The Chicago White Sox bested the Cleveland Indians 5-4 Wednesday, taking the rubber game of a three-game weekday series.

The game, which started at noon local time in Cleveland, saw White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and White Sox starting pitcher Mark Buehrle ejected by first-base umpire Joe West in the second and third innings, respectively.

Despite the challenges those oustings posed, however, the Sox led 5-1 entering the bottom of the ninth inning with the aid of four Cleveland errors.

With struggling relief ace Bobby Jenks on the hill for Chicago, however, the Tribe found its rhythm in their final at-bat.

Leading off the frame, third baseman Jhonny Peralta lashed a line-drive double off the wall in right-center field. Jenks then walked first baseman Matt LaPorta and gave up a looping single to left field by left-handed second baseman Luis Valbuena. On that play, Peralta held up at third base, loading the bases with no outs.

With catcher Lou Marson due up, Cleveland manager Manny Acta astutely called upon Travis Hafner as a pinch hitter. After falling behind two strikes, Hafner judiciously held up on a quartet of erratic pitches—none of them fastballs—and strode to first, bringing home Peralta to draw Cleveland within three tallies at 5-2.

When Shelley Duncan, a second consecutive pinch batter, drove home two runs with a sharp single yanked into left field, the Indians had the winning run at first base with nobody out and center fielder Trevor Crowe coming to bat.

In a reversal of his earlier wisdom, however, Acta elected to have Crowe—his leadoff hitter—sacrifice the runners to second and third base. With one out, the White Sox then walked right fielder (and left-handed batter) Shin-Soo Choo, preferring to face right-handed left fielder Austin Kearns.

Acta’s mistake came back to roost when Kearns failed to make contact, striking out on four pitches—all fastballs. Designated hitter Russell Branyan, unable to get atop a high 96-mile-per-hour fastball from Jenks, then flew out to left fielder Juan Pierre, ending the game.

Crowe’s .688 OPS for the season does seem to make him a bunt candidate. Acta’s stratagem was flawed, however, in that it took the bat out of the hands of Cleveland’s best hitter (Choo) with the game on the line. It also granted Chicago’s de facto manager Don Cooper (usually the pitching coach) the opportunity to gain the platoon advantage for the right-handed Jenks, through bypassing Choo in favor of Kearns.

Instead of instructing his youthful outfielder to bunt, Acta ought to have had Crowe show bunt, only to pull the bat back and swing away. Because the White Sox were charging aggressively in defense of the apparent bunt, second baseman Gordon Beckham was racing to cover first base with each pitch.

That all but eliminated the chance of a double play and opened gaping holes through which Crowe (whose 2.18 career ground ball to fly ball ratio ranks him 12th among Major Leaguers with 200 or more plate appearances in the last two years) could easily have scooted a game-tying single.

Ultimately, Kearns’s inability to execute and Branyan’s helplessness against high fastballs cost Cleveland a dramatic victory. Acta’s managerial choices, however, set his team up for failure.


Cowboy Joe” Stirs the Pot

Mark Buehrle, known throughout the league for his ability to hold runners on and for his mild-mannered demeanor, flipped his glove aside after being called for his second balk of the game during the third inning.

Joe West ejected Buehrle and then proceeded to watch with disinterest as second-base arbiter Angel Hernandez joined several White Sox players and coaches in restraining the southpaw pitcher.

Earlier, after Buehrle’s first balk in the second inning, West had tossed Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen, whom no one restrained and who went nose-to-nose with West.

White Sox television broadcaster Ken Harrelson, the infamous homer, called West’s actions “a disgrace to the umpiring profession.” The ejections were West’s second and third of the season, according to the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League.

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