In simpler times, Philip Humber patching together three straight poor outings would be swept to the back pages of the local sports sections, where the travails of a back-end starter on an under-.500 baseball team belong.
Instead, because of all this Perfect Game business, Humber's sudden transition to a man who spends his time floating flat sliders and 90-mph fastballs up over the heart of the plate has attracted the harsh eyes of the national press.
Monday afternoon saw Humber's command problems take the Sox out of a game where the seemed primed to launch a competent offensive effort against fill-in Cleveland starter Zach McAllister. Luckily, Jose Quintana rescued the team from a bullpen disaster heading into the nightcap of the doubleheader.
There was even a semi-compelling 9th inning rally
Indians 8, White Sox 6
Philip Humber - 2.1 IP, 9 H, 8 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 HR - Every bit as bad as the stat line. Eminently hittabble.
Alejandro De Aza - 2 for 4, R, 2B, BB - He also added a misplay in the outfield that gave Travis Hafner a triple, but he got himself to 2nd base out of the leadoff spot twice.
Jose Quintana - 5.1 IP - Not as dominant as the 'one-hit allowed' would lead you to believe, or even particularly under control early on, but the innings he provided gave the bullpen a fighting chance in the nightcap. Not a bad first day.
Travis Hafner - 2 for 4, HR, 3B - Hit everything alarmingly hard.
Zach McAllister - 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 5 K, 1 BB - Was vulnerable early on, but settled down in a contest where the bar was set pretty low.
Jairo Asencio - 2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 K, 2 BB - Brought some much-needed 9th inning drama by walking the first two batters of the frame.
Back-to-back doubles by Michael Brantley and Casey Kotchman (neither of whom are exactly tearing it up this season) in the 3rd inning turned a worrisome 3-2 deficit into a 7-2 trainwreck. It was the disaster that had been brewing all game.
Things Would Be Different If...
...this was Game 4 of the ALCS.
Humber had nothing from the first pitch, and it wasn't any different by the time his ill-fated 3rd inning of work came into existence. He's probably out of the game sooner in a different circumstance, certainly before the back-to-back doubles that sealed it.
But this was the first game of a doubleheader, and Eric Stults is starting the nightcap. Ventura felt compelled to see if Humber could work his way out of it before turning proceedings over to the guy just flown up from Birmingham. Humber did not, and the White Sox lost.
The White Sox are three games under .500 and are doing some work in separating themselves from Cleveland. Now that they've made one of the spots in their starting rotation into a toss-up for the rest of the season, they certainly can't afford Humber to do the same to another one.