CHICAGO -- The most important play in the White Sox 7-1 loss to the Indians on Friday at U.S. Cellular Field involved a ball that rolled around six feet in front of home plate.
The Carlos Santana swinging bunt with the bases loaded and one out in the first inning quickly changed the complexion of the South Siders' home opener, featuring a first-pitch temperature of 39 degrees and intermittent snow flurries and a sold-out crowd of 38,019.
With Santana's hit rolling into no man's land between pitcher John Danks and catcher Alex Avila, it was Avila who moved out from his crouch to make the play. He took a quick look back at home, but eventually whirled and threw the ball away in the direction of first baseman Jose Abreu, allowing a second run to score on the play.
Yan Gomes' sacrifice fly brought in a third run. But if Avila takes the out at first, fortunes could have been altered.
"It wasn't one of those that was to [Danks] where it allowed me to stay back. So I went out and was thinking, get the ball and go back home," Avila said. "I saw [Danks] running past me as I was getting it, so I was thinking maybe shovel it to him, but as I was going to do that, I saw the runner in the corner of my eye was going to beat him. I just turned and fired and tried to get at least one. Usually you just hold on there."
"When I peeled off, it looked like he was thinking about flipping it to me and it got just kind of messed up," Danks said. "Alex shouldn't beat himself up over that. We never should have been in that position, and I certainly should have held them there."
Danks praised Avila for his game-calling, but added that he wasn't able to consistently hit the spots where Avila was set up. These two were not alone in terms of responsibility for the team's second straight home-opener loss, as the offense managed three hits off of Danny Salazar and three relievers, and Avisail Garcia got picked off first with Melky Cabrera on second, one out and the team down, 5-0, in the second.
Avila's play in the first, coupled with Danks' inconsistency in the frame, pushed the left-hander toward an 0-6 mark with a 6.34 ERA over his last eight starts against Cleveland.
"This was one of those games. A little hectic day for everybody," said White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier, who homered and had two of the three hits. "No excuses. We've just got to come back [Saturday]."
"You always want to win this one. It's disappointing," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "But these guys have been around long enough. They'll put it behind them and come back ready to go [Saturday]."