Hector Santiago (4-1), the man who began the 2012 campaign as the surprise White Sox closer, turned in one of the team's best starting efforts of the season. He allowed one hit over seven innings, while striking out 10, giving him the highest strikeout total for a White Sox rookie since Jason Bere fanned 12 Angels on Sept. 20, 1993.
Santiago looked positively Mark Buehrle-esque over his 108 pitches, throwing 78 for strikes and working quickly.
"That's nice. I'd take that," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of the Santiago comparison to one of the top pitchers in franchise history. "When he's throwing strikes and feeling confident like that, he looks much different. When he's missing he gets frustrated. But today he looked great."
"You get comfortable on the mound and you go and go and go," Santiago said. "There's no reason to stop if you are throwing everything over the plate. Just keep going."
Monday's nearly flawless outing marked Santiago's fourth start of the year and his second straight against the Indians. When he faced Cleveland on Sept. 26, the southpaw allowed three runs on five hits over 3 1/3 innings.
He yielded a two-out free pass to Michael Brantley in the second on Monday, Shin-Soo Choo's ground-ball single into right with two outs in the third and then hit Asdrubal Cabrera to open the fourth. The Indians never came close to getting to Santiago in any other situation, as Santiago fanned two in the third, fifth, sixth and seventh innings to reach his single-game career-high in strikeouts and innings pitched.
"This guy was nasty tonight. Give him credit," said Cleveland interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr. "He kept the ball down. He used more breaking balls tonight. He had a great screwball, which not many lefties have. We couldn't put any good at-bats together against him. We couldn't eliminate any pitches because he was throwing them all for strikes."
"Last time he started against these guys, he walked a bunch of guys and was behind in the count," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski of Santiago. "Today he just was throwing it over the plate and was able to mix in other pitches. He has a screwball, which he used tremendously, which he didn't really do last time. He was just in total control."
Corey Kluber (2-5) held the White Sox scoreless through five innings, but the South Siders knocked the Tribe rookie from the game with four two-out runs in the sixth, tacked on one in the eighth and made it a laugher with a six-run ninth. Dewayne Wise started the sixth-inning rally with a one-out bunt single and swiped second base. He came home on Adam Dunn's single to center. Alex Rios, Pierzynski and Dayan Viciedo added run-scoring singles.
Wise played catalyst again in the ninth, opening the six-run frame with a single, before Viciedo hit a grand slam to bring his RBI total on the season to 75 after the White Sox batted around on the Indians bullpen.
The 10 strikeouts recorded by Santiago and one each from Jesse Crain and Leyson Septimo gave White Sox pitchers 1,225, breaking the team record of 1,220 set in 2011. It was another highlight of a very strong season for the White Sox, one that ended on a sour note, even with Santiago's brilliance.
Nonetheless, it was performance to file away for February, when pitchers and catchers report to Glendale, Ariz.
"Yeah, definitely. That's what these four or five starts were about, especially tonight," said Santiago of making a statement for a future rotation spot. "Just to let them know I can get it done in the starting rotation and hopefully next year be in it.
"Everything was working. All counts. I threw all five pitches from the first inning on. Whatever [Pierzynski] put down, it didn't matter what it was, it was probably going to be a strike."