The Chicago White Sox rolled the dice on Francisco Liriano's arm Friday night and dropped a key AL Central contest because of it.
The White Sox retained their one-game lead over Detroit, who lost in Los Angeles. However, Chicago's 7-5 loss to the Royals in the opener of a three-game series was due in large part to manager Robin Ventura's attempt to squeeze Liriano for a longer outing.
In a game where the White Sox showed their characteristic heart by repeatedly coming back, Ventura didn't do his team any favors when he had the chance to minimize the damage his starter caused.
Despite giving up three runs on a pair of homers, Liriano got through five innings with the game tied thanks to an RBI single by Paul Konerko and homers by A.J. Pierzynski and Dewayne Wise. After a visit to the mound, Ventura elected to send Liriano out to start the sixth inning.
I try not to second guess since it's easy to get such decisions right after the fact, but I was stunned to see Liriano back on the mound after it was pretty clear that he was coming apart. With plenty of arms in the bullpen, I figured that Ventura would thank his lucky stars that the game was tied at three and send Liriano to the showers.
I was even more surprised when he let Liriano stay in the game after walking Salvador Perez. Based on how the fifth inning went for Liriano, reinforcements should have been up and ready. Instead, Liriano walked Mike Moustakas on four pitches.
After two consecutive walks to lead off the inning, Ventura handed the ball to Nate Jones, who promptly gave up a double and a sacrifice fly, staking Kansas City to a 5-3 advantage.
Jones may have given up two runs if he had entered the game with the bases empty. However, knowing Liriano's recent penchant for walking batters and coming off of an off day, it seemed completely unnecessary to send him out for the sixth.
Chicago did tie the game yet again via a Alexei Ramirez homer, and the Royals did score two more runs in the top of the ninth. The White Sox had several opportunities to score additional runs in the bottom of the eighth and left 10 runners on base on the night. It's hard to point to one thing on such an evening as the one move that resulted in another loss to Kansas City.
That's what I'm contending, though. The obvious move was to thank Liriano for getting through the fifth and try to finish a White Sox winner for him. Two key runs were surrendered when Ventura went to the well once too often with his starting pitcher. He should have known better.