CHICAGO -- The Indians officially embarked on a grueling journey on Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field. Over the course of the season's final 44 days, Cleveland faces a daunting slate that includes 45 games.
Naturally, the Tribe began its quest with an extra-inning affair.
The Indians were unable to outlast the White Sox in an 8-7 loss in 14 innings. The defeat dropped Cleveland's record to 1-7 against Chicago this season and knocked the Tribe three games behind first-place Detroit in the American League Central standings.
"Fourteen innings on the first day of 45 in 44," said Cleveland's Chris Perez. "It's days like this I'm glad I'm a closer."
As the game dragged into Wednesday morning, the 493rd pitch of the evening brought the decisive blow. After five hours and 21 minutes of play, Juan Pierre ripped a pitch from Indians lefty David Huff into left field for a walk-off single that scored Gordon Beckham to set off an on-field celebration for Chicago.
The Indians (60-58) and White Sox combined to use 40 players, including 16 pitchers, in the draining contest. In the end, Chicago (61-60) came out ahead and pulled within a half-game of the Tribe for second place in the division. So much of the focus has been on catching the Tigers, but the Indians also need to fend off the South Siders.
"It's definitely something we need to change -- 7-1 against a team," Perez said. "That's not a fluke. At the same time, it doesn't bury us. But it would be nice to hold our own."
Indians manager Manny Acta turned to Huff -- Cleveland's probable starter for Saturday -- only after emptying out the team's entire bullpen. Fortunately for the Tribe, Monday's off-day and a rainout on Sunday helped freshen up a batch of relief arms that logged 12 of the 14 innings logged against the Tigers on Aug. 9.
Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez felt responsible for Tuesday's lengthy affair.
"As a pitcher, you want to give your team an opportunity to win," Jimenez said. "You don't want to put the team in a bad position like I did today. The bullpen had to throw a lot of innings because I wasn't able to pitch good.
"The guys battled. They did everything possible to keep playing."
Jimenez labored through 4 2/3 innings in a no-decision, surrendering five runs (four earned) on nine hits in an erratic 105-pitch performance. The right-hander gave up five of the 11 extra-base hits piled up by Chicago. Pierre launched a solo homer in the fourth, and Alejandro De Aza finished the night with two triples.
Overall, the White Sox notched five triples, marking the most they have achieved in a single game since Sept. 17, 1920, against the Yankees. It was the first time since Aug. 2, 1986 -- the Phillies -- that any team delivered a quintet of triples in one contest.
"We just battled and they battled," Pierre said. "You expect to do that when you're in the hunt like that. They didn't give in, and we didn't give in. It was just a big victory. To be out there so long, it would be really tough to come in after a loss. Definitely it was a big win."
The Indians were outhit by the White Sox, 22-10, but the clubs still carried a 7-7 deadlock into extras. Travis Hafner trimmed Chicago's lead to 7-6 with a solo homer in the eighth, and Shin-Soo Choo used a run-scoring fielder's choice to pull the game into a tie in the ninth.
There were positives to be found within the Tribe's offensive showing, but the Indians also ended the night with 19 strikeouts as a team. Seven of those came within the first three innings against Chicago right-hander Gavin Floyd, who was later chased after allowing five runs in 5 2/3 frames.
The night also included a handful of emotional outbursts as well.
In the fourth inning, Acta stormed the field and argued at length with the umpires about a play where it appeared as though White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez interfered with Michael Brantley on the basepaths. In the 10th, left-hander Tony Sipp was ejected by first-base ump Wally Bell for angrily arguing a ruling at first.
"It was one of those crazy days," Jimenez said.
Indeed, it was one of those wild games that the Indians can only hope serves as a message rather than foreshadowing of a downward spiral.
Even though Cleveland ultimately landed in the loss column, the club once again showed the type of resilience that has been on display all season. As far as the Tribe is concerned, that fight is not going to go away any time soon.
"This one hurts, obviously," Perez said. "But we're not going anywhere. And I'm sure that the Tigers and White Sox are waiting for us to drop out, like, 'Oh, they're not supposed to be here.' We're not going to go anywhere."