Sox bullpen ruins peaceful romp by the bay

Maybe they should have just let Hector Noesi pitch the whole damn thing.

Second-guessing whether Robin Ventura should have pulled his clearly flagging starter before he ruined the best start of his career for no reason in the eighth inning of a 4-0 game is only forgivable if it's done tongue-in-cheek, but snark is the only path to sanity when addressing a bullpen that coughed up a 4-0 lead and pulled around again in the 12th to finish the job with game-losing wild pitch to cap a grisly, wet 5-4 loss in Baltimore.

Unfairly lumped in with the rest of these jokers, Zach Putnam relieved Noesi after he had opened his eighth inning of work with two bullet singles. Putnam got two outs in short order, but with Monday night's villain, Chris Davis, trudging to the plate, Ventura pulled out the one useful tool available to him and put Scott Downs on the case. Downs tricked Davis into missing on a few looping curveballs, but didn't have the sharpness to put him away, walking him after Davis fouled off his efforts on a putaway pitch. Javy Guerra relieved Downs to face Nelson Cruz with the bases juiced, and with his curveball still a droopy mess, Guerra turned to his straight-arrow fastball too many times, and Cruz boomed it out to right-center to equalize.

After yeoman work from Jake Petricka to cover the first two innings of extra ball, which came after a rain delay over an hour long, Daniel Webb came on and whipped fastballs all over the place until the game was over. He walked Nick Hundley to lead off the 12th, then the only fastball he hit the plate with was lined into the gap by Nick Markakis to push pinch-runner David Lough to third, and a wild pitch ended it. Or at least, the first wild pitch that got away from Tyler Flowers.

Hector Noesi hadn't even been pitching all that well recently. None of his last three starts had been quality and opponents had been hitting .304/.347/.478 during that time. He had been sopping up innings better than his rotational counterparts but was hardly exceptional. Noesi opening up a can of beatdown on the Orioles lineup was theoretically possible, but possibly a worse bet than John Danks pulling off the same trick.

Yet Noesi breezed through the first six innings so effortlessly, that it took his first jam in the seventh--and the realization that the stretch of crisis management had yet to push him over 70 pitches--for the stunning reality of a potential complete game shutout to come into view. Noesi only struck out two batters--both in the same inning--but attacked the Orioles with tumbling, hard sliders. He had nine groundball outs (11 counting double plays) heading into the eighth, and still had his shutout going.

Ventura made a good pull after Noesi's stuff lost some sharpness and led off the eighth with two-straight solid singles, but couldn't anticipate his bullpen stumbling headlong into its own grave and allowing an equalizing grand slam.

The White Sox looked like they had provided plenty of insurance early after a scoreless opening three innings against Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez. Jose Abreu yanked a hanging slider on a rope, just inside the left field foul pole and over the wall for a solo shot--his 23rd--in the fourth. Adam Eaton hammered a deep fly that Nick Markakis never really picked up or sprinted at for an RBI triple in the fifth, and Tyler Flowers looked to have landed the death blow when he plated Dayan Viciedo (leadoff walk) and Alejandro De Aza (double) with an RBI single to the gap in the seventh.

Flowers was thrown out trying to extend it to a double, and might have scored on an Eaton single later in the inning if he made it, but it seemed immaterial at the time. It was not.


Box Score

Team Record: 36-43

Next Game: Friday at 6:07 p.m. CT at Toronto on WCIU

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