Vazquez strong, but Sox falter late
Homer off McCarthy opens gates as Chicago falls to Cleveland
CHICAGO -- Forget throwing strikes to win. Ozzie Guillen wanted his relievers to throw strikes so he could leave.
The White Sox bullpen gave up three runs on three hits and three walks in the top of the ninth inning as Chicago lost, 5-2, to the Cleveland Indians on Sunday.
At one point Guillen went out to visit Sean Tracey, who was the fifth reliever of the inning and had recently been called up from Triple-A Charlotte. What did Guillen tell Tracey?
"'Throw the ball in the middle of the plate,'" Guillen said. "'I want to go to California right now. It's 60 degrees down [in the dugout] and I'm freezing my tail [off].' I just tried to motivate him to throw the ball over the plate."
Brandon McCarthy set the tone for the erratic ninth, falling behind, 3-0, to Victor Martinez to start things off. With the score tied, 2-2, McCarthy threw one down the middle to avoid the walk. Martinez hit a home run, his 15th, and the Indians had their first lead of the game.
"You've got to throw strikes," Guillen said. "I don't care how tough you think you are, if you're not throwing strikes on this level you're going to get hit and that happened to Mac. He's not a power pitcher. He has got command."
Right now McCarthy has command issues, allowing five earned runs in his last two games. McCarthy (3-7) took the loss on Sunday, his second this week.
"It [stinks] right now," McCarthy said. "There's no other way to put it. I'm not happy with the way I'm throwing. The confidence is there, it's just the results aren't. But I'm sick and tired at this point of losing games for this team."
The loss keeps the White Sox 3 1/2 games behind Detroit in the division race, but moves them a 1 1/2 games behind Minnesota in the Wild Card race. The Twins beat the Tigers, 12-1, on Sunday.
It looked early on like the team would keep pace with the Twins and gain ground on the Tigers.
Tadahito Iguchi extended his hit streak to a career-high 12 games with a two-run homer off Cleveland starter C.C. Sabathia in the bottom of the first.
Javier Vazquez was sharp through the first five innings, facing one batter over the minimum.
Vazquez then got to the dreaded sixth and walked Andy Marte with one out. Grady Sizemore hit an RBI triple and Jason Michaels followed with an RBI single that tied it at 2. Vazquez raised his ERA in the sixth inning to 10.88 this year.
But he would rebound with a scoreless seventh in which he struck out three batters to raise his total to 10 after striking out 11 in his last outing. This was Vazquez's fourth straight start of two runs or fewer, and he has not gotten a win in any of them.
"Javy threw the ball outstanding," Guillen said. "I think the last couple outings, Javy has been great."
Sabathia (11-9) was better, pitching eight scoreless innings after Iguchi's homer in a complete-game effort.
"You go out in the ninth and you have [100-plus] pitches and you still throw 95-96 [mph]," Guillen said. "That's pretty amazing."
The White Sox bullpen couldn't say the same on a lot fewer pitches, even though it looked like they were working towards it at one point.
The bullpen gave up 13 runs in its last 7 2/3 innings against the Indians this weekend.
"Some of us are scuffling," McCarthy said. "Maybe it's just late in the season. I don't know what it is. But I just think it kind of spreads a little bit; a lack of confidence spreads."
The bullpen will try and solve its problems during a six-game West Coast road trip. The White Sox will play the Angels and the Athletics as they try and keep pace with the Twins and the Tigers.
"We'll have a tough time going out there," Jermaine Dye said. "It's going to be tough, no doubt. We don't do well in Oakland, but every game is key."
Ryan Crawford is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.