Phillips’ altered throw sailed over first base for a decisive ninth-inning error Saturday night, helping the Chicago White Sox rally for an 8-6 victory over the Cincinnati Reds that preserved Jose Contreras’ unbeaten streak.
Contreras struck out a career-high 13 batters, but was looking at the end of his 15-game regular-season winning streak when he left trailing 5-3 in the sixth. He slammed his fist on a water bottle on the bench, angry that he’d let one slip away.
“That was the game for me,” Contreras said through an interpreter. “I guess the team didn’t want me to lose.”
One of the AL’s top offenses kept his remarkable run going.
Pierzynski drove in a run with a groundout in the seventh off reliever David Weathers, and Juan Uribe homered off Chris Hammond in the eighth to tie it at 5 and leave Contreras with a no-decision. He hasn’t lost since Aug. 15, the longest such run since Minnesota’s Johan Santana won 17 in a row in 2004-05.
“Contreras is a lucky man,” manager Ozzie Guillen said.
Of course, Contreras also went 3-1 during the playoffs last season, helping the White Sox win their first World Series title since 1917.
With the streak preserved, it was up to the two bullpens to decide the game. Chicago’s has been much better, and it showed why.
Todd Coffey (3-1) allowed the White Sox to load the bases with one out in the ninth. Joe Crede, who hit a grand slam in the series opener, then grounded to shortstop Felipe Lopez, who tried for a rally-ending double play.
Phillips took the toss at second for the forceout, then jumped and altered his throw to first base to avoid hitting Pierzynski, who made a late slide. He should have thrown it low to make Pierzynski get out of the way.
“I’ll make that play next time,” said Phillips, who blamed himself. “I’m going to throw it right to first base, even if he’s in the way, even if I can’t see it. That will not happen again.”
Pierzynski was trying to rush Phillips, not distract him.
“I was just trying to get there, put pressure on him,” the catcher said. “It was a tough double play to turn. I got his legs, but he kind of went over me. I think he felt me. He threw it high.”
Ross Gload scored on the fielder’s choice and Jermaine Dye came around on the error. Uribe followed with a run-scoring single that made it 8-5 and put the White Sox in position to move a season-high 18 games over .500 at 43-25.
Matt Thornton (2-1) retired the only batter he faced in the eighth. Bobby Jenks had a few frightening moments in the ninth, allowing a run on Lopez’s groundout before fanning Ken Griffey Jr. with runners on second and third to end it.
“If I’m going to make it dramatic, it might as well be against one of the game’s best hitters,” said Jenks, who has converted 11 straight save chances and is 20-of-21 overall.
The loss kept the Reds in their up-and-down mode. They were five games out in the NL Central when they put together an eight-game winning streak at the start of June that vaulted them into first place. Now, they’ve lost seven of eight, dropping 4 1/2 behind St. Louis.
For eight games, plays like the one Phillips’ tried to make in the ninth went their way. In the last eight games, they’ve gone against them.
“I know,” Coffey said. “That’s baseball, isn’t it? It just happens.”
On this night, Contreras was the fortunate one.
Contreras’ 13 strikeouts were the most by a White Sox pitcher since Alex Fernandez fanned the same number of Red Sox on June 12, 1996, in Chicago. But while he was in the game, it looked like the Reds could pull off that streak-busting win. Austin Kearns drove in three runs with a pair of singles, and some sensational defense kept the White Sox from having a big inning.
White Sox RHP Cliff Politte threw in the bullpen on Saturday. Politte, on the DL since June 7 with a sore shoulder, is expected to make a minor league rehab stint. … Pablo Ozuna had three hits for Chicago and extended his hitting streak to seven games. … The Reds put LHP Brandon Claussen on the 15-day DL with a sore shoulder. RHP Joe Mays is expected to take Claussen’s spot in the rotation. Cincinnati plans to call up reliever Mike Burns on Sunday. … Reds starter Eric Milton gave up seven hits and three runs in six innings. … Reds INF Rich Aurilia left the game after straining his right arm while diving back to base on a pickoff attempt in the fourth.