Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Swish Walks off with Twins' Lead: Sox - Tigers Game 1

Over fourteen innings (plus the 8.5 between the Mariners and Twins), my idea of what I was going to write changed from focusing on Floyd, to Griffey, to the bullpen, to our lineup in general and the tone went from disappointed, to trusting, to hopeful, to excited, to terrified, to paralyzed with happiness. There are so many things to cover, that I am going to give you a couple of links, give you the basics, throw in some commentary, and then take a victory nap lap to celebrate that the Sox won 10-8, while the Twins lost the second game in a row to the Mariners, returning the Sox atop the division, leading by 1 game.

You know by now that I rely a lot on the guys over at Life In The Cell. They’re much better than I am at looking at stats, and they made great use of them to give a preview of the Sox – Detroit home series. [Series preview] I can’t go over everyone’s hits and K’s today because everyone had at least 28 at-bats (Kidding… But they did get as many as 7.), so for a quick summary, check out the box score over at the official MLB site. [Gameday]

With Floyd, I was -as always- looking to his first inning to predict how the game would go. After a rough start that gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead, a quick talk with Cooper seemed to get Gavy back on track. Well, a few good pitches weren’t enough to convince me; I was still monitoring him closely, making note of every pitch, every batter. He sailed smoothly scorelessly (Word I just made up just now!) through a few innings, and made it all the way into the top of the fifth, when his hobbling turned into more serious limping. I would say, “it wasn’t an awful start for Gavin, but it wasn’t his best,” but that would be a lie. With Gav, if he doesn’t have his best stuff, there’s really no middle ground. He’s had a few struggles in the past 4 to 5 games, and has had only one great start, so he was at the top of list of pitchers to be worried about for our team. I hope he doesn’t turn into Javi (And by that I mean, alternating between awful and excellent outings).

In terms of other pitching, the bullpen seemed back on track. (Maybe not Wasserman, but he’s been solicited pretty heavily lately.) Boone Logan came in the 6th and had (what has been a rarity from him lately) a hitless inning. Granted, he only pitched to 2 batters, but that’s enough. We just needed to make sure he still had it. Carrasco (I can't say it enough: his underhand stuff is spectacular!) kept the Tigers off the board in the 7th and 8th, then Jenks and Dotel had matching scoreless innings. All great news, but now we were getting to the 11th and the Sox had only scored a tying 6 runs. Who would pitch until some runs were put on the board? You can imagine the profanities I wanted to scream out upon seeing that the “closer” for the 11th inning proved to be Matt Thornton. Sure, the bullpen was running low, but what about Adam Russell? Isn’t closing his deal? Didn’t we try out Matt as a closer when Jenks was gone only to put our tail between our legs and wish we hadn’t? And hasn’t Thornton been struggling lately? Yes, yes, and yes! Well, thankfully, I had to eat my words because Matt had himself three great scoreless innings, pitching flawlessly, with great control and good velocity. Well, by the 14th, he had pitched three full innings- more than I can remember him pitching in any game this season off the top of my head. And while I was surprised to see him on the mound each time, he pulled it off. By the fourteenth, though, I was wondering what was going on in the heads of Joey Cora and Don Cooper. (The men in charge today) One inning is great, two are phenomenal, three are lucky, but four innings are a suicide mission. Indeed, Matt gave up a base hit and a home run to get the score to 8-6. THEN they brought out the big guy (Russell, not Jenks). Now, this last inning aside (I blame the coaching for keeping him in the game until too late), this was a great outing for Matt. He’s had his struggles, but seems to have his control back, he’s commanding of his fast ball, and he did it all while in a high-pressure closing situation. Hats off.

Of course, the win had to come from the batters, and it took quite awhile to get the points we need on the board. The Sox trailed 2-0, 2-1, 5-1, 6-1 before more runs were put on the board. Back to their old antics, the Sox relied heavily on home runs, tallying a solo shot by Quentin (his 29th for the year), a two-run homer by Konerko, and another solo shot by Ramirez to tie the game up. It was quiet on the field after the tying run, with minimal hits until the fourteenth. In Seattle, a battle of epic proportions was taking place between the Twins and Mariners. The two had been battling back-and-forth, each claiming the win at different points in the game. It was the bottom of the 8th in their game, when Seattle was trailing by two, that the Sox came up to bat, also trailing by two in the 14th inning. “It’s more important for Seattle to have a comeback than for the Sox to,” I said, shifting my attention to the game in Seattle. But, at home, things were getting started again. A base hit by Cabrera, a double by Carlos, and Cabrera reaches home on a ground ball by Dye that got past Tigers in a fielding error. Now, we’re only trailing by one! Nick Swisher up to bat with two outs. He’d had one previous at-bat since coming in for Konerko (Konerko had been walked, Anderson was brought in to pinch-run and wasn’t allowed to do anything other than tear a big hole in his pants. After 3 K’s (Silver Sombrero! Muy triste!) and a whole lot of nothing, I expected to see Anderson come in for Griffey. For the defense alone! Instead, Swish was brought in at first, and that was that!) and struck out. Two balls and one strike, then one big blast over the fence, and a three-run homer to bring the score to 10-8! In Seattle, the Mariners had scored a pair, kept the Twins off the board, and the Twins lost! The Sox are back in the lead by one full game! Shaving cream! Fireworks! The entire Sox dug-out mobs the field! The (12, was it?) remaining fans are screaming at the tops of their lungs! This is one for the books!

Alright, that’s your pitching and hitting. There is so much to cover, I could write an entire novel on the game, but I’ll stick with some notes instead. Griffey was 1 for 6 today. It’s early, and he was visibly nervous today, but he needs to prove to me (and a lot of other people that matter more, like Ken, Ozzie, and his teammates) that his offense is helping the team more than his defense is hurting it. Three times they’ve played the “Tomorrow, Joe Crede and the Sox take on Detroit” commercial. Well, no, he won’t. Crede isn’t scheduled to come back for another week or so. They insist on him taking another trip to Charlotte for rehab to see if he can shake it off. They can’t see anything wrong with his back, it’s just a pinched nerve. Well, it needs to go away. This has turned from a 2-day break to a 3-week tragedy. At least I haven’t been forced to suffer through too many Josh Fields starts. And I have to make a note of the Tigers’ pitcher, Rodney. Wow. That guy has some fast ball! No one could get any hits out of him for three full innings! And Juan Uribe… awful at bat in the game, an error, but some great saves. I’d also like to note that the shuffling from one position to the next in the field has slowed down without Ozzie there to make such decisions, but the choices on when to make pitching changes (minus the 14th inning, that is) were very good all night.

The second game against Detroit may prove to be a real challenge. John Danks has the potential to pull off a great win if his pitching is in top shape, and we will really need him to go deep in the game after literally every relieve in our ‘pen had to be called in the game yesterday. I look forward to more success at bat (I know Dye and Thome are due to have some good hits after a fairly disappointing game for them), as our team has done a tremendous job of raising their average runs scored per game (perhaps in response to struggles by the pitchers) and rebounds from the starting pitchers.

No comments: