This was not the way the Indians had envisioned their weekend. Fresh off of a three game sweep of the Detroit Tigers, they came into Chicago on Friday riding a wave of momentum. The fans were finally behind them, they were sitting alone in first place, and they were playing great baseball.
My how things can change.
The Tribe fell to the White Sox yesterday by a score of 12-6 to give Chicago the series sweep, and in the process saw their 3.5 game lead in the division all but wiped away. For all of the things they did right against Detroit, they did them just as wrong against the White Sox. There was no timely hitting, their defense was suspect, and the pitching was downright awful at times—especially Sunday.
Ubaldo Jimenez took the mound, and as always, no one knew what to expect. Would Jimenez come out and stop the bleeding the way an ace should? Jimenez’s final line for the day: four innings pitched, seven hits, seven runs, four walks, three strikeouts, and Paul Konerko‘s 400th career home run as a member of the White Sox. (Don’t quote me on this, but 350 of those might be against the Indians.) Needless to say, Jimenez once again struggled with his control. Out of his 99 pitches on the day only 53 went for strikes. He got himself into trouble repeatedly and the White Sox made him pay time and time again—just as they took advantage of the Tribe’s mistakes all weekend.
The biggest mistake was the Konerko home run in the bottom of the fourth. The White Sox had jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, but after a Johnny Damon home run in the top of the second and Michael Brantley‘s RBI single in the 4th, the Indians had finally pulled back to even the score, 4-4. Unfortunately, after recording the first two outs of the inning, Jimenez allowed a single and a walk to bring Konerko to the plate. What happened next couldn’t have been more expected, because that’s just what Konerko does. With the count even at 2-2, he sent Jimenez’s hanging slider into the left field bleachers. The score was 7-4 and the White Sox never looked back.
The Indians scraped together two more runs later in the game, but it was in vain. After the Konerko home run the White Sox exploded for five more runs off of Jairo Asencio and Tony Sipp. They hit the ball all over U.S. Cellular Field and by the time it was all said and done, they had shrunk the Indians’ AL Central lead to a measly half a game.
It’s easy to find fault with how the Indians played the past three games. Half of their starting lineup was injured and they played a makeshift starting lineup for all three games. However, you have to give credit where credit is due. The White Sox took advantage of the weakened lineup and every single mistake. The Indians gave them opportunities and Chicago cashed in on them. That’s what good teams do.
So hang on tight, folks. The Chicago sweep officially made it clear to everyone that this division isn’t going to be a two-horse race between the Tigers and Indians. The White Sox threw their hats into the ring in big way this weekend. I can guarantee things will get a lot more interesting before this year is all said and done.
The Good: First off, Johnny Damon hit a home run. Sure, he’s still hitting well below the Mendoza line, but maybe this is a sign that things are starting to turn around for him. Even though he hasn’t been productive, his at-bats have started getting better as of late. Maybe a week from now we’ll all see that home run as the turning point.
Secondly, Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley. With so many regular members of the starting lineup sidelined—Travis Hafner, Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana, Jack Hannahan—both of these guys really stepped up their games. Not just yesterday, but in the entire series as a whole. At times it almost seemed like neither Kipnis nor Brantley was going to let this team lose. I expect it from Kipnis given his great potential, but to see it from Brantley was a nice treat and shows us that maybe he’s more than just your average outfielder.
The Bad: Ubaldo Jimenez. On a day when the Indians needed him to throw like a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, he did anything but. In fact, Jimenez couldn’t even give them a quality start to help rest the bullpen. He needed to be the stopper and he came up way short in the end.
With all of that in mind I have to ask the question: what should the Indians do with Jimenez? The fans are growing more and more impatient with him with each and every start and I have to believe that the Indians are as well. Do they send him to the disabled list with a mysterious injury so he can get his head on right? Do they put him in the bullpen? I guess time will only tell.
The “Huh?”: Why do the Indians continue to pitch to Paul Konerko? He has 43 home runs and 162 RBI in his career against the Indians. At what point does someone say that enough is enough, pitch around him, and take your chances on the next guy? I know it’s not actually as dire as it seems and walking him every time is a bad idea, but it sure seems preferable. How many more times are we going to have to watch Konerko single-handedly beat us? The day he finally retires will be the happiest day of my life.