CLEVELAND—When asked why the White Sox haven't fared well against left-handed starters, manager Ozzie Guillen gave a simple explanation.
"Sabathia, Lee, Santana," Guillen said Tuesday night in reference to the last names of American League Central left-handers. "It has to be."
The Sox blew a 3-0 lead against C.C. Sabathia (5-1), but their failure to execute cost them a chance to expand the margin.
Meanwhile, right fielder Jermaine Dye's error ignited the Indians' four-run third inning off Mark Buehrle (6-3), who has lost twice to Cleveland in two starts at Jacobs Field this season and hasn't beaten Sabathia in seven head-to-head matchups.
Compounding matters was that with one run in, Paul Konerko badly missed a sweeping tag that would have picked off Grady Sizemore at first base. The play proved costly as Jhonny Peralta then hit a game-tying two-run homer before Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez each doubled to give the Indians the lead for good.
The four-run rally snapped Buehrle's streak of 23 consecutive scoreless innings.
"It hurts any time you get a lead and lose it, especially when Buehrle is on the mound," catcher Chris Widger said. "He got a couple of pitches up in one inning. They had good at-bats and stayed with the pitch. They didn't try to pull the ball. "
The Sox also noticed Sabathia has transformed himself into a more polished pitcher since coming off the disabled list to beat them May 2. Although the Sox ran up Sabathia's pitch count to 107 after six innings, he kept them off-balance.
"When he gets a Konerko or [Jim] Thome up there, it's 96 or 97 m.p.h.," Widger said. "He's a smarter pitcher now that he saves a little bit in the tank so he has it when he needs it."
Guillen, however, has the juggling act of piecing together a lineup against left-handers with some unusual statistics. Second baseman Tadahito Iguchi, for instance, went 0-for-3 (fouling out on a bunt attempt in the third) against Sabathia and is batting .226 against lefties.
Pablo Ozuna took advantage of a rare start in place of Scott Podsednik and went 2-for-3 against Sabathia and is hitting .382 versus lefties.
But left-handed hitter Rob Mackowiak, currently the Sox's hottest hitter, is batting .214 against lefties.
Widger prefers to wait until at least the All-Star break before assessing the Sox's mark against left-handers.
"We've had trouble a little bit against them, but have faced Sabathia three times and Johan [Santana] twice, so you're talking about five of those starts against two of the best pitchers in baseball," Widger said.
In the ninth, Guillen sent up three consecutive left-handed pinch-hitters to face closer Bob Wickman, against whom left-handers were batting .316.
But Mackowiak took a called third strike and Iguchi grounded out to end the game with the tying run at second.