CHICAGO -- After almost eight hours of baseball Friday at U.S. Cellular Field, all the White Sox had to show for their effort was two more gut-wrenching losses to the Indians along the highway of a fading 2013 season.
The longest doubleheader in Major League Baseball history, featuring two nine-inning games that resulted in 19-10 and 9-8 victories for Cleveland (42-38), might not have been the longest day of Robin Ventura's two-year managerial tenure. But it certainly has to rank near the top as one of the toughest.
"It's one of those that you have to be able to grind it out and win a game and we just couldn't close it out. They were swinging it," Ventura said. "I don't know if you felt like you weren't safe with the way they were swinging it because we were swinging it, too. We just didn't close it down."
A strange side note from these seven hours and 53 minutes of baseball, with a 25-minute rain delay before the start of Game 2 mixed in for good measure, was that the White Sox (32-45) didn't lose because of their porous defense or their anemic offense as they have countless times previously. In fact, the South Siders scored 18 runs on 26 hits, sparked by six hits and four RBIs from Jeff Keppinger.
This sweep fell upon a rare off-day for the pitching, punctuated by a second straight blown save from closer Addison Reed (3-1). The White Sox built up an 8-5 lead going into the ninth, gradually erasing a 4-0 deficit from the first inning, but that advantage disappeared within three singles, a long Jason Giambi fly out and Jason Kipnis' game-tying sacrifice fly.
Six pitches later, Nick Swisher took care of his old team by launching a 409-foot, game-winning homer to right on a full-count fastball. Much like other rare struggles from Reed this season, it was location that beat him on Friday night.
"That's any time I get in trouble, it's missing spots," Reed said. "It's not putting the ball where I want to put it. Hector [Gimenez] called all the right pitches. I just didn't execute them. Ball was over the plate and up in the zone and they made me pay for it."
"I haven't had all that much success off Reed. He's a guy that's got a plus fastball, good slider, good changeup," said Swisher, who is now 1-for-4 against Reed. "That was one of the best comebacks we've had all year, and to do it against a guy like that, that was awesome."
Gordon Beckham knocked out four hits in the doubleheader, while Adam Dunn had three hits and four RBIs. It was Dunn who delivered the go-ahead shot in the sixth inning of Game 2, with a two-out single up the middle off left-handed reliever Rich Hill completing a four-run rally. That single put Jose Quintana in position for a victory, an impressive feat considering the southpaw opened his outing by giving up singles to Michael Bourn, Mike Aviles and Kipnis and walking Swisher.
Quintana forced home a run one out later by walking Carlos Santana, and a Michael Brantley sacrifice fly added another first-inning tally. But the southpaw settled down to retire 10 in a row from the second through the fifth. Mark Reynolds broke that streak with a solo homer to open the sixth, but Quintana worked through six innings on 103 pitches with three strikeouts and three walks.
Nate Jones and Jesse Crain shut down the Indians over the seventh and eighth innings, although Crain had a bit of a scare in the eighth. With two outs and Santana on first, Brantley hit a line drive down the right-field line that easily had the distance for a home run but went foul around the pole by a foot or two. A check of the replay by umpire Wally Bell and his crew confirmed the decision, and Brantley popped out to shortstop Alexei Ramirez to end the inning.
Fortunes weren't nearly as lucky for Reed. With the troublesome turn this season has taken for the White Sox, there was almost a sense of the blown save coming after the first two solid singles from Ryan Raburn and pinch-hitter Asdrubal Cabrera.
"You're devastated when things like this happen, but I wouldn't say it's a 'here-we-go-again' type of thing," Dunn said. "It just seems to happen. We wouldn't have as many wins as we have if it weren't for Reeder and those guys. It seems like when things goes bad, they go real bad."
Ventura's crew reached a new low by dipping to 13 games under .500 for the first time and slipped to 10 1/2 games behind the Tigers in the American League Central. That deficit is immaterial for a team that just can't seem to get its full act together, and probably won't be given much more time to figure it out.
"When we do hit, we don't pitch. When we do pitch, we don't hit," White Sox reliever Matt Thornton said. "When we do both, the defense slides a little bit. It always seems like one thing or another goes wrong."