05/27/08 11:45 PM ET
Buehrle's Cleveland struggles continue
First-inning hardship too much for White Sox to counter
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
During Tuesday's 8-2 loss to Cleveland, it was more than easy for the southpaw to pinpoint the problem ultimately leading to his downfall at Progressive Field.
"I can't live falling behind in the count," said Buehrle, who allowed six runs on eight hits over five-plus innings, but threw an uncharacteristic and un-economic 106 pitches over this time frame. "I [don't have] the stuff to pitch behind in the count."
"He was struggling getting going early, and he couldn't find the strike zone right away," added White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. "Then, he got to the point where he found the wrong guy for him."
Buehrle (2-6) put the White Sox (28-23) in a deep hole right from the outset, with Cleveland (24-28) scoring five times in the opening frame. Ben Francisco's sacrifice fly gave the Indians a 1-0 lead but also left Buehrle with nobody on base and two outs in the first.
Victor Martinez drew a walk off of Buehrle to keep the inning alive, followed by Jhonny Peralta's single and another walk issued to Ryan Garko to load the bases. Franklin Gutierrez then delivered an early knockout punch, launching a 2-1 pitch to left-center for his first career grand slam.
Two of Gutierrez's three home runs and seven of his 16 RBIs in 2008 have come against Buehrle.
"I know this guy, so I know what he can throw," said Gutierrez. "I guess I was relaxed. I was trying to look for a good pitch to hit, and I just found it."
"We saw some good at-bats," Cleveland manager Eric Wedge added. "When you're facing a pitcher like Buehrle, you have to have good at-bats, because he's not going to hurt himself."
Those two first-inning walks, leading to Cleveland's five-run outburst, gave Buehrle cause to disagree with Wedge.
"Again, two outs and one run across and then I walked two guys," said Buehrle, who has given up 13 earned runs on 15 hits over 6 2/3 innings worked in Cleveland this season. "I hate more than anything to walk guys. I need to cut my walks big time."
"Mark was one pitch away, but that pitch [wasn't] there," added Guillen of Buehrle's first-inning problems. "It was high and he couldn't get in the zone. For Buehrle to be effective, he has to throw strikes, like everyone else."
The White Sox put baserunners on against Aaron Laffey (3-3) in each of his six innings, but the only two runs they scored came in the third. Toby Hall delivered an RBI double, but his streak of five straight at-bats reaching base ended in the seventh. The White Sox five-game win streak against the Indians also came to an end.
By Guillen's postgame estimation, this was not a team effort suitable for the end-of-season highlight reel. The Indians pulled off a rare triple steal in the sixth inning, when the White Sox appeared to have Jamey Carroll picked off first with the bases loaded. Alexei Ramirez also was doubled off on Brian Anderson's line drive to left to end the sixth.
"Another thing from a bad game," said Guillen with a smile. "He didn't know how many outs there were. I blame my coaches. I have to blame my third-base coach. Maybe he let him know, but he needs to let him know more often.
"Overall, it was a real bad baseball game for us. Everything went crazy, nothing was good for us today. It's the type of game that hopefully doesn't happen too often. We just need to flush this one right away and get it going."
Cleveland seemed to have the edge in this game, even before Buehrle threw a pitch. Buehrle entered with a career record of 49-25 against American League Central foes Detroit, Minnesota and Kansas City, but the Indians stand as the lone division rival with a winning record against the White Sox ace southpaw.
That mark improved to 12-8 on Tuesday, as Buehrle's ERA at Progressive Field this season rose to 17.56. There's no glaring advantage for Cleveland against Buehrle, aside from making the most of a pitcher who was a little bit wild Tuesday.
"It's not like this mound is bad or I'm not getting calls here," said Buehrle, who limited the Indians to one run on two hits over seven innings in his home start last Thursday. "There's nothing off the top of my head I can think got me in this little funk. I just have to battle and hopefully get out of this."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.