Once upon a time in a land far, far, away I was a young man. And, as such, I was prone to doing young man things. In other words, I did not always make the best decisions. While it is true that some of those bad decisions led to epic stories, Toledo 1983 springs to mind, in the main they did little to benefit society. Or me. Or my family.
My behavior and my decisions would cause familial consternation for a while.
The thing of it was that I knew I was making bad decisions, but I was just enjoying the consequences too much to stop. I never blamed anyone other than myself for the situations I found myself in.
Nevertheless, time reared its ugly head and I settled down.
As much as I was ever going to anyway.
That is why I feel a certain kinship with our two baseball teams. They are making some tragically bad decisions that could have a negative impact on their futures.
We’ll start with the Cubs.
Carrie Muskat reports that the Cubs still have one of the best rotations in baseball but they keep losing close games.
Because they couldn’t hit the side of a barn with a cannon.
On Opening Day, Jeff Samardzija held the Pirates to two hits over eight scoreless innings and picked up the win. Pittsburgh got that many hits in the first inning alone Wednesday, and they were just enough.
Garrett Jones smacked an RBI single in the first to back Francisco Liriano, who struck out nine over seven innings, and lift the Pirates to a 1-0 victory over the Cubs.
It was another wasted quality start by a Cubs starter. Chicago pitchers have posted 28 quality starts—three runs or fewer over six innings—and have a 1.98 ERA in those games. They have won just 11 of the 28. Only four National League teams have more quality starts than the Cubs: the Phillies, the Cardinals, the Diamondbacks and the Nationals.
“[Samardzija] was as good as you can be,” manager Dale Sveum said. “Once again, we seem to waste these starting outings. It’s just unbelievable how these kind of things happen, to have this kind of starting pitching and just can’t score any runs.”
How frustrating is it?
“You take it with a grain of salt,” Samardzija said. “You’re going out to do your job, regardless of what the outcome is. Every fifth day, you’re going to get a start and know what to expect. You can only control what you can control. You want to go out and keep doing what you’re doing, and if it’s going well, keep going, and if not, make a couple adjustments to get back to where you need to be. It’s just the way this game goes sometimes. You can get a win and give up five runs sometimes.”
The Cubs dropped to 6-12 in one-run games, and this was the 39th out of 45 contests to be decided by four runs or fewer. Close losses like these often result in sleepless nights.
“Everyone’s doing what they can to win these games, and we’re right there,” Samardzija said. “It’s just a play here, play there, a hit here, a hit there and the game changes. Everyone’s trying to do their job. You’ve got to find it somewhere.”
Samardzija was the winning pitcher April 1 at PNC Park in the Cubs’ 3-1 victory but took the loss Wednesday. It was his first defeat in 15 career games (four starts) against the Pirates and first loss in nine games (four starts) in Pittsburgh. The right-hander did strike out eight and scattered three hits over seven innings.
“That’s just electric stuff,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Samardzija. “He’s definitely been hard on us and to score early in the first and to only have two opportunities the rest of the game ... and for them, the third inning, with the bases loaded, was the difference.”
The third inning summed up the Cubs’ season. They have struggled with runners in scoring position before, and they failed again in the third. Chicago loaded the bases with none out, but Julio Borbon hit into a fielder’s choice, forcing the runner at home, then Starlin Castro struck out, and Anthony Rizzo flied out to right.
“It’s the same song and dance—we get people on and can’t get them in,” Sveum said.
Borbon, Castro and Rizzo were all ahead in the count in their at-bats, too.
“We let the at-bat get away from us,” Sveum said.
“That’s the whole key, is not try to do too much and locate your pitches,” Liriano said.
Maybe if Samardzija had come through at the plate that inning, it would have been different. The Cubs’ starting pitchers have combined for 13 RBIs in May.
“Unfortunately, that’s our problem—we’re relying on our pitchers to drive runs in,” Sveum said.
The Pirates got all they needed in the first when Andrew McCutchen doubled with two outs and scored on Jones’ single. Liriano shifted into cruise control.
“He wasn’t going to give in,” Chicago’s Darwin Barney said of the Pirates lefty. “I don’t think he had his best slider today, but his changeup was really good. We kind of relied on that a little bit, and he just kept us off balance, and we couldn’t get anything going. He looked really good today. He definitely had his stuff.”
Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez also made two outstanding defensive plays on Castro in the sixth and Scott Hairston in the seventh.
“Pedro had something to do with it, too,” Barney said. “You’ve just got to tip your cap sometimes.”
Chicago had runners at first and second with one out in the ninth against Mark Melancon, but he got pinch-hitter Ryan Sweeney and Barney to line out. The Cubs entered the game batting .218 with runners in scoring position, worst in the National League, and went 0-for-6 for the game.
“We just can’t seem to do anything against a left-handed starter,” Sveum said.
The good news is, they will face a right-hander, Jeanmar Gomez, on Thursday.
I have no idea what the Cubs hitting coach is preaching but it isn’t working. I haven’t seen that many corkscrew imitations since I was at an XRT frat party in 1980. Anthony Rizzo, FACE OF THE FRANCHISE AND GOD’S GIFT TO BASEBALL, actually struck out staring at his toes when he finished his pirouette.
The frustrating thing for Cubs fans is the fact that the infield defense is above average, the starting pitching is stellar and they are losing. Even more frustrating is the fact that the pen has given up 10 games. So instead of being 28-17 and competing for the division title, they are staring up at the vaunted Pirates.
Things aren’t much better on the South Side. To call their hitting streaky would be an insult to the proud generations of naked people who have interrupted sporting events since 1969. They, too, have a starting rotation that is the envy of sabermatic nerds. They, too, have the potential to be fighting for the division and they, too, are fighting to stay out of last place.
Ethan Asofsky, a name that proves his family has a wicked sense of humor, was at last night’s game and has the sad saga to share.
White Sox starter Hector Santiago grimaced.
With runners on first and third and one out in the first inning, he threw a perfectly good slider to Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz only to have him reach out with his bat and poke the ball into left field for a two-run single.
“I think that’s the best slider I’ve thrown all year, the first one for a strike,” Santiago said. “I kind of made my pitch and he just kind of threw his bat. You kind of expect something like that, hopefully just not in that situation. He’s a good hitter, he just laid the bat out and placed it perfect.”
Ortiz’s single was the difference in Boston’s 6-2 win over Chicago in Wednesday’s series finale at U.S. Cellular Field, spoiling the South Siders’ chance at their first series sweep.
Santiago calls himself a Swiss Army knife, alluding to the different roles his arm can fill as a starter or out of the bullpen. On Wednesday, the White Sox needed him to throw in Chris Sale’s spot after the ace was scratched because of mild tendinitis in his shoulder. Santiago threw 80 pitches in Anaheim on Saturday, but the left-hander said he felt fine during warmups despite getting the call on just four days’ rest.
“It was a regular day,” Santiago said. “It was just the first few innings were a little tough, that first inning especially. I just grinded it out and just tried to battle and make pitches.”
It took Santiago 29 pitches to get through that first inning, but he settled down and blanked Boston for the next five innings. Before the game, White Sox manager Robin Ventura warned that Santiago might be due for a short outing because he had been bumped up a day.
After the first inning, the chances of that happening seemed to increase. But Santiago only needed 78 pitches to get through the next five innings, allowing just three hits and finishing with nine strikeouts. Santiago had planned for a long outing the whole night with his primary goal to preserve the bullpen. He even said he wanted to throw the seventh inning despite already totaling 107 pitches.
“You weren’t really expecting it, but he started getting a little stronger as he got in there,” Ventura said. “There was a couple innings where you think he wasn’t going to make it --- I think it was the fourth --- and he gets through it. Then he was basically hitter to hitter and got stronger.”
But the White Sox offense, which had scored nine runs in the first two games of the series, couldn’t help Santiago’s cause. Chicago had its opportunity to score, but stranded runners at second base in the first and third innings. Alex Rios drove in the White Sox only meaningful run on a groundout to short in the third inning, sending catcher Tyler Flowers home from third. The right fielder also extended his hitting streak to 17 games, the longest run in the American League this season, with a single in the sixth.
For most of the night, however, the timely hitting the White Sox displayed during the first two games of the series was nonexistent. Chicago knocked in all of its runs on Monday and Tuesday with two outs but Wednesday reverted back to its struggles from the seven-game road trip, when the White Sox hit .212 with runners in scoring position in Minneapolis and Anaheim.
A good deal of credit for the cooling bats belongs to Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz, who entered Wednesday’s start with a 6-0 record and an American League-leading 1.78 ERA in nine starts and only improved on those numbers. The right-hander twirled seven innings, allowed five hits and remained unbeaten on the season.
“He had to pitch around some men on base,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said of Buchholz. “He continued to take his time and make quality pitches. He put a number of balls on the ground that, for whatever reason, whether it was the soft grounds, didn’t have the pace that normally are turned to double plays that might have prevented some of that pitch count that got up there.”
After Wednesday’s game, The White Sox announced that John Danks will make his first start of the season on Friday. Danks’ return to the rotation calls Santiago’s immediate future into question. He and right-handed starter Dylan Axelrod have been competing for the fifth spot in the rotation since Danks went on the disabled list, and a decision on who remains in the rotation will be made on Friday. Axelrod pitched valiantly on Monday, allowing two runs on four hits in six innings. Although he was saddled with the loss, Santiago one-upped Axelrod on Wednesday with a similar line on short rest.
“With Danks coming back, I don’t know what’s happening,” Santiago said. “I’m going to be ready for anything and have every role. If I’m going to be back in the ‘pen or back starting, I’m just going to be waiting for them to tap me on the shoulder and be like, ‘Hey go out there and get them.’”
Spoken like a true Swiss Army knife, though Santiago did defend his starting resume by saying he thought his only bad start was the one on Saturday, when he lasted just three innings in Anaheim and surrendered three runs.
White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko launched a solo homer off Andrew Bailey in the ninth to cap off a 2-for-4 day and move into a tie with Mike Piazza for 44th place on the all-time home runs list with 427.
The late effort wasn’t enough to back Santiago, especially after the Red Sox tacked on a pair of runs off the White Sox bullpen in the eighth on a sac fly to right and a passed ball that got by Flowers with the bases loaded. Daniel Nava then plated two more with a two-out single in the ninth with the bases loaded to break open the game.
But Santiago made his statement, and now Ventura has to figure out which blade to pull.
“It’s tough but that’s part of being in baseball,” Ventura said. “You got to do what’s best for us. We’ll figure that out Friday.”
3 though 7 in that line up should have pitchers quivering. And they do. Unfortunately it’s with laughter instead of fear. I haven’t seen pitchers have such a lackadaisical approach to hitters since I watched a sadistic little leaguer pitch fast pitch to some T-ballers.
It was funny though.
Okay, some good news. The Sox won another series. They have shown signs of life over the last 15 games. But they remind me of that car my uncle tried to dump on me when I was 16, it looked kind of okay but the engine kept sputtering and I had no idea how much it was going to hurt to fix it.
A lot, as it turned out.
You woke up this morning, that’s always a good sign. No one fawning over your lifeless corpse. No sirree Bob. And since you are alive that means you get to roll out of bed, embark upon your morning ablations and then make coffee. It need not be the strongest coffee in the world, just a cup of memory jolt.
As you head out the door to work you run over the checklist; briefcase? (check), wallet? (check), keys? (check), pants? ..... PANTS?!?! So you head back in and try again. Once you are festooned with the proper accouterments you head out to face the day. This scenario, or similar versions thereof, plays out across our fair land every day.
The same holds true for the world class athletes who entertain us each day. And, like us, they just want to get through each day as best they can.
Lately, both of our baseball teams have been trying to do better than that. They have actually been trying to be successful. That is easier said that done but I have to admit that I am gladdened by the effort.
For example, Matt Garza just got off the disabled list. He’d had knives stuck in his body and was forced to endure the longest down time of his entire career. So what does he do on his first day back on the job?
Pitch a shut out.
Unfortunately, as Carrie Muskat points out, he didn’t pitch the whole game.
Before Tuesday’s game, manager Dale Sveum was asked about the importance of having Matt Garza back in the rotation.
“To have the ability to have guys who have no-hitter type stuff going out there is always a nice asset to have,” Sveum said.
Garza nearly lived up to the pre-game hype, but Travis Snider spoiled the pitcher’s return with a pinch-hit grand slam in the sixth off Shawn Camp to lift the Pirates to a 5-4 victory over the Cubs.
In his first start since July 21, Garza walked three, struck out five, and gave up one hit, a soft single to right by Clint Barmes with one out in the fifth. The plan was to limit Garza to 80-90 pitches, and he was lifted afer 82.
“That’s what we wanted out of him,” Sveum said. “We weren’t going to let him go too much after that. He had a really good slider, and obviously, command. When he was missing, it was by very little. It was outstanding for his first time back.”
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was impressed.
“He’s a pro,” Hurdle said of Garza. “That was very, very good stuff you saw out of Matt Garza tonight. Live fastballs, both sides of the plate with late life, the breaking ball, the changeup—that’s the kid they wanted when they made the deal for him. That’s almost a year away from the game, that’s electric stuff. He just showed you what he’s capable of doing.”
Garza had missed the second half of 2012 because of right elbow problems and strained his left lat on Feb. 17. After having his patience tested in rehab, he finally made his season debut.
“It’s nice to have that kind of caliber starter back in your rotation,” Sveum said.
The first inning was key, and the right-hander threw 22 pitches, 12 for strikes. He was saved by Julio Borbon, who snared Andrew McCutchen’s fly ball on the run, then slammed into the fence.
“I had a little nerves that I had to fight off early,” Garza said. “I was disappointed I didn’t go deeper. I don’t like coming out in the fifth. That’s not what I train for, that’s not what I strive to do. It is what it is—I felt great being back out there, but it [stinks] the way it ended.”
If Garza seemed deliberate at the start of the game, he was. He was trying to settle himself down.
“I was real excited and the butterflies came back,” he said. “The first innings flew by me real quick. I opened my eyes and it was the third, and I said, ‘What the heck?’ I’m happy to be back.”
Alfonso Soriano and Welington Castillo each singled in the second, and with two outs, Darwin Barney delivered an RBI single. Garza then doubled into the gap in right-center to drive in two more and open a 3-0 lead. Cubs pitchers now have 13 RBIs this month, tops in the Major Leagues. It was his second career double.
The Pirates loaded the bases with one out in the sixth against Hector Rondon, and James Russell took over and walked Pedro Alvarez to force in a run. Camp replaced Russell, and one out later, Snider launched a 2-1 pitch into the center-field bleachers for his first career grand slam.
“I’ve played with and against Camp for a number of years now,” Snider said. “He tends to get guys to chase out of the zone. He made a mistake up in the zone, and I was able to get enough of it, sneak it over the wall and come through.
“It’s an elevated changeup,” Snider said. “I’m sure it’s not where he wanted to throw it. As a hitter, that’s where you want to see it. You just hope you get enough of it or hit it hard enough where it’s gonna find some grass.”
Snider’s right. The pitch wasn’t where Camp wanted it.
“The ball was just up,” Camp said. “I’ve got to work down. That’s it.”
“It’s hard to pinpoint,” Sveum said of Camp’s problems. “First and foremost, when a guy like that is losing two, three miles on his fastball, everything else is a little short. That’s where we are. He’s having trouble getting the ball to 87 miles an hour right now.”
Sveum went with Rondon because he liked the matchup, and said that even though Carlos Villanueva was fresh in the ‘pen, he hadn’t had success against that part of the Pirates lineup.
“We had it set up for Russell to get Alvarez out and Camp to get (Gaby) Sanchez out, and obviously it snowballed and Camp hung a changeup again—back-to-back days we hung changeups that basically shouldn’t have even been thrown to that individual,” Sveum said. “We had it. Two veteran guys [in Russell and Camp]. That’s just the way it goes. The biggest pitch was a guy’s last pitch, and we’re getting beat on a guy’s last pitch.”
Last year, Sveum called Camp the MVP in the first half. Prior to the game, the Cubs designated Michael Bowden for assignment to open a roster spot for Garza. Sveum likes Camp when he’s on because of his slider and his durability.
Right now, he’s struggling.
“Sometimes, you go in these ruts and you just have to get your way out of them,” said Camp, who has given up six runs on 10 hits and three walks over 5 1/3 innings in May.
It was the 10th blown save for the Cubs in 45 games, which is not a good pace. They’re still struggling to score runs.
“Two of our runs were driven in by a pitcher,” Sveum said. “We have to be better and score runs and get those big hits and bust games open.”
On the plus side, Garza did hit 95 mph on the radar gun. His every start will be closely scrutinized, and not just by the Cubs. Last year, the Cubs dealt Paul Maholm and Ryan Dempster at the Trade Deadline. Could Garza be next?
“That’s all out of my hands,” Sveum said. “I don’t make those decisions and budgets and all that. It all comes down to where we’re at in the organization and what we feel is the right thing to do at the time.”
Something’s seriously wrong with Camp. Everything he throws is up. Not one here or there. I’m talking about all of it. All the time.
Okay, there’s nothing I can do about that. Let’s for a moment, talk about Soriano. The Cubs have three choices with him; (1) Cut him and eat his salary; (2) Trade him and eat his salary, and; (3) Keep him and eat his salary. Let’s keep in mind that Soriano is a horrible outfielder. Any ball further than five feet away he ignores. He has cut down on his errors by simply not playing any difficult shots.
So let’s look at the options.
(1) They have no one ready in 3A to play at the major league level, so that’s a losing proposition.
(2) They would get nothing in return at this point.
(3) This is the only one left.
Fans may not like it but he has been a good mentor to the kids, is a better hitter than advertised and has a no trade clause. You may as well get used to him wearing Cubbie blue until the 2015 season.
On the South Side fans have been treated to a team that won a series, split a series, and now has won another series. and is 7-3 over their last 10 games. They have seen a team that appears to be the team they were promised back in March. And judging by the fact that attendance has been climbing each home series, it seems that fans are pleased with these developments.
So how does a team on the come repay its fans for their new-found support? Ethan Asofsky (WHO?) says that a no hitter seemed like a nice idea.
And Quintana flirted with one yesterday.
White Sox starter Jose Quintana has always dreamed of throwing a no-hitter.
He watched his teammate, Chris Sale, build up the anticipation of the crowd on May 12, when he went 19 straight outs without allowing a hit and finished the game with a one-hit shutout.
In Tuesday night’s 3-1 win over the Red Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, it was Quintana’s turn to make a run at history. On the heels of an announcement that Sale would miss Wednesday’s start due to mild tendinitis in his left posterior shoulder, Quintana exemplified just how deep the White Sox pitching staff has been this season. He tied Sale’s mark, lasting 6 1/3 innings without allowing a hit and ended his night unscathed despite leaving the game with the bases loaded.
“You get through six, you start thinking about it,” manager Robin Ventura said. “But when you go through that lineup and all of the sudden you get to [Dustin] Pedroia and [David] Ortiz, you hope that it happens, but that’s a tough lineup to go through and think that’s going to happen, especially the way they’ve been hitting this year.”
Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz broke up the no-hit bid with his one-out single in the seventh inning, and Mike Napoli and Daniel Nava followed with base knocks of their own. Those were the only three hits Quintana surrendered, and Chicago reliever Jesse Crain preserved Quintana’s unblemished line by striking out the next two batters to extend his scoreless streak to 17 2/3 innings.
“He kept us in the game. That was kind of the game changer right there,” closer Addison Reed said of Crain. “When he was running out to the mound, honestly, I was like 95 percent positive that no runs were going to cross the plate. That’s just how well he’s throwing the ball. I think Robin feels that. I think everybody feels that.”
Offense wasn’t easy to come by on Tuesday, as the White Sox managed only five hits off Red Sox starter Felix Doubront. In the fifth inning, Jeff Keppinger continued the two-out hitting trend from Monday night’s game, when the White Sox scored all six of their runs with two away. The third baseman hit a two-run home run to left with Dayan Viciedo on base for his first home run since Sept. 29, 2012, when he was a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. That blast came off Sale at U.S. Cellular Field.
“It’s awesome,” Keppinger said. “All the credit goes to ‘Q’ for keeping us in that game like that where obviously two runs can win it. But it’s a good feeling to come through for your team and help your team win.”
The White Sox pitching has kept the team in a lot of games recently. Chicago’s starters own a 2.83 ERA in 121 innings in May. With right-hander Dylan Axelrod’s strong effort in Chicago’s 6-2 win on Monday and Quintana’s thrilling start Tuesday, the White Sox have already taken the three-game set against the Red Sox for their first winning series at home since April 7. On Wednesday, they have a chance to sweep the Red Sox, who entered the series with a 14-7 road record and on a five-game winning streak.
The White Sox bullpen nearly coughed up the lead in the eighth inning after shortstop Alexei Ramirez allowed the Red Sox’s only run to score on a fielding error. With runners at the corners and one out, Ortiz stepped up to the plate with a chance to ruin Chicago’s night. He smacked a ball down the first-base line, but Paul Konerko scooped it and started a 3-6-3 inning-ending double play.
While Quintana didn’t accomplish his dream, he said the taste of a no-hitter only motivates him that it will happen someday. He noticed the no-hit bid in the fifth inning, stuck his head down and continued to throw the first-pitch strikes that gave the Red Sox fits all day.
“He had very good fastball location the first six innings of the game here tonight,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “He was down in the zone, both sides of the plate. He used his secondary pitches sparingly but he was very effective.”
I still think that Jeff “Mr. Double Play” Keppinger needs to go to 3A for a bit to get his act together. When Dunn hits into an out it’s usually off the wall. When Keppinger does it’s off the second baseman with a runner on first.
That’s not good.
On the plus side, as Ethan noted, the Sox pitchers are doing more than keeping the team in the game, they are dominating. A 2.83 ERA over 121 innings is the kind of stat that makes pitching coaches throw out the Viagra and cruise Lake Street in their boxers.
There’s a visual you’ll never unsee.
Also, this just in, Chris Sale complained of shoulder tightness late last night so Hector Santiago will start tonight in their attempt to sweep the Bo-Sox.
Yesterday I was actually having a very good day but the wheels came off around 4:30 and then the vehicle went skidding into a family of missionaries while side tracking to wipe out an orphanage and 3 kittens.
I mean all of this metaphorically, I hope you know.
Nevertheless, by the time I got near home I was borderline homicidal. Much to my surprise a guy I know decided to put me in a good mood by tossing me a complimentary diet soda. You’d be amazed how much the little things mean.
So, since it was time - yes, it took me almost 3 hours to get home, we sat down to watch the Hawks game on the main TVs and he even tossed the Sox game on one TV so I could follow along.
With the sound off, of course. There are limits to any largess and my friend is a Cubs fan. There is no way he could survive an evening of the old Hawkeroo.
All of that was fine by me. I was looking forward to watching the Hawks beat the Red Wings and I was curious to see what Axlerod would do against a real team.
Then the Hawks took the ice and they passed and skated and did stuff, very little of which looked like attacking the net. Yes they took a ton of shots, but they were all low percentage shots. They let Detroit own their own half of the ice. And then they let them run roughshod over the other half as well.
Mark Lazerus was there and wrote about his experience before going out for a dinner of bad bourbon and cheap smokes.
There were no signs of panic in the Blackhawks’ dressing room following Monday night’s 3-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings, a loss that put them in a 2-1 hole in the Western Conference semifinal. No signs of emotions boiling over. No smashed sticks, no flipped-over pizza tables, no primal screams of anguish echoing down the tunnel and into the dank bowels of Joe Louis Arena.
The Hawks are frustrated, yes. Frustrated by good scoring chances gone bad, by uncharacteristic defensive breakdowns, by a consistently futile power play, by their own failures and those they see in the officiating.
But they’re not panicking. Not yet.
Even if a dream season appears on the verge of becoming a nightmare.
“Just because we haven’t faced a whole lot of adversity this year doesn’t mean we’ve never faced it in our lives before,” defenseman Duncan Keith said. “Let’s face it: Winning in the playoffs isn’t easy. It’s not always going to go your way.”
And it’s not going the Hawks’ way at all right now. Despite out-shooting the Red Wings 40-30, despite dominating play for much of the game, despite creating plenty of good scoring opportunities, the Hawks came up short again against the aggressive, speedy, pesky Wings.
The turning point was a disallowed Viktor Stalberg goal that would have tied the game at 2-2 early in the third period — Andrew Shaw was in the crease, and despite the fact that he didn’t appear to make any real contact with Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard, the goal was waved off without an interference penalty being called — but the Hawks had plenty of other opportunities to take this one, too.
The game — and the Hawks’ frustrations — were encapsulated perfectly by the first eight minutes and 20 seconds of the second period. For the first six minutes, the Hawks looked like the Hawks again. They held on to the puck, they sustained pressure, they forechecked aggressively and they fired pucks on the net. Poor Drew Miller got caught on the ice for a three-minute, 15-second shift as the Hawks’ relentless attack wouldn’t let him get off the ice.
Then it all fell apart.
The Red Wings scored two goals in a 31-second span, as the Hawks defense — which allowed too many odd-man breaks in a dreadful 4-1 Game 2 loss — stumbled again. First, Gustav Nyquist danced right around Brent Seabrook after taking a perfect chip pass over Nick Leddy’s head from Damien Brunner, luring Corey Crawford out wide and beating him after he hit the ice at 7:49.
Thirty-one seconds later, a disastrous shift for Michal Rozsival — so steady and reliable all season — led to a goal by Miller. First, Rozsival’s clearing attempt was sent right to Cory Emmerton. Then, Rozsival lost track of his man, Patrick Eaves, who took an Emmerton pass and walked in on net for a quick shot. Finally, Rozsival (and Johnny Oduya) couldn’t prevent Miller from forcing his way into the crease for the tap-in goal.
The two goals came on exactly the type of lapses the Hawks had vowed to eliminate.
But the Hawks came back to life in the third — first aided by the refs, then devastated by the refs. First, a hard-charging Patrick Kane — after a quiet two periods — somehow corralled a high, bouncing three-line pass from Keith and beat Howard five-hole. The play happened as Johan Franzen lay crumpled on the ice in the far end of the rink thanks to a hit by Niklas Hjalmarsson that went without a whistle.
Barely a minute later, though, Stalberg’s apparent game-tying goal was disallowed. And 66 seconds after that, Pavel Datsyuk beat Corey Crawford (27 saves) with a blistering wrist shot to make it 3-1 and put the game away.
“We just couldn’t find a way to get that bounce; we got a lot of looks,” said Stalberg, who had a very strong game after a two-game benching. “We’ve just got to regroup, get ready for Thursday. We still have that feeling in this locker room that we’re going to win this series. It’s first to four, and we’ve got three to win. Simple as that.”
The Hawks have been here before. During the Stanley Cup run in 2010, they fell behind 2-1 to the Nashville Predators in the first round. They now have lost consecutive games for just the fourth time all season. They’ve yet to lose three straight in 2013 — and they’d better keep that streak alive in Thursday’s Game 4, or it really will be time to panic.
“It takes something like this to slap you in the face, so to speak, to really understand what adversity is and how tough the playoffs can be,” Jonathan Toews said. “A lot of guys in this room have been in tough positions before in the playoffs and that’s never stopped us. We know this is a long series and we’re going to be fighting until the end.”
Blah blah blah blah blah. They got their asses whipped. They came completely apart at the end. I don’t care if a call or two went against them. They looked like that jilted, psychotic, ex-girlfriend we all have who throws tantrums and cutlery. They need to pull it together and pull it together now.
Another team that plays in a building owned, in part, by Jerry Reinsdorf was also on TV last night. Dylan Axlerod took the mound against the Boston Red Sox in an audition to stay in the starting rotation when John Danks returns.
Quick side note here; I happen to think that Santiago has more upside than Axlerod, but he has done nothing to support that belief in his last two starts so that is why last night was important for Axlerod.
As Ethan Asofsky, from MLB.com, notes, with his back against the wall and the pressure on, he looked like he belonged where he was at.
It hasn’t been fun to pitch to Adam Dunn this past week.
The White Sox left-handed designated hitter continued his hot streak when he belted a two-out, three-run home run off left-hander Jon Lester in the first inning during a 6-4 win over the Red Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on Monday night.
“Yeah, to be honest with you, he threw me two kind of sliders, or his cutter,” Dunn said. “On 2-0 I was thinking he’s probably going to come with a fastball and he didn’t. I just kind of caught it out in front.”
Even when Dunn guesses wrong he hits.
Despite back problems that surfaced during Chicago’s series in Anaheim, Dunn finished the White Sox long stretch of road games on a tear. The slugger is batting .360 (9-for-25) with five homers, 13 RBIs and six runs scored over the past seven games.
Monday’s win over Boston began a stretch of 17 of 23 games that the White Sox will play in Chicago (two games across town at Wrigley Field), and Dunn welcomed his team back to the Windy City in a big way. His three-run home run started the White Sox barrage of two-out hitting in the series opener and served as evidence that the tinkering Dunn had been experimenting with his swing has produced results. On May 13, Dunn was hitting .113, but after Monday’s game, his average sits at .172.
“It was hard to sit here and keep saying over and over and over how good I felt with no results,” Dunn said, “Hopefully these results keep coming and people start believing me that I wasn’t lying to them.”
Dunn wasn’t the only one waiting for his bat to come around. As a team, the White Sox struggled to score with runners on base during their seven-game road trip to Minnesota and Anaheim, when they hit .212 with runners in scoring position and left 54 runners on base. On Monday, Chicago knocked in a pair of runs in the second on back-to-back-to-back doubles by Tyler Greene, Alejandro De Aza and Alexei Ramirez with two gone in the inning. Then in the fifth inning, the White Sox plated another run on a two-out single by Dayan Viciedo.
“It’s one of those nights that you jump out in the lead and hold on to it,” manager Robin Ventura said. “The first inning is good, but for me, that next inning when you get a couple of doubles and you score like that, that’s a good sign.”
In front of their home crowd, the White Sox produced enough runs for starter Dylan Axelrod to hold on for his second win in a row despite a shaky performance by Chicago’s bullpen. Matt Thornton allowed two runs in the seventh, but Axelrod outdueled Lester through six innings and won consecutive starts for the first time in his career.
After the game, Ventura said Axelrod’s track record over his 15 starts between last season and the early part of this year should quiet the surprise at how well the right-hander has pitched in the Majors.
“If people want to think that way, go ahead,” Ventura said. “He’s still going to go out and beat people.”
Axelrod didn’t even need everything he had to beat the Red Sox on Monday. He allowed two earned runs and four hits to a team that was riding a five-game winning streak but was removed after just 83 pitches. Ventura said he thought the situation suited Thornton well, and Axelrod’s removal had nothing to do with the way he was pitching.
“Axe, he was awesome tonight,” said closer Addison Reed, who picked up his American League-leading 15th save. “He kept them off-balance. It was fun to watch him pitch. He looked sharp and I feel like he could have, I think he could have went beyond what he did. Everything worked out and we got out of there with a win. That’s all that really matters.”
The 27-year-old Axelrod, who was pitching in independent league games four years ago, shined when it mattered most. Ventura and general manager Rick Hahn met with injured starter John Danks, who has completed four rehab starts, before Monday’s game to discuss the left-hander’s next step in his return from arthroscopic surgery that he underwent last year. Axelrod and left-hander Hector Santiago are in competition for which starter will remain in the rotation and who will move to the bullpen when Danks returns.
Axelrod said he went into Monday’s start aware of the situation. With his performance against the Red Sox, he made a strong case to remain as the team’s fifth starter, continuing the White Sox stretch of quality starting pitching over the last month. Chicago starters are 12-7 with a 2.96 ERA and have thrown 19 quality starts over the past 30 games.
“John will throw next couple of days and then we will find out exactly, go from there,” Ventura said. “But again, it’s not going to be easy for anybody, so we’ll make that decision when we get there. Axe is one of those guys that, again he doesn’t light up the radar screen, but he knows how to pitch and get through a lineup.”
Axelrod couldn’t have picked up the win without the help of his offense, which tagged Lester for six runs (five earned) over six innings and hit when it had scoring opportunities.
The Red Sox gave Reed a scare in the ninth inning. With Mike Napoli on first, Will Middlebrooks, who hit a two-run double in the seventh, put a charge into a ball to center field, but the wind was blowing in and De Aza made the catch at the wall for the second out.
“I thought I did [get enough of it], but the wind was blowing in,” Middlebrooks said. “I knew it was going to be close. I hit it too high to hit it over the guy’s head and he was playing no doubles [defense].”
The White Sox have now won five over their last seven games and six of their last nine. Monday’s win was just the fourth time they have won an opening game of a series this season, and Axelrod said the key to settling in was watching Dunn and the White Sox offense provide some pop to support his cause.
“It makes it a lot easier to challenge guys,” Axelrod said. “That was a big three runs early and then we tacked on two more in the second. So it was nice to see the offense come alive like that early.”
Coming into this game Lester was unbeaten. A couple of my friends from Boston were seriously wondering, pre-game, if Lester might get a no-no against the White Sox anemic offense.
Yeah, that added to my joy at the time.
Still, our Sox look like they are slowly, but surely, turning that ship around. The fact that they are making it look like they’re turning around a battle ship in a canal is what’s keeping it interesting in my humble opinion.
Anyway, the last time I asked you folks to cheer for our teams every last one of them went out and lost. So, stay home and knit if you could.
I am not allowed to have pets where I live so a friend of mine has been watching my two cats. Yesterday, for perfectly valid reasons, she was no longer able to do so. So I sadly went to pick them up and take them to the Anti-Cruelty Society to be put to sleep. Both cats are in their teens and not really adoptable. I had already filled out the paperwork and was standing in the private cubicle they have, so no one sees you cry, when a voice asked “Are those black cats?” I turned around and there was an elderly woman there. I said, yes, they are. She asked if they were old. I again replied in the positive. She said, “Good. I wouldn’t want them to outlive me. I’ll take them.” And just like that my cats had a new home with a woman who was wearing jewelry worth more than I’d made in the last 5 years combined.
So, Leia and Tabitha, enjoy your new home.
It’s a far better place than the alternative.
Yesterday was also the running of the Preakness. This is a horse race anyone not named me seemed to care deeply about. I was left with two choices; (1) go home and sit by myself to watch the games or; (2) endure the stupid race. I took door number two just to have people to talk to. I should note that I loathe horse racing. I never thought about it much until I met a guy who owned a horse. I placed a couple of bets, won about half of them but got to know the industry better. It is populated with wall to wall elitist, racist, assholes. And those are the nice people. Also, if it wasn’t for the jockeys and the groomers, I am convinced all the horses would just die from abuse.
It’s a stupid sport and it should be banned.
I am also not a fan of golf.
There, now we have that out of the way.
Yesterday the Chicago Cubs, a team named after infant Ursines, took on the New York Metropolitans, a team named after a museum, in a clash of the titans. The Cubs had lost a heart-breaker to them the night before thanks to Alfonso Soriano. So yesterday they took matters into their own hands to prevent a tragedy like that from happening again and just kicked the snot out of the Mets by the 5th inning. Also, Cash Kruth says that yesterday may have been the true birth of Feldmania.
Right-hander Scott Feldman has been one of the best pitchers in baseball during his last five starts, while the rest of Chicago’s starting rotation has been near the top of the league throughout the young season.
So Saturday’s pregame news that right-hander Matt Garza will return to the rotation on Tuesday and yet another gem by Feldman in Saturday’s 8-2 win over the Mets at Wrigley Field begs the question: How good can this rotation be?
“Potentially, [if] these guys keep throwing the ball the way they have the first six weeks with Garza [healthy], and if he comes back [in good health] ... it’s got a chance to be pretty nice—if not one of the top rotations in the league,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
With a 3.47 ERA through the season’s first 42 games, the Cubs’ rotation has already been that. The impressive thing is that it could get even better with Garza. But the main things keeping the Cubs in the National League Central cellar have been a disappointing bullpen and an inconsistent offense.
It mostly all came together on Saturday.
The Cubs scored four runs in the fourth inning—with the big hit being Feldman’s two-run double—and added three more in the eighth.
“Every opportunity to get runs, you’ve got to seize them,” said first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who went 2-for-4 with a fifth-inning home run, his 10th of the season. “It was good to get the big inning there and then, toward the end, the insurance runs. That’s what we need to do.”
Chicago’s big fourth inning came after Mets starter Jeremy Hefner (0-5, 5.00 ERA) held the Cubs to one hit through the first three innings.
Rizzo singled and Hefner hit Alfonso Soriano with a pitch before Nate Schierholtz singled to load the bases. Luis Valbuena plated Rizzo with a sacrifice fly to right field and Welington Castillo doubled to score Soriano.
Feldman followed with his second double of the year into right-center field to score Schierholtz and Castillo.
The key hit, Sveum said, was Valbuena’s sac fly.
“Just to make sure we got one there and then, obviously, we turned it into the big inning,” Sveum said. “That was nice, just to take the lead and not hit into the double play or anything like that.”
The fourth-inning offense was plenty for Feldman (4-3, 2.19 ERA), who allowed seven hits, struck out six and walked one over 6 2/3 scoreless innings. It was his fifth consecutive quality start, during which he’s 4-0 with a 1.28 ERA and .192 opponents’ average against.
“His last five starts, he’s been as good as anybody in baseball,” Sveum said.
Feldman did run into a few rough patches, allowing runners to reach in every inning except the fourth. The Mets had runners at second and third with two outs in the first; second and third with one out in the second inning; and first and second with one out in the fifth.
Feldman escaped every jam, including striking out New York’s Daniel Murphy and David Wright to end the fifth-inning threat.
“I got myself into some trouble in the first couple innings, but was able to right the ship at the right time and make a pitch when I needed to,” Feldman said. “After those first couple innings, guys were running down those balls in the outfield and making plays.”
For as good as Feldman has been in his last five starts, he’s allowed two earned runs or fewer in seven straight starts for the first time in his career. He has also allowed only one earned run in his last 19 2/3 innings.
“Feldman’s got pretty darn good numbers,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “He’s having a pretty good year right now. He pitched very, very well. Made big pitches when he had to.”
The Cubs’ offense tacked on three more runs in the eighth—one on a Schierholtz solo homer—and left-handed reliever James Russell tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings before righty Hector Rondon allowed a two-run homer to Rick Ankiel in the top of the ninth.
“It’s a good feeling,” Rizzo said of the offense finally backing up the starters. “We have Garza coming back and hopefully he just fits right in and gels with the rest of the staff. We know if we go out and score some runs, we’re going to be in the game and have a chance to win.”
Now that their pen seems to be settled, and I have mentioned this before, this team is looking 100% better than they did a few weeks ago. With their infield defense and their pitching there is no reason this team can’t finish above .500 this year. Beyond that, who knows?
By the way, do you see the number in the title of today’s blog? The Cubs game accounted for 21 of those runners.
Now, let’s go add up the rest of them.
Yesterday the White Sox, a team named after white socks, played the Angels, a team named after the gardeners who mow the owners’ lawns. With Hector Santiago on the mound it looked to be a low scoring game.
Looks can be deceiving.
Scott Merkin was there and thinks the bat boy scored twice.
We interrupt the White Sox four-game winning streak and march toward .500 with Saturday’s 12-9 loss to the Angels before 37,165 at Angel Stadium.
It was far from a masterpiece delivered by either side, with 44 total baserunners and 10 walks issued by White Sox pitching. The resurgent White Sox offense set a season high with 17 hits but lost for the first time since July 13, 2008, against Texas when knocking out at least 17.
Saturday’s setback came courtesy of a season-high 12 runs being allowed, but also from 12 men stranded and a 2-for-12 start with runners in scoring position.
Joe Blanton, who entered the affair with an 0-7 record and 6.46 ERA, allowed 15 baserunners over 4 1/3 innings before exiting with the bases loaded in the fifth. The White Sox (19-22) managed just four runs against him.
“Early on in the game, first inning especially, we had the opportunities to get on the board,” said White Sox first baseman Adam Dunn, who left in the fifth inning with back spasms and is listed as day to day. “Looking back, that’s obviously what cost us.”
“You get chances and eventually you knock them in,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “But it just wasn’t real clean all the way around.”
To the White Sox credit, they kept fighting even when the game seemed out of reach.
Alberto Callaspo gave the Angels control in the seventh with a three-run homer off of reliever Donnie Veal on a 1-2 pitch. Veal had just been called back up from Triple-A Charlotte, arriving at the ballpark approximately one hour before first pitch, and took over with two men on base after Nate Jones (0-4) threw 3 1/3 innings and 48 pitches. Veal also allowed J.B. Shuck’s two-run double in the five-run frame, increasing the Angels’ lead to 10-4.
Run-scoring singles from Paul Konerko, whose three hits raised his average to .231, and Dayan Viciedo off of Garrett Richards cut the lead to 10-6 in the eighth. Hector Gimenez, who had a career-high four hits and three RBIs, moved the White Sox within one with a three-run blast off of closer Ernesto Frieri (eighth save), but Tyler Greene flied out deep to right to end the threat. The Angels added two insurance runs in their half of the eighth before Frieri struck out the side in the ninth.
“I had a good game offensively,” Gimenez said. “But I’d like to win the game more than go 4-for-5.”
After the White Sox scored four times in the top of the fourth against Blanton, a late comeback didn’t look as if it would be necessary. White Sox starter Hector Santiago couldn’t handle prosperity on this day, giving three runs back in the bottom half of the frame.
Mark Trumbo opened the Angels’ scoring with a long homer to left and one out later, Callaspo singled. Santiago proceeded to walk Brendan Harris, Chris Iannetta and Shuck to force in a second run and end the left-hander’s day at 80 pitches.
Gimenez tried to settle down Santiago, who was struggling with his cutter and admittedly over-thinking on the mound as he searched for the fast-paced rhythm where he usually works in the third and fourth innings.
“That one inning I just tried to keep the pitch count down,” said Santiago, who allowed three runs over 3 1/3 innings. “I looked up and saw 60-something pitches and I’m like, ‘Here we go, make this pitch, get out of this right here.’
“I’m never like that. I never go up there and worry about pitch count. I go inning by inning. If I go five, if I go seven, it doesn’t matter. But just trying to make better pitches than I needed to.”
“Our ballclub, when we get it going, we have a pretty good ballclub,” Angels first baseman Albert Pujols said. “And we can score runs anytime in the game.”
Erick Aybar’s sacrifice fly off of Jones cut the lead to one, but the Angels (16-27) didn’t wait long to take the lead. They scored two in the fifth on doubles from Pujols and Trumbo and Callaspo’s sacrifice fly.
During each of the first three innings, the White Sox knocked out two hits but failed to score. They loaded the bases in the fourth with two outs, courtesy of Blanton hitting Alexei Ramirez with a pitch one inning after Santiago hit Mike Trout, causing the White Sox shortstop to give Blanton a long and angry stare as he went to first. Alex Rios, who extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a first-inning single, followed with a double off of Callaspo’s glove at third to score two, and Dunn drove home two more with a line single to right.
This game actually turned in the fifth when Blanton hit Dayan Viciedo, Gimenez singled and Dewayne Wise walked to load the bases with one out, causing Mike Scioscia to turn to Robert Coello (1-0). Instead of blowing the game open, Ramirez struck out on a 3-2 pitch and Rios did the same.
“Today, a guy like Robert Coello comes in—those are five huge outs to get in the middle of the game,” Scioscia said. “First, getting out of it to minimize some damage and holding a lead.”
There was no such relief for the White Sox, who still can win the series behind Jake Peavy on Sunday, and head home from a 5-2 road trip.
“Again, guys are swinging it,” Ventura said. “It’s one of those that you can look at silver linings but in the end you still lost.”
Many people still question why Flowers is the starting catcher instead of the better hitting Hector Gimenez. Yesterday they got their answer with 9 - yes, freaking 9 - passed balls. Only one of them was a legitimate wild pitch. The rest were all catchable. Yeah, they were kind enough to put on the Sox game after the damn race. And here’s something else, the Sox really, truly ooly, miss Beckham. Four of the singles that floated past second base would have been easy outs if he was in the game.
I will say this about the Sox this year. They were down 10-5 headed into the 8th. That is a time when many teams give their rookies some playing time and call it a day. Not this team. They came out swinging and they came out aggressive on the bases. Of course they were already playing their rookies due to the night game the night before and from having Dunn out with his balky back. The Angels crowd, which had been rocking the house up until then, got eerily quiet. And the Sox kept coming.
Yes, they eventually lost, but that was very cool to watch.
Yes, the Hawks also lost yesterday. I know that. Live with it, they are going to win this round.
Anyway, today both of our baseball teams have a chance to win their respective series so get off your butt, go find a bar stool, and cheer like the Dickens. They’ve earned that much from you.
Not drinking has opened up some odd new vistas to me. First, I never knew how often I must have communicated clearly while not being able to pronounce a single consonant. It is the only explanation for some of the conversations I have tried to navigate lately. Also, I seem to suddenly have copious amounts of free time. I have been trying to use it wisely; catching up on old Justice League Unlimited episodes, Finally watching the aborted Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes series and so on. You know? Stuff to better my mind and my soul.
I have also gotten in some writing, sold another short story - more on that in a few weeks - and contemplated trimming my toenails. Just contemplated though. I don’t want to over extend myself.
But one thing I find myself doing more and more is sitting through complete baseball games. And if the games are hours apart, it matters not. I grab a small nap and power on.
So it was yesterday as I watched my personal twi-night double header. The Cubs in the afternoon and the Sox at midnight.
As to the Cubs, Cash Kruth noted that now that Edwin Jackson has gotten the first 6 weeks of the season out of the way he’s turning into the pitcher the Cubs paid for.
The Cubs got to Mets right-hander Matt Harvey early on Friday, but it wasn’t enough to hand the young phenom his first loss of the season.
The Cubs scored two first-inning runs before Harvey retired 21 of the final 23 batters he faced in Chicago’s 3-2 loss at Wrigley Field.
“After that first inning, it was kind of the Matt Harvey show,” manager Dale Sveum said.
Despite Harvey’s dominance—two runs on five hits in 7 1/3 innings—the Cubs had a chance to tie the score in the bottom of the eighth, when second baseman Darwin Barney led off with a single and was sacrificed to second. David DeJesus followed with a line drive through the right side of the infield off lefty Scott Rice, and third-base coach David Bell waved Barney home.
The throw from Mets right fielder Marlon Byrd easily beat Barney home by about 12 feet.
“It was the wrong decision,” Bell said. “I just watched the replay again, and it wasn’t close. As a third-base coach, you want to make the right decision, and clearly, that was not the right decision.”
Bell said that the biggest reason Barney was easily caught is because Barney hesitated on the hit, unsure whether second baseman Daniel Murphy would make a diving catch.
“I saw that and still made the decision, and that was really the problem on that play,” Bell said. “That’s why he was out by a significant amount.”
Losing that potential run—with Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano due up—was key, because Harvey was so dominant.
In the first inning, the Cubs had three straight one-out hits off Harvey, by Castro, Rizzo and Soriano. Soriano’s chopper up the middle was gloved by shortstop Ruben Tejada. Castro scored from third, but first baseman Ike Davis couldn’t corral Tejada’s throw in the dirt, allowing Rizzo to score and Soriano to advance to second.
And that was about it.
A third-inning single by Castro and Barney’s in the eighth were the lone blemishes against Harvey the rest of the way.
“It’s a minor adjustment you have to make,” said Harvey, who improved to 5-0 with a 1.55 ERA. “Whether it’s pitching them backwards a little bit or busting them off the plate a little bit, [catcher John Buck] and [pitching coach Dan Warthen] did a great job of noticing that and letting me know so I could go out the second [time] and keep switching things up.”
Right-hander Edwin Jackson (1-6, 5.76) matched Harvey for much of the afternoon, surrendering big hits—solo home runs by third baseman David Wright (first inning) and Murphy (fourth)—but avoiding any rallies.
After pitching out of potential danger in the fourth and sixth innings, Jackson couldn’t stave off the Mets any longer.
With one out, right fielder Nate Schierholtz lost Rick Ankiel’s double at the wall in the sun. Jackson then got Tejada to fly out to left, but Harvey helped his own cause by knocking a single to left to plate the go-ahead run and end Jackson’s day.
“There are some pitchers out there who can swing it. It’s just more frustrating if you miss location,” Jackson said of surrendering the game-winning hit to the opposing pitcher. “If you go out there and execute the pitch and you get beat, sometimes it happens. But it was a fastball that came back across the plate pretty much right in his zone.”
Despite taking his sixth loss of the season, Jackson turned in his best start as a member of the Cubs. He allowed three runs on seven hits and struck out four in 6 2/3 innings in his second straight solid outing.
The 29-year-old right-hander has tweaked some of his mechanics over his past two starts to “keep a steady rhythm and keep my hands moving a little bit.”
The results on Friday were certainly noteworthy, though it wasn’t enough for him and the Cubs to overcome Harvey.
“I’ve been feeling pretty good mechanically, been able to go out and get in a rhythm early,” Jackson said. “Regardless how I feel, regardless how I look, regardless how I pitch, the objective is to come out and win the game.”
It’s odd how this game hinged on two outfield throws. Barney was out by a country mile. Which is about the same distance as Soriano’s throw missed the plate. Although not mentioned in the story, it was Soriano’s throw that cused the loss when it let in the final run of the game. As to Mr. Bell at third, I advise you not to emulate Wavin’ Wendall any more. Cubs fans, even Cnb$ fans, can tell the difference between aggressive and stupid. And that was balls out stupid.
Usain Bolt couldn’t have beaten that throw when you waved him along.
On the South Side Chris sale took the mound against the Angels. A team he has previously seemed to own. When he walked off the mound he had completed a stretch of 16 2/3 innings of shut out baseball. 23 pitchers have pitched perfect games but only 15 have pitched back to back shutouts. and only one, Brandon Webb, has pitched 3 in a row. I’m not sure if the Sox knew that at the time when they pulled Sale. But I’m not sure it would have mattered. They were trying to win and he was clearly fatigued.
Oh well, our old buddy Scott Merkin was there and has the whole story.
Any thoughts about a second straight perfect-game bid by Chris Sale against the Angels were dashed by the second batter of Friday’s 3-0 White Sox victory before 37,546 at Angel Stadium.
Sale walked Mike Trout, who broke up the left-hander’s perfect-game bid last Sunday night in Chicago with a single to center after 19 straight had been set down. So, Sale didn’t flirt with history, he didn’t throw a one-hitter and he actually faced more than the minimum 27 on a warm Orange County night.
But even Sale’s slightly less than perfect remains overwhelming.
The Angels (15-27) managed Howie Kendrick’s single leading off the second, Mark Trumbo’s legged-out double with one out in the fourth and Luis Jimenez’s two-out single up the middle with two outs in the fifth, but nothing more against the White Sox ace. He did walk Trumbo along with Trout in the first, but only two runners reached second base all night.
For the fifth time in his career, Sale (5-2) recorded at least 10 strikeouts. He got to 12 by fanning Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton two times each, including a three-pitch strikeout of Hamilton in the seventh, and a called third in the first that had Pujols giving a nod of appreciation toward the mound. Whereas Sale used primarily his fastball and changeup on Sunday, he made greater usage of his slider on Friday to get through 7 2/3 innings and 113 pitches.
Try 22 sliders overall, 19 for strikes, and six executed as put-away pitches on strikeouts.
“I knew I threw a lot of changeups to those guys last time,” said Sale, who is unbeaten over his last five starts with a 4-0 record and 1.18 ERA during that stretch. “Once again, that was all on [catcher Tyler Flowers]. I didn’t shake him off once. So applaud him just as much as me.”
“We haven’t gotten anything off him in the two games we’ve see him this year,” said Angels manager Mike Scioscia of Sale. “He obviously has good movement, throws the ball hard. Didn’t throw as many changeups tonight as he did in Chicago, but in the few opportunities we had, he made pitches and got out of it.”
Once again, C.J. Wilson (3-3) was the unlucky losing pitcher on the opposite end of Sale’s dominance. The White Sox (19-21) beat Wilson during Sale’s perfect-game bid and won their season-best fourth straight by scoring two runs on six hits over seven innings against the southpaw.
Alex Rios started the scoring with his 10th home run on a pitch out of the zone with two outs in the first inning. Rios’ blast extended his hitting streak to 12 straight to go with a 16-game hitting streak at the start of the season that dated back to the end of the 2012 campaign.
That long home run pretty much stood as all the support Sale would need, a fact the Angels understood with first-hand knowledge from this week.
“His last couple of outings have been spectacular,” said Rios of Sale. “He’s been under control the whole game. When he pitches like that, he doesn’t need many runs.”
“Any time you can get a win two starts in a row and the team wins two starts in a row, it’s always nice being able to find the rhythm,” Sale said. “It’s just a matter of how long you can stay in that rhythm and get in that groove and stretch it out as long as it possibly can.”
Conor Gillaspie singled home an insurance run in the seventh, bringing home Dayan Viciedo. Viciedo reached base via a one-out single and moved to second when manager Robin Ventura put him in motion on Jeff Keppinger’s grounder to third that likely would have resulted in an inning-ending double play.
Adam Dunn hit a laser-like 10th homer in the ninth off reliever Garrett Richards and Addison Reed earned his 14th save in 15 opportunities with a clean ninth, giving him two saves in two nights against his favorite childhood team. But much like five days ago, this victory was about the 6-foot-6, 180-pound hurler.
Friday’s mastering of the Angels increased Sale’s consecutive scoreless streak to 23 innings, which marks the longest by a White Sox pitcher since J.J. Putz (27 IP) in 2010. It’s the longest by a White Sox starter since Mark Buehrle (24 2/3) in 2001.
Over six career appearances against the Halos, Sale has a minuscule 0.38 ERA. He has allowed four hits and three walks in 16 2/3 innings this season when facing the Angels, striking out 19 and holding the opposition to four hits in 53 at-bats. Sale also improved to 10-0 lifetime against the American League West with a 2.55 ERA.
Those are numbers befitting an established ace and one of the top young pitchers in the game.
“This is probably the best two games he’s had where I think velocity, control and all that kind of stuff,” Ventura said. “He’s growing in to being the guy and going out there and proving it.”
“It’s frustrating because I knew that he’s obviously a really great pitcher,” said Wilson of Sale. “It’s the same thing when I was in Texas and going against [Jered] Weaver from time to time. I knew I was in for a battle.”
Adam Dunn seemed to be trying things out for size. He flied out to the warning track in left. Then he flied out to the warning track in center. Then he homered to right. He is looking a lot more dangerous at the plate. Now, if someone can get Konerko back on track we can get this party train rolling.
Oh, memo to self, there is something very wrong with Keppinger’s swing. It falls somewhrere between palsied and flailing. He needs to go to Charlotte and get is act together. I know what a great asset he can be, but he is an automatic double play now. He hit into 2 yesterday and only De Aza’s head’s up running kept it from being 3.
Also, for the second game in a row Conor Gillaspie nearly decapitated a pitcher.
The last out of the game may have been seen as attempted retaliation as the ball came whizzing at Sale but he just caught it, laughed, and walked off the field.
Yep, that ball game was ovah!
Also, as I’m writing this, there are just over 4 hours until the Hawks beat the Red Wings in game two of the 2nd round of the NHL playoffs. Adjust your schedule accordingly.