Free passes cost new dad Humber, White Sox

Free passes cost new dad Humber, White Sox

Free passes cost new dad Humber, White Sox
CHICAGO -- It's safe to say that Philip Humber never again will experience an exhilarating two-week period as he has since April 21.

On that particular afternoon at Safeco Field, Humber tossed the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history and third for the White Sox franchise. That fever-pitch level of excitement legitimately lasted until Tuesday night, when Humber's wife, Kristan, gave birth to their first child, John Gregory.

There were countless media requests in between, and even a Top 10 list done by Humber on the "Late Show with David Letterman" on April 23. So Humber certainly could use fatigue or the out-of-sorts factor for his slightly erratic performance during the White Sox 6-3 loss to the Indians on Wednesday at U.S. Cellular Field.

Humber actually pitched well enough to win, exiting after six innings with the score tied at 3, despite having walked a career-high six and hitting a batter. But the right-hander wasn't looking for postgame excuses. He's simply looking to continue getting better.

"I keep putting myself in situations where I've got to make a great pitch," said Humber, who threw 30 pitches in the first inning and finished with 107. "To be successful, I have to get back to the basics of attacking the zone and putting the pressure on their hitters. I have to let our guys have chances to make plays because our defense is really good and I'm not taking advantage of that right now.

"As a result, I'm not working deep in ballgames and putting pressure on our bullpen. I want to pick it up. It's not for lack of effort. But I need to do a better job."

The White Sox (12-12) were trying to take a first-place lead in the American League Central of one game or more for the first time since July 15, 2010. Instead, the Indians (12-10) took advantage of a season-high eight walks issued by the South Siders by scoring one in the eighth and two in the ninth to end a three-game losing streak this season to the host squad.

Cleveland scored the go-ahead run in the eighth, starting the two-out rally against Will Ohman, who was working in his second inning of relief. Michael Brantley singled to center, Casey Kotchman drew a walk, and after Addison Reed replaced Ohman, Jack Hannahan lined a double down the left-field line on a 97 mph fastball to score Brantley.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura liked the matchup of the left-handed Ohman for a rare second inning against an Indians lineup stacked with left-handed hitters.

"Then it got to a point where we brought Reeder in there," Ventura said. "They kind of snuck one in there inside the line."

Matt Thornton yielded his first home run of the year, a two-run shot hit by Travis Hafner, to give Chris Perez a little ninth-inning breathing room to pick up his eighth save. It didn't look as if the night would be productive for the Indians, as they loaded the bases in the first and third innings against Humber but couldn't score.

Hafner struck out swinging with runners on second and third and one out in the first, and then Shin-Soo Choo struck out one batter later with the bases loaded. Carlos Santana and Choo fanned with the bases loaded in the third, two more of Humber's six strikeouts.

Santana exacted his revenge in the fifth, after a Jason Kipnis double-play grounder erased a leadoff walk to Johnny Damon. Humber issued a two-out free pass to Asdrubal Cabrera and Hafner followed with a hard-hit grounder past second baseman Gordon Beckham on his left side, which originally was ruled an error as it rolled under his glove but then changed to a hit. That play loomed large, as Santana hit one of U.S. Cellular's longest home runs this year at 430 feet to give the Indians a 3-1 advantage.

"He wasn't spotting very well, but he just seemed to be escaping most innings," Ventura said of Humber. "He would have a lot of guys on base but kind of get out of it. That led to a high pitch count."

"We put together a bunch of good at-bats except in those situations where Humber made some good pitches," Cleveland manager Manny Acta said. "[Josh] Tomlin pitched well. He gave us a chance. He gave us six solid innings, and then once we got to our bullpen, those guys have been pretty solid for us. They kept them at bay."

Tomlin, one of Humber's close friends, couldn't hold the lead in the bottom of the fifth, as Alexei Ramirez delivered a two-out, two-run single to left to knot the score at 3. Along with Adam Dunn's sixth home run and the 371st of his career coming in the fourth, that Ramirez single pretty much summed up the White Sox offense against Tomlin and four relievers.

These two had never faced each other, and when Tomlin called Humber a few days before the start, it was to check on Kristan and the baby and not talk trash. The version of Humber that threw on Wednesday was a bit more tired than the one who talked with his friend, but again, Humber wasn't about to point to the birth of his first son as a reason for struggles.

"I'm not going to blame it on a lack of sleep," said Humber, who has allowed 12 runs in 11 innings since the perfect game. "Having a new baby is a blessing. I'm going to enjoy it and at the same time do my job, which is to give this team a win when I pitch."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.