CLEVELAND -- Chris Perez stood near his locker, still red in the face and irritated. Given the way the Indians closer had pitched over the past month, what transpired moments earlier on the field Tuesday night could be classified as a rare lapse at this point.
Perez was nonetheless annoyed and, naturally, it just had to be White Sox outfielder Alex Rios who was the source of the closer's undoing. The pair had exchanged barbs in their previous meeting. It was Rios' bat that did the talking this time around, sending Cleveland to a 5-3 loss in 10 innings at Progressive Field.
"Bad pitch," Perez said succinctly.
The ill-fated offering in question rocketed off Rios' bat and split the right-center-field gap, rolling to the wall for a run-scoring triple. Brent Lillibridge, pinch-running for Paul Konerko, who delivered a leadoff single earlier in the 10th inning, scored on the play for the go-ahead run. Rios later crossed the plate on a fielder's choice by shortstop Alexei Ramirez.
When Rios slid into home, he popped up, pumped his fists and let out a yell. While his brief celebration was not aimed at Perez, it certainly was reminiscent of the closer's reaction to getting Rios to ground out to end Thursday's game in Chicago. Rios took exception to Perez's antics that night and had to be escorted off the field as the two exchanged words.
If Rios got any satifaction in exacting a little revenge, he was not about to admit it.
"No, you know, it's part of the game," Rios said. "I was just trying to have a good at-bat, try to hit the ball hard somewhere, to at least get somebody on first and third. It worked out pretty good."
Perez was saddled with the loss for the American League Central-leading Indians (17-12), marking his first defeat since Sept. 10 of last season. In that game, Rios launched a walk-off grand slam off Perez in Chicago. Overall, the Chicago outfielder has hit .300 (3-for-10) with one homer, two triples and five RBIs off Cleveland's closer.
Add one shouting match to that list.
Perez also avoided talk of Thursday's incident.
"What happened in Chicago?" Perez said.
The late rally by the White Sox (14-17) halted a comeback attempt by the Tribe, which rallied for three runs in the eighth inning to pull the game into a 3-3 deadlock. After Chicago lefty John Danks silenced the Indians' bats for seven frames, Cleveland mounted a small push that started with consecutive singles from Casey Kotchman and Jack Hannahan to open the eighth.
The White Sox turned to lefty Chris Sale, who watched Ramirez mishandle a grounder off the bat of Johnny Damon to load the bases with no outs. Jason Kipnis came through with a run-scoring groundout and Carlos Santana later added a two-run single to tie the game, sending Tribe starter Justin Masterson home with a no-decision.
Masterson allowed a pair of first-inning runs, but played damage control over the course of his six innings. The sinkerballer scattered six hits and issued five walks, but did not allow any more runners to cross the plate in his time on the hill. Chicago's third run came against reliever Dan Wheeler in the seventh inning.
"When you know that stuff is kind of going here, there and everywhere," Masterson said, "you're close to the zone, but not close enough, you've got to be able to work through it and really keep it close. They [scored] two there in the first, so my goal the rest of the way was that I was going to be out there to just try to not give up any more."
Masterson's effort was admirable given his inconsistency.
"He got into a better groove and gave us six good innings," Acta said. "He did a good job of not allowing a little bit of wildness get to him. He just got back into the zone, made good pitches and gave us a solid outing."
Lefty Nick Hagadone followed Wheeler, leaving Acta with only lefty Tony Sipp and Perez available out of the bullpen. Rather than waiting to use the All-Star closer, Acta opted to send Perez to the hill for the 10th inning. Considering how well the closer has performed of late, it was hard to question the move.
Since blowing a save on Opening Day, Perez had fashioned a 0.75 ERA over 13 games with 11 saves in as many opportunities. Hitters had a .136 (4-for-44) average against the right-hander over that span and he had compiled nine strikeouts against three walks over 12 innings.
Unfortunately, there is such a thing as the law of averages.
"He's not going to be perfect the rest of the way," Acta said. "We know that."
And Perez understands that, too.
"What, like I'm never going to give up a run again?" he said. "Come on."
That did not make Tuesday's misstep any less aggravating.
"Two hits. We lost," Perez said. "It stinks, especially after we battled back."