After falling to the Indians, 4-3, on Tuesday, Chicago has lost six of its last seven with the end of the regular season a week from Wednesday. The loss coupled with Detroit's 2-0 win over Kansas City dropped the White Sox to a first-place tie in the division.
That heightens the urgency for the White Sox, who will send lefty Hector Santiago to the mound on Wednesday night to face right-hander Justin Masterson and the Indians at U.S. Cellular Field.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura shuffled his rotation to insert Santiago, in part to rest Chicago's other starters but also to neutralize a Cleveland lineup that has gone 16-35 against left-handed starters this season. Santiago has only thrown two-thirds of an inning since Sept. 13, but he's been working in the bullpen before and during games to stay sharp.
"You watch other guys get [the Indians] out. You learn from them. I'm [glad] they consider me for that," Santiago said. "I feel like I have a tougher time [against left-handed hitters] because of my slider, but I don't go out there and think about that."
In two starts this month, Santiago has allowed one run on six hits and six walks while striking out 14 over nine innings against the Twins and Royals. His main goal Wednesday will be to pitch deep into the game, giving the White Sox a chance to win and, hopefully, create some space between themselves and the Tigers.
Masterson will be on the mound for the Indians, looking for his 12th win and a little more run support than he's been offered most of the season. Masterson took the loss his last time out, giving up four runs on seven hits and two walks, despite not giving up an extra-base hit and inducing his usual array of ground balls.
In some ways, it was indicative of the way things have gone for Masterson. After going 12-10 with a 3.21 ERA a year ago, Masterson enters Wednesday's game with 15 losses and a 4.97 ERA. Despite the lack of run support, Masterson isn't looking to make excuses for his performance this year.
"I haven't pitched as well this year. It doesn't matter if you're scoring runs or not scoring runs, I haven't pitched that well this year," Masterson said. "That's more of the disappointing part, at least consistently in the overall sense. We've had some decent games here and there, but until you're able to do your job consistently, you're not talking about what other people are doing."
Indians: Pestano redeems Monday's mistake
After giving up a three-run homer to Adam Dunn that cost the Indians Monday's game, setup man Vinnie Pestano spoke of how "terribly deflating" that moment was and how he hoped to end his season on a high note. He took a step in that direction Tuesday, overcoming an error by shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and a Kevin Youkilis single by getting out of the eighth inning and recording his 36th hold.
Pestano induced a 4-6-3 double play to clear the bases after Gordon Beckham reached on Cabrera's error, allowed Youkilis to reach and then found himself face-to-face, again, with Dunn. There would be no homer this time, as Pestano struck out Dunn on four pitches.
"For the past several weeks, I've been brutal by my standards," Pestano said Tuesday. "I'm a perfectionist. If I can give up zero runs in a season, I'm going to try. To give up three-quarters of my runs in the last six weeks of the season, I don't know what I can attribute it to besides execution."
Roberto Hernandez will throw a simulated game and participate in agility drills Wednesday to test his injured right ankle. The Indians will then make a decision on Hernandez, choosing whether to get him back into the rotation or shut him down for the rest of the season.
White Sox: Ventura alters rotation
In the event the White Sox and Tigers end the regular season tied, manager Robin Ventura made sure his biggest weapon will be available for a potential Game 163. The manager announced after Tuesday's game that Jake Peavy will pitch Thursday against the Rays, followed by Gavin Floyd and Chris Sale, who would be on schedule to face Tigers ace Justin Verlander in the event of a one-game AL Central tiebreaker.
Ventura had announced before the game that, with Santiago slotted into the rotation, Sale would start Sunday's regular-season home finale.
"Most of it is just getting those guys an extra day," Ventura said. "Even watching Chris last night, he's at a different point than he's been at in his career. It's just good to get him an extra day. Whenever that's happened, he's been a little stronger."
Ventura confirmed Tuesday that Addison Reed is still the team's closer, but he has used lefties Matt Thornton and Donnie Veal more in late-game matchups against left-handed hitters.
"I still trust him," Ventura said. "It's just I want him to have the right matchups when he's going in there."
The White Sox hit three homers in Tuesday's loss, bringing their total on the season to 202, which trails only the Yankees among all Major League teams. Chicago is 43-14 when hitting multiple homers in a game.
Indians center fielder Michael Brantley sat out for the second straight game Tuesday because of a groin injury. He will be re-evaluated before Wednesday's game.