CHICAGO -- The White Sox dropped their second straight game to the Indians, 4-2, on Thursday night at U.S. Cellular Field, but starter Philip Humber seemed to avoid what could have been a far more serious loss for Ozzie Guillen's club.
Humber was struck just above the right eye on a second-inning liner off the bat of Kosuke Fukudome, but the right-hander somehow popped right back up and tried to talk Guillen and White Sox head athletic trainer Herm Schneider into letting him stay in the game.
The White Sox denied Humber's request, lifting the pitcher for precautionary reasons, and turned to their bullpen to carry them the rest of the way. Less than 48 hours after using the 'pen for 8 1/3 innings in a 14-inning triumph on Tuesday, the White Sox turned to Zach Stewart to eat up some innings after Humber was knocked out of the game.
Stewart, who also threw 36 pitches in relief on Wednesday, tossed 2 2/3 innings on Thursday, hanging one pitch that resulted in a two-run Matt LaPorta home run in the fourth.
"I think when you get hit like that, in that spot, I think it wasn't fair to leave [Humber] in there and try to pitch," Guillen said. "But Stewart pitched well. He kept the bullpen very fresh for [Friday]. Once again he did a tremendous job."
LaPorta's home run put the Indians on top just one inning after Paul Konerko had given the White Sox an early one-run lead on a solo home run of his own. Chicago, however, quickly erased its one-run deficit, as well, knotting the game at 2 in the bottom half of the fourth on a Tyler Flowers RBI single.
Unfortunately for the White Sox, that would be the last run given up by Indians starter Justin Masterson, who earned the win after Fukudome delivered another blow to Guillen's club with a decisive RBI triple off of Will Ohman, putting the Indians ahead, 3-2, in the sixth. Masterson worked his way into a two-on, two-out jam in the bottom half of the inning, but ended the frame -- and his night -- by striking out Gordon Beckham.
"He's becoming a bulldog in this league," left fielder Juan Pierre said. "The numbers speak for themselves. He's a pretty tough pitcher to hit. He kept the ball down. We had a couple hits off him, had him on the ropes, but he made the big pitch when he had to. We had a chance to win but couldn't get the big hit at the end."
With Masterson out of the game, the White Sox had another one of those chances in the eighth inning, but suffered a similar fate against Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano.
Stepping in with two outs and the bases loaded with his team trailing, 4-2, Beckham again struck out to end the threat. The struggling second baseman was the final out in the second, fourth, sixth and eighth innings, and accounted for seven of the 10 runners left on base by the White Sox.
"Well, I talked to him before the game, and I worry about him because he's chasing a lot of bad pitches," Guillen said. "I know it's not easy, but I think he have to lay off the high fastball as soon as he can, because he's going to put himself in deeper position."
With the White Sox failing to come through with the big hits, they lost to the Indians for the second straight night after having lost just twice in their previous 15 meetings.
Following Tuesday's series-opening victory, the White Sox had beaten Manny Acta's club five straight times before Cleveland rallied to take the series.
"They play good baseball against us," Acta said. "They hit us around pretty good at the beginning of the year and they have played their best baseball against us. That's how baseball goes. You never know which team is the one that's going to play well against you."
Instead of overtaking the Indians for second place or at least inching closer to the Tribe, Chicago finished the series 2 1/2 games back of the second-place Indians. Chicago also fell four behind the idle Tigers in the American League Central.
"We just don't have the big hit today," Guillen said. "We just couldn't pull the trigger. We had pretty good opportunities. We just not have the big hit."
The loss dropped the White Sox to one game below .500, at 61-62, as they start an eight-game stretch against the AL West on Friday, with the Rangers coming to Chicago for a three-game set.
With 28 straight divisional games on the slate after that stretch and the White Sox still having won nine of their last 13 overall, Pierre isn't ready to give up on the team's playoff chances quite yet.
"Hopefully we'll get hot," Pierre said. "It was only one series. We've been playing good, so I don't even want to dwell on this series loss. We have to let it go and try to continue playing good baseball."
Paul Casella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.