Grand beginningOrdonez's slam ignites White Sox's rout in series opener
Jon Rauch's first major-league start nearly came to a screeching halt early Tuesday night in the White Sox's 10-5 romp over Cleveland.
After ending the first inning with a called strikeout, the exuberant rookie charged toward the dugout, slipped and tumbled down the steps while receiving some congratulatory back slaps from his teammates.
"Sometimes I lose track of what my feet are doing," Rauch said. "I'm a klutz."
Rauch recovered from the misstep to pitch into the fifth but was removed by manager Jerry Manuel after 89 pitches with a 9-1 lead and didn't receive credit for the victory.
Manuel was booed by the raucous crowd of 23,502 but didn't take it personally.
"I was booing me too," Manuel said. "That was good. "
The Sox snapped Cleveland's 10-game winning streak in the first of 19 meetings this year between the Central Division rivals, setting the stage for what should be another interesting season series. Magglio Ordonez's grand slam and three hits paced the Sox's offense, which blistered left-hander Chuck Finley in a nine-run second to break the game open early.
The 6-foot-11-inch Rauch, who became the tallest starter in major-league history when he took the mound Tuesday night, hadn't pitched since a 1 1/3-inning relief stint April 2 in Seattle. A rainout in Detroit increased the degree of difficulty in his first start, but Cleveland hitters didn't know what to expect from Rauch.
"He's 6-11, he looks like he's right on top of you, so you might have to make some adjustments," Manuel said before the game. "Hopefully, by the time they make their adjustments, we'll move on and put somebody else out there, hopefully with a lead."
Rauch walked the first batter he faced, Matt Lawton, but appeared to have him doubled off on the next play. Lawton was already well around second when Kenny Lofton caught an Omar Vizquel fly, but on the relay to first by Ray Durham, Lawton stuck his hand in the air and deflected the ball, scampering back to the base. The Sox argued, to no avail, that Lawton committed interference.
With two outs and Lawton on second following a balk, Rauch intentionally walked Jim Thome before striking out Travis Fryman. The rookie pumped his fist into his glove, charged back to the dugout and stumbled down the steps.
"All in good fun," Rauch said. "It was a laugh and will probably be on the highlight reel for the next 20 years. You've got to make those somehow."
The Indians snatched a quick lead in the second on Russell Branyan's solo homer before the Sox got to Finley in the bottom of the inning, scoring nine runs and sending up 12 men. Royce Clayton's two-run homer made it 5-1, and Ordonez later blasted his fifth career grand slam, earning a curtain call.
After Rauch started off the fifth by walking the first two batters, Manuel had seen enough. Rauch was guiding the ball, and Manuel said it was unfair "to ask him to make that adjustment while he was tired." Although Manuel wanted to get Rauch the win, he was more interested in what Rauch termed "preventative medicine."
"It's his decision to do that," Rauch said. "I'm behind him 100 percent."
A different foe
Despite Cleveland's gaudy 11-1 record coming into Tuesday night's game at Comiskey Park, maybe it's not so surprising that the White Sox smacked the Indians 10-5. A comparison of both teams' first 12 games shows the Indians played a weaker schedule. Check out the Sox's average margin of victory.