CHICAGO -- The ninth and 10th innings of the White Sox 10-4 loss to the Orioles on Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field just might be the two worst innings the South Siders play during the 2012 season.
At least, Robin Ventura hopes there's nothing worse than Monday's meltdown.
"I would take that," said Ventura, when asked if he would be satisfied with the eight runs allowed over the final two frames signaling the low-water point. "Those are going to be some of the things that eventually we are going to do the same thing to somebody."
Coming off of a weekend series victory against American League Central-favorite Detroit, the White Sox had built up quite a bit of good feeling through their first eight games. Even Tigers manager Jim Leyland went out of his way to rave about this team being a division contender and chastised those who suggested or predicted otherwise.
That positive aura took a direct hit on Monday. With three errors, 15 strikeouts and a 1-for-9 start hitting with runners in scoring position, the Orioles tried to give this game away. They begged and pleaded for the White Sox to take it, and ultimately, the White Sox politely refused.
This second straight loss for the White Sox didn't come without a little bit of controversy. Hector Santiago started the ninth in search of his fourth straight save and worked the count to 2-2 against leadoff hitter Nolan Reimold. The next pitch appeared to catch the strike zone for the first out, but home-plate umpire Lance Barrett thought differently.
Reimold followed with a solo home run, cutting the White Sox lead to 4-3. Two outs later, Adam Jones launched a 2-1 pitch into the left-center-field stands to knot the score at four.
After walking Wieters, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper made his fifth mound visit of the game to calm down Santiago. He said something to Barrett as he was walking back to the dugout and received career ejection No. 4 for his troubles. Ventura said the ejection wasn't anything crazy -- Cooper just got thrown out. And Santiago agreed.
"No he was calm, he wasn't upset. He had nothing in his face like he was going to argue," said Santiago of Cooper. "He didn't say anything wrong from what I heard. The umpire just kind of told him, 'I don't want to hear anything about the pitch.' I don't know if he said anything or what happened. But he didn't seem mad at all."
As for the 2-2 pitch to Reimold, Santiago thought it was a third strike.
"Tough night, you know. That one pitch maybe changed the game, I guess, but it's just part of the game," Santiago said. "I started walking off [the mound] and I don't usually walk off if I don't think it's a strike."
Pedro Strop (1-1) set the White Sox down in order in the ninth, and the Orioles erupted for six runs against Zach Stewart in the top of the 10th. The rally's culmination was Wieters' first grand slam and his second homer of the game, but it was Alejandro De Aza's dropped fly ball in front of the center field wall on Mark Reynolds' leadoff drive to center that started the rally via a three-base error.
Baltimore knocked out five hits before the inning mercifully came to a close.
"When we started hitting home runs, it was like, 'Is this about to happen?'" said Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, who doubled home Reynolds with the eventual winning run. "With our team, it's not a selfish effort. We're going to stand up for one another. We're going to have each other's back and we're going to keep battling until our last out, and that's what we did."
"Two bad innings," said De Aza, who admitted to jumping too early and taking his eyes off of Reynolds' towering fly ball. "We'll try to keep it up and win tomorrow."
Philip Humber made his first start since April 4 and battled through 115 pitches and 5 1/3 innings, yielding just one run and striking out seven. That gritty effort went for naught, thanks to Baltimore's comeback and Santiago's inaugural dealing with the blown-save effect.
It's all part of the learning process for the 24-year-old first-time closer.
"Make sure you focus, no matter what happens," Santiago said. "If the umpire misses a call or whatever, just go back out and focus and make a better pitch."
"Again, you look back at all the guys that have done it. It's not the easiest job," Ventura said. "But you know, the way I look at it is how he bounces back. I have confidence in taking him right back out there and letting him do it tomorrow night."
A.J. Pierzynski homered among his three hits, and Paul Konerko drove in two runs and extended his hitting streak to 10 games dating back to last year. Meanwhile, Brent Morel (3-for-29), Gordon Beckham (3-for-26) and Adam Dunn (7-for-35) combined to finish 0-for-12 with six strikeouts on the night.
For just the eighth time in franchise history, White Sox pitchers struck out 15 plus batters and still lost. It was just one of those nights, one of those painful endings, to forget.