Sox squander chances in 14-inning loss; Paul Konerko cracks No. 400
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org April 25, 2012 10:04PM
Closer Hector Santiago failed to hold a two-run lead in the 14th on a day in which a lot went wrong for the Sox. | Thearon W. Henderson~Getty Images
Updated: May 28, 2012 9:00AM
OAKLAND, Calif. — Paul Konerko turned his 400th home run into a memory Wednesday, tying up an otherwise forgettable game for the White Sox offense in the ninth inning on Wednesday afternoon.
In the end, the homer only prolonged an afternoon of agony for the Sox, who went ahead in the 14th inning on Alexei Ramirez’s two-run double, only to lose 5-4 on Yoenis Cespedes’ tying two-run homer in the bottom of the inning and and Kila Ha’aihue’s walk-off RBI single against closer Hector Santiago.
The Sox botched a squeeze play, got picked off, missed signs, balked and blew all sorts of scoring chances, but somehow looked like they’d escape when Ramirez drove in two against Jim Miller.
Santiago (second blown save in six chances) followed scoreless relief work by Addison Reed, Ohman and Nate Jones as the Sox lost for the second time in a row.
“We had a lot of chances,’’ Konerko said. “It wasn’t in the cards.’’
Konerko hit A’s closer Grant Balfour’s first pitch of the ninth inning over the 367-foot sign on the left field wall at the Oakland Coliseum.
“Everybody likes round numbers and when I’m done playing it might hit home,’’ Konerko said. “When you’re in the grind you don’t think about it. But yeah, it’s nice. It’s cool. I’ll tuck it away for now.’’
Chris Sale’s strong eight innings, the bullpen’s work, Ramirez’s tiebreaker and Konerko’s milestone erased a bevy of blunders. Pinch runner Brent Lillibridge was picked off second by Kurt Suzuki in the 13th when A.J. Pierzynski took a buntable pitch. That loomed large when Alex Rios doubled down the left-field line two batters later. On that play, pinch runner Gordon Beckham was out trying to score from first on a well-executed relay from shortstop Chris Pennington to third baseman Eric Sogard to catcher Suzuki.
With Brent Morel at bat and Kosuke Fukudome on third in the seventh, Ventura called a squeeze that backfired when the pitch was well off the plate. Morel didn’t make a strong attempt to get it down and Fukudome was easily out. Ventura said one thought it was a suicide, the other a safety squeeze.
Even third-base umpire Dan Bellino joined in the miscue trail. Bellino ruled that Alejandro De Aza offered at a pitch while squaring to bunt Eduardo Escobar to third in the eighth. Not only did Ryan Cook’s pitch hit De Aza in the left wrist, replays showed De Aza pulled back.
After shaking off the pain while manager Robin Ventura argued the call, De Aza got back in the batter’s box and swung at strike three. Ramirez then grounded out and Dunn popped up, preserving a 2-1 A’s lead.
“It was just one of those games with weird plays and guys getting picked off,’’ Ventura said. “A game you’ve seen a hundred times when bad stuff happens. They still battled.’’
The loss took the polish off a 4-2 road trip that included Philip Humber’s perfect game and four consecutive victories that had hiked their record to 10-6. This one wasn’t pretty, with bad stuff starting in the second when the Sox hit four line drives (one a softy by Fukudome) against Jarrod Parker in the second but did score. Konerko singled, but was thrown out attempting to advance on a pitch that got away from catcher Suzuki. Pierzynski singled but was held at third on Rios’ double to the left-center field wall before Fukudome lined to third and Morel struck out.
After all that, it looked like the Sox would escape. Until Cespedes stepped up and belted a 2-2 changeup off Santiago.
“I thought I had him,’’ Santiago said. “It was a good pitch — a great pitch — he was out in front. But he got ahold of it.’’
The Sox open a seven-game homestand against the Red Sox Thursday night. The Sox have won 14 of their last 18 against the Red Sox and would do well to begin establishing themselves at U.S. Cellular Field, where they are 3-4 after going 36-45 last season.