Since Corey Kluber was called up to the majors in early August, there have been a lot of games where he struggled. Entering today, he was just 1-4 with a 5.36 ERA and seven home runs allowed in 10 starts. I must admit that I was a bit nervous entering today’s game – the White Sox have so many guys in that lineup that can burn you. Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, and A.J. Pierzynski have all torched the Indians in the past, while Alexei Ramirez, Dayan Viciedo, Kevin Youkilis, and a resurgent Alex Rios could do a fair amount of damage as well. While Kluber was burned by the long ball today – he gave up back-to-back home runs to Pierzynski and Viciedo – he pitched a fantastic game. He lasted for seven innings, the longest outing of his career, and allowed just four hits while striking out four and walking three. Two of those walks came in a slightly shaky first inning, so once Kluber settled down, he started to shut down the White Sox. The bats of Adam Dunn and Alex Rios were so quiet today, I forgot they were in the lineup.
When Manny Acta sent Kluber back out for the seventh inning for a rematch against Pierzynski and Viciedo, I started to question the decision. My paranoia was really irrational, considering that Kluber was only at 80 pitches and had been fine following the pair of home runs. Acta had Joe Smith up in the bullpen, just in case, but he was not needed. Kluber was fine, and left after the seventh maintaining a 4-2 lead. Vinnie Pestano pitched the eighth and put the mistake of last night behind him as he kept the White Sox from scoring. That meant that Chris Perez was set to pitch the ninth. I couldn’t remember the last time I actually saw Perez pitch in a save situation…it seems like it’s been weeks. He last saved a game on September 13 when the Indians came from behind and beat the Rangers 5-4. He’s made a couple of appearances since then, but that was his last save situation. I was so paranoid about the slim lead, and was convinced that Perez would be rusty and would eventually blow the save (and possibly the game). With just one pitch, Paul Konerko put the White Sox within one as he belted a home run to make it 4-3. Now I was really nervous. Granted, it was just one pitch; however, there was nobody out and some dangerous hitters coming to the plate after Konerko. Perez quickly got two outs, but I’ve seen games where there were two outs and the bases empty before things really hit the fan. When he walked the next two batters, I started to think that there was going to be another disappointing loss today. He managed to get Gordon Beckham to ground into a fielder’s choice though, and despite my elevated blood pressure, Perez got the save and the Indians got the win.
The offense today was driven by Russ Canzler, who went 3 for 4 with an RBI; he was just a triple shy of the cycle. I like Canzler and I really hope he sticks here in Cleveland. At the same time, I’m always afraid that he’s some type of mirage. I fear that he’s a Karim Garcia type of player – someone who will look really good, then fall off the proverbial cliff. He really can’t be any worse than our previous options in left and at first, so I still embrace his addition to the lineup. I just hope that he can carry some of this success into the 2013 season. It was another one of those days where almost the entire lineup contributed in some way. Every starter in the lineup had a hit except for Brent Lillibridge and Thomas Neal, although Lillibridge walked once and Neal had an RBI on a fielder’s choice. I wish they could have continued to score later in the game, but the four runs were fortunately enough to get them the win.
An interesting note about tomorrow’s series finale – Jake Peavy was scheduled to pitch against the Indians, but the White Sox decided to give him some extra rest. Instead, they will start lefty Hector Santiago, because duh…he’s left-handed and it’s the Indians. Tomorrow is also the last road game of the season. The Indians come back to Cleveland and start their final home stand of the season against the Kansas City Royals and the White Sox.