Late starts coming off of rain delays rarely produce the most crisp baseball. A combination of players being thrown off their schedule, often missing practice due to the weather, and then being submitted to marsh-like playing conditions can lead to miscues and communication problems.
Also unhelpful are large clouds of smoke from fireworks settling over the stadium, which was also in play Tuesday night in addition to the first pitch being set back an hour due to precipitation. The White Sox didn't respond to the conditions particularly well, but the Indians responded far worse, and lost the contest 7-2.
Dropped pop-ups, missed assignments, booted grounders, and another troubling chapter in Ubaldo Jimenez's struggles ever since the Indians shipped out the jewels of their farm system for him last August. It all made for a rough night for the visitors, and an easy victory for the White Sox.
Gordon Beckham helped, too.
Chris Sale - 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 88 pitches - As Colin expressed concern about, Tuesday night once again was a little low on swings-and-misses (6) and light on velocity (he topped out at 94) at least in terms of what Sale produced earlier on. He countered it by generating groundballs and showed good control.
Gordon Beckham - 3 for 4, HR, 2 RBI - Beckham ripped a homer to left, and hit two singles to right. If you hadn't watched a baseball game since 2009, this wouldn't require much explanation. Instead, it's 2012, and the big night comes in the wake of Beckham's manager acknowledging that his struggles can't be tolerated forever.
Alejandro De Aza - 1 for 3, 2B, 2 BB, 2 R - The two walks don't require much explanation, but the double was an infield pop-up that the Indians lost in the firework smoke hanging over the field after Beckham's HR. De Aza was sprinting the whole way, so you could almost argue that he earned it.
Hector Santiago - 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2K, 32 pitches - Not exactly the most reassuring outing. He struck out the first two hitters then lost the thread, and couldn't get any chases on his screwball.
Ubaldo Jimenez - 4.2 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 4 ER, 6 BB, 1 K, 2 HR, 105 pitches - Perhaps the Indians pain is assuaged somewhat by Alex White's legal troubles, or Drew Pomeranz's early struggles with control, but now that Jimenez is following up a poor 2nd half to 2011 with a worse start to 2012, the decision to make a big splash and trade for an ace isn't looking well.
A lost pop-up turned into a double, a routine grounder was dropped, an excellent diving stop up the middle went for naught when no one covered second base, and the Indians' defense turned the bottom of the 3rd inning into a disaster that Ubaldo Jimenez probably could have built on his own.
The only ball the White Sox hit hard in the frame was a leadoff homer by Gordon Beckham, but they added three more thanks to miscues and walks. The Indians even dropped a pop-up by A.J. Pierzynski later in the inning, but since they had already allowed runners to reach base, the infield fly rule applied.
Things Would Be Different If...
Better defense makes this a tighter game, and might make Hector Santiago's shaky 9th inning showing a lot more deleterious to Robin Ventura's blood pressure, but it also keeps Jimenez in the game longer.
That's probably not a good thing for Cleveland. Jimenez's velocity still doesn't echo his 2010 prime, his control was terrible, and the former groundball-artist failed to keep the ball down in the worst place to neglect such a detail, resulting in two no-doubter home runs.
It's a small sample, but the White Sox got the bottom third of their order on base six times, and were swiftly awarded with an offensive outburst. Simple competence from that part of the lineup could produce immediate results.
The victory gives the Sox an early 3-0 edge in the season series vs. the Indians, which will come handy if either club makes a habit out of hanging around 1st place in the division.
Team Record: 12-11, Cleveland owns a .002 lead in win percentage over Chicago and Detroit, but it's pretty much a tie.