.”
Tribe manager Terry Francona called it, “One of the better plays you're ever going to see.”
“And in a one-run game, it gives you a chance,” Francona said. “As long as you have a chance, we'll win some of those. Even with the lack of hitting with runners in scoring position, when guys make plays like that, anytime you have the tying run come to the plate in the last inning, we've shown that we can win those games.”
The Indians fared better at the plate once Sale left. They closed to within 2-1 in the seventh when Lonnie Chisenhall and left-hander David Murphy singled off lefty Scott Downs. Right-hander Jake Petricka came on for the White Sox and Aviles scored Chisenhall on a fielder’s choice grounder. But Aviles was caught stealing, with Justin Sellers possibly missing a hit-and-run signal for the second time in three days.
Facing right-hander Scott Carroll (2-3, 5.46) in the fourth, Michael Brantley and Ryan Raburn singled back-to-back. Asdrubal Cabrera and pinch-hitter Chisenhall hit balls to the wall in center field that the cool air seemed to knock down and the Tribe failed to score.
In the sixth, Cabrera and Raburn singled, the latter with one out, but Yan Gomes grounded into a double play.
Sale was dominating from the start, retiring the Tribe in the first in three minutes. Three Tribe left-handers – Bourn, Brantley and Murphy – went 0 for 4 against Sale. He did not allow a hit and walked only one before the long delay ended his night. He was making only his second start since coming off the disabled list with a flexor muscle strain that kept him out over a month.
But the inning the Indians played in a downpour that was nearly as challenging. In the bottom of the third, Aviles twice made gestures towards the umpire wondering why the game was not being halted. As water pooled around his base, Aviles did not charge a grounder off the bat of Alexei Ramirez, letting it go for a single. He said he didn’t see Adam Eaton’s single that went by him into left field; Eaton ended up scoring the first run for the White Sox.
“I barely could see from me to Masty,” Aviles said of Eaton’s hit. “It was raining pretty good. It was one of those balls that skipped right by me. I know I heard it.”
Aviles said there was no sense charging Ramirez’s ball.
“No. That’s one of those balls that on a normal day I’ll come charge it and make a play,” Aviles said. “But in this situation with the way the rain was, the ball’s probably wet, the grass was wet, I mean, even if I do make that play and throw the ball to first, there’s a good chance the ball goes away. I didn’t want to take that chance there, prolong the inning, who knows what that would lead to.”
Asked what he was saying to the umpire, Aviles said third base ump Ron Kulpa told him the rain wasn’t supposed to last much longer.
Indians’ right-hander Justin Masterson (2-4, 5.21) joked afterward when asked about his soaked jersey.
”Every time I turned my hat, it was like I had some hair, it was whipping the rain off it, back and forth,” he said after he gave up one run on four hits. He threw 65 pitches in three innings.
Francona said the Indians were warned of a possible delay.
“It's a long day. It's a shorter day if you win,” he said. “They were pretty honest with us. They didn't want to not start it, because you never know.”
As for how long it took to be called, Francona said, “I have no say-so in that. That's not up to me.”
Brantley extended his hitting streak to a 13 games and made two outstanding running catches on balls by Eaton and Alejandro De Aza.