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‘Tough night’ for Sox’ rookie closer Hector Santiago

Sox relief pitcher Hector Santiago works with 4-2 lead 9th innning gave up two solo home runs as Chicago White

Sox relief pitcher Hector Santiago works with a 4-2 lead in the 9th innning and gave up two solo home runs as the Chicago White Sox went on to lose 10-4 to the Baltimore Orioles in 10 innings Monday April 16, 2012 at US Cellular Field. | TOM CRUZE~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 18, 2012 9:56AM



After blowing his first save opportunity in four chances in a tough-to-digest 10-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field, now comes the biggest challenge of Hector Santiago’s young career: The game after.

‘‘The way I look at it is how he bounces back,’’ Robin Ventura said after suffering his toughest defeat as the Sox’ manager.

Protecting a 6-4 lead in the ninth inning, Santiago gave up home runs to Nolan Reimold leading off and Adam Jones with two outs. Santiago thought he had struck out Reimold, and pitching coach Don Cooper sided with the rookie left-hander, getting ejected by plate umpire Lance Barrett during his visit to the mound after Jones’ homer.

‘‘It was a tough night,’’ Santiago said. ‘‘That one pitch maybe changes the inning. I kind of walked off — ­ I don’t walk off unless I think it’s a strike. Then I kind of left one [a fastball] up and he got a hold of it. I have to make better pitches.’’

After the Sox went three up, three down in the ninth, the Orioles scored six in the 10th against Zach Stewart. The inning opened with center fielder Alejandro De Aza missing a catchable ball hit by Mark Reynolds that fell for a three-base error. With his back to the wall, De Aza said he ‘‘jumped too early and took my eye off the ball.’’

Chris Davis then doubled off the left-field wall, and after three more hits, Matt Weiters hit a grand slam for his second home run of the game.

Weiters’ first came against Jesse Crain in the eighth, cutting the Sox lead to 4-2.

The Sox are rolling the dice with three rookie relievers — Santiago, Addison Reed and Nate Jones —­ and Stewart, who is barely out of rookie school.

With a 2.42 ERA and a .218 batting average against going into Monday’s game, the pen had shown no early signs of suffering because of its youth. Santiago, who viewed the ‘‘K zone’’ on television replays and saw that two of the balls called by Barrett were strikes, said he knows that comes to the territory.

‘‘Just learn from it,’’ Santiago said. ‘‘If the umpire misses a call or what, just go back and focus and make a better pitch. Just go out there tomorrow and be ready to go.’’

Ventura will like hearing of that response.

‘‘It’s not the easiest job,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘I have confidence in taking him right back out there and letting him do it tomorrow night.’’ Ventura, Cooper and bullpen coach Juan Nieves knew there would be days like these with a young bullpen.

‘‘A year from now we’ll know who to count on and who not to count on,’’ Nieves said. ‘‘There was a concern [about having so many rookies], but we embraced it with open arms.’’

Philip Humber, making his first start because of a rainout in Cleveland, threw 115 pitches over 51/3 innings and allowed one run before handing it over to the pen. Will Ohman (two batters, two strikeouts) and Thornton (three batters, two strikeouts) had better results than Crain, Santiago and Stewart.

A.J. Pierzynski, who hit eight home runs last season, hit his third against Orioles starter Jake Arrieta in the second inning. It took Pierzynski 66 games to reach his third homer last season.

Paul Konerko, who has hit safely in every game, lined a two-run double down the right-field line to break a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning. Konerko and Pierzynski each have nine RBI.



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