Kevin Millwood was cruising along Sunday, heading toward a rare victory in Chicago for him as well as the Mariners. He retired 10 in a row when, with two outs in the seventh and a 3-2 lead, he gave up his first walk of the game, to Jordan Danks.
Umpires halted the game to apply absorbent to basepaths soaked from a steady rain, causing a six-minute delay. Millwood stood in the rain, watching.
After Millwood cooled down enough to lose his edge, his first pitch to backup catcher Tyler Flowers turned into a 436-foot, two-run homer that put the White Sox ahead 4-3 — the winning hit, as it turned out, but it took nearly two hours to affirm the outcome.
The Mariners, who lost the first two games of the series by a single run each night, also lost the third one by a single run after a dreary rain delay that umpires finally called to an end with two outs and two on in the seventh. It was the ninth and final game between the teams this season (the White Sox won eight), so the umpires were eager to avoid a rain-shortened outcome that potentially could have an adverse impact on the pennant race.
After Millwood allowed another single, he was replaced by Lucas Luetge, who also gave up a hit. As manager Eric Wedge brought in Stephen Pryor, umpires again halted the game, this time to cover the infield with tarps. Wedge was clearly irked, and let umpires know it, arguing they should have stopped the game with the Mariners ahead instead of the futile attempt to preserve the basepaths.
But the the game’s third delay, and the rain, continued until the game was called at 7:20 p.m. CT, for a game that was supposed to start at at 1:10 — except the start was delayed by 111 minutes.
The Mariners took a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning on a line-shot home run to left by Casper Wells, scoring Justin Smoak, who had singled. Given how Millwood was pitching and how hard it was raining, the conclusion of the fifth inning, making the game official, seemed to bode well for the Mariners.
Millwood had a 1-7 career record at U.S. Cellular Field, and the Mariners entering Sunday had lost 19 of their previous 22 games against Chicago, including 9-8 Friday and 5-4 Saturday. Even though he gave up just one earned run in 6.2 innings (seven hits, three K’s, one walk) he took the loss, and fell to 4-11.
The Mariners scored in the first when Jesus Montero’s infield single brought home Dustin Ackley, who opened the game with a single. White Sox starter Gavin Floyd threw 32 pitches in the inning, and was out of the game with a sore elbow after the second inning.
The White Sox tied it in the second after shortstop Brendan Ryan booted a routine grounder to let Alex Rios aboard. Rios stole second when catcher John Jaso dropped the transfer. An infield single was followed by a sacrifice fly from Danks that scored Rios.
Chicago went up 2-1 in the fourth when Ray Olmedo, who singled, scored two outs later after a sinking liner from Kevin Youkilis sneaked under the glove of sliding right fielder Eric Thames and rolled to the wall for a triple.
Despite all, Millwood was resolute — at least until Mother Nature and the umpires conspired in the seventh inning to make his fastball way too tempting for Flowers.