There were a lot of disappointed people leaving Guaranteed Rate Field on Tuesday night. But it was hard to find somebody more disappointed than interim manager Miguel Cairo following the White Sox‘s heartbreaking 10-7 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.
It was no secret that Tuesday was a must-win game for the White Sox. It was the first game of a three-game series against the Guardians that will decide who wins the tie-breaker game and ultimately the AL Central title (barring an epic collapse from the Guardians).
All the pieces were in place for a victory. Dylan Cease tossed six strong innings, only allowing one earned run. Josh Harrison was flinging his body at baseballs, making two spectacular defensive plays. Eloy Jimenez tied the game with a clutch RBI single in the bottom of the sixth inning.
They even seemed to have luck on their side. AJ Pollock hit into what should have been an inning-ending double play ball, but instead, an errant throw from Guardians shortstop Andres Gimenez allowed the tying and go-ahead run to score in the sixth inning.
The Guardians were even robbed of the go-ahead run in the seventh inning when Josh Naylor hit a ball that looked destined to get through the hole into left-center field. That was until Elvis Andrus made a diving stop and alertly got up and fired the ball home. The throw beat Amed Rasorio to the plate, but the tag from Seby Zavala did not. Fortunately for the White Sox, Rasorio was called out, and the Guardians did not have a challenge left to overturn the play.
Things were looking up for the White Sox until they weren’t. After blowing a 3-1 lead, the White Sox were unable to score off the Cleveland bullpen, sending the game to extra innings.
Kendall Graveman allowed a go-ahead single to Josh Naylor, then a sacrifice fly to Andres Gimenez that pushed across an insurance run. The White Sox were faced with the tough task of scraping across at least two runs off All-Star closer Emmanuel Clase.
They were down to their last strike, but Jose Abreu roped a slider to right field to tie the game once again and keep the White Sox hopes alive. A clutch moment like that made it feel like a storybook ending was forthcoming.
Apparently, Jake Diekman didn’t read the script. With one walk, two wild pitches, three hits, and a throwing error later, the Guardians had a 10-5 lead.
AJ Pollock tried to fight back with a two-run homer in the bottom of the eleventh, but it was too little too late.
“I should have done a better job today. I let my team down.” Cairo said as he faced the media following the loss. “I have to come back tomorrow and show them, you know, just another day and we have to perform. I have to perform, too… We lost the game, so it’s on me.”
He was asked three times to elaborate but refused to dig into specifics. It is hard to find anything Cairo should be beating himself up over.
His players rushed to his defense, pointing to their execution as the culprit for the loss.
“No. We had a bunch of other stuff,” AJ Pollock said when asked about his manager’s comments. “I had a funky play in the beginning. I was trying to make an aggressive play and got caught in a weird spot, and it was probably a double, and it ended up being a triple, and the run ended up scoring. It was a big run. Couple of missed opportunities throughout the game. Couple of defensive miscues.
“No, I mean it was execution on our end for sure. Miggy, I thought he did a good job of getting the guys out there, putting guys in the right spots. We just didn’t win.”
Cairo’s most controversial moves revolved around the bullpen. However, none of those moves were egregious. Cairo opted to use Jimmy Lambert to protect the White Sox’s two-run lead in the seventh inning. Lambert has been excellent out of the White Sox bullpen this season. Entering Tuesday’s game, he carried a 2.70 ERA.
On this night, Lambert just didn’t have command. He walked the first two batters he faced, and both came around to score. Cairo also opted to only throw Reynaldo Lopez one inning after he dispatched of the Guardians with just 11 pitches in the eighth inning. Instead, he called upon Liam Hendriks to throw the ninth inning. Kendall Graveman had to pitch the 10th and allowed two runs to score.
The move seemed to work as Hendriks gave the White Sox a chance to win the game in the ninth. As a manager, it’s hard to save your closer for extra innings if your offense has a chance to score in the bottom of the ninth. That doesn’t inspire much confidence in your hitters.
There is also no guarantee that Hendriks would have slammed the door in extra innings. He has blown four saves this season and allowed four earned runs in his last fourteen innings pitched. Graveman has allowed six earned runs in his last 15 innings and posted very similar numbers.
“I feel like we were ready,” Cease said in response to Cairo’s assessment. “I think if anything me not being efficient – if I’m efficient, maybe I go 7,8 and save some arms. So I would say that’s as big of a reason as why we lost as anything.”
It seems like Cairo just fell on the sword to defend his team. The White Sox are 13-7 with him at the helm. That loss should not be placed on his shoulders.