CLEVELAND – Manny Ramirez was on deck to pinch hit for the White Sox in the ninth inning of a tied game at Progressive Field on Tuesday night.
Turns out the Sox didn’t need their newly acquired slugger after all.
With runners on first and second and one out in the ninth, Chicago’s antagonistic catcher A.J. Pierzynski blasted a three-run home run off Indians reliever Frank Herrmann to lift the White Sox to a 4-3 victory.
After watching Pierzynski’s homer sail into the seats in right field, Ramirez returned to the dugout to celebrate with his new teammates and did not make an appearance against his former team.
For the second straight night, the Indians rallied in the ninth inning, only this time they couldn’t force extra innings, scoring twice before Michael Brantley bounced back to closer Bobby Jenks to end the game with two runners on base.
The no-quit attitude is what manager Manny Acta chose to focus on, rather than his club’s third straight loss and eighth in the last 11 games.
“I’m extremely proud of these guys,” Acta said. “We’re facing a team that was in first place and is battling for the division. These kids continue to put up a fight.”
The Indians have considered moving Justin Masterson back to the bullpen at various points in the season, but the right-hander stated a strong case to remain in the rotation with a sparkling start against the Sox.
Masterson allowed just a run on four hits and two walks, while striking out seven over 7 2/3 innings.
“It was an outstanding effort from Masterson,” Acta said. “When he stays consistent with his delivery, he can be really tough. Nights like tonight keep a lot of people thinking that he can be a starting pitcher on this level. He hasn’t had a very good year, but he’s had a couple of those (top-shelf starts).”
Masterson shut the Sox out on three hits over the first seven innings before walking the leadoff batter in the eighth – Mark Kotsay, who was replaced by pinch runner Brent Lillibridge, with Lillibridge scoring the game-tying run on a bloop single from Mark Teahen.
Masterson picked an inopportune time to surrender his only run, with the Indians taking a short-lived 1-0 lead on Shelley Duncan’s solo shot off Sox starter Edwin Jackson in the seventh.
“I had some good consistency,” Masterson said. “Balls were going at guys and I was working the zone. You feel good that we kept the team in line for a victory, but it’s never exciting to come away with a defeat.
“I like where we’re at. I like the idea that a few good outings have been put together.”
Another weak effort from the Indians’ offense left Masterson without a decision.
Cleveland managed just a run on four hits through eight innings against Sox starter Edwin Jackson, but there were opportunities for more.
The Indians put the leadoff batter on second in both the second and third innings and failed to score a single run.
Walks plagued Cleveland the whole night.
Masterson’s leadoff walk in the eighth came back to bite him, and two walks in the ninth led to Chicago’s winning runs.
Joe Smith started the ninth by walking two of the three batters he faced before being replaced by Herrmann.
With Ramirez looming on deck, Herrmann got a strike on Pierzynski before his ill-fated offering put the game on ice.
“I was ahead 0-1 and I was trying to throw a slider down,” Herrmann said. “I just made a bad pitch, left it up and he made me pay for it. If I make a good pitch there, there’s nothing to talk about. It’s on me.”
With Jackson on the mound going for the complete-game win, the Indians got consecutive one-out base hits from Jayson Nix and pinch hitter Trevor Crowe before Jason Donald’s two-run single chased Chicago’s right-hander.
Closer Bobby Jenks, who surrendered the game-tying runs in the ninth inning Monday night, nixed the comeback notion this time around by retiring Brantley with Donald on second.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or email@example.com.