Friday, July 28, 2006

Live Blog: Chicago White Sox @ Baltimore Orioles

Box score and wrap ups.

The White Sox are in Baltimore after getting swept by the remarkable Minnesota Twins. To say the Sox are in the doldrums is an understatement. They're the World Series champions, and unlike some teams do in the year after a championship, they improved the team in the offseason with two major free agent signings: Jim Thome and Javier Vasquez. That they would play so poorly for so long could in no way be anticipated.

Starting for the Orioles is Erik Bedard, a lefty who has won his last seven starts. He won against the Sox on July 3, pitching two-hit ball over 8 innings, giving up 1 earned run. His opponent in that game is his opponent in this game, Freddy Garcia. Garcia had been struggling, but pitched well in his last start, giving up 1 run over 7 innings and striking out 5. He needs another good start, because Buehrle looks to be in a very deep slump and Vasquez can't be trusted past the fifth inning. That means Contreras and Garland are the only reliable starters, and they alone are not nearly enough to keep pace with the Yankees, Twins, and Tigers.

Below is the typical lineup for the Sox against lefties. I'll change it as needed, as well as fill in the Oriole lineup, as the game approaches. First pitch is set for 6:05 pm CDT.

P. Ozuna lf - l
T. Iguchi 2b - r
J. Thome dh - l
P. Konerko 1b - r
J. Dye rf - r
J. Crede 3b - r
A.J. Pierzynski c - l
J. Uribe ss - r
B. Anderson cf - r

B. Roberts 2b - r
B. Fahey ss - l
M. Mora 3b - r
M. Tejada dh - r
J. Conine lf - r
C. Patterson cf - l
R. Hernandez c - r
K. Millar 1b - r
N. Markakis rf - l

5:37 -- pregame
I've done three of these live blogs, and I'm getting a better idea of what I want them to do. One of the reasons I do these is to relive the game later, like a score card. I think my last effort was a little weak for that, so I'm going to track the inning, outs, and score with the time in each update to better track the flow. I'm also going to try harder to summarize the action, rather than just repeat it.

Hawk Harrelson, one of the Sox announcers, just called closer Bobby Jenks the MVP of the season, because he's come in to salvage games for the starters. He hasn't been an MVP in his last several appearances. Far from it in fact, though in his most recent appearance he didn't give up any runs. Harrelson is at least honest about admitting that the Sox don't quite know what's gone wrong these last few weeks. It's a mystery that everyone has just sort of gotten very average all of a sudden.

There's a chance that Miguel Tejada, normally the shortstop but DHing tonight, will switch jerseys over the weekend. There's been a lot of rumors in Chicago that the Sox will trade for him, and the Orioles are shopping him hard.

The game will start in about ten minutes. I'm off to heat up some chicken wings and pour myself a cocktail. I so love Fridays.

6:05 -- top 1, 0 outs, 0-0
Podsednik's off tonight so Ozuna leads off. Two pitches later and he's out on a chopper to third. Iguchi, the Sox best all-around player, hits nearly the same pitch to nearly the same place, but harder. It bounces off Mora's glove. Scored a hit, but closer to an error; his cousin must be scoring the game. Thome strikes out looking swinging and Konerko hits a high pop-up that Markakis catches on the foul line behind first base. He almost didn't get there in time. Iguchi left at first.

6:14 -- bot 1, 0 outs, 0-0
The first batters for Garcia: a hard line drive to right center, a hard line drive single to center, a high fly ball to right, a broken bat single down the third base line. The ball rolled so slowly into outfield foul territory that Fahey, still at first, made it all the way home.

This could be a long night.

The fifth batter, Conine, also hits the ball down the third base line, but Crede snags it and throws him out at first.

6:21 -- top 2, 0 outs, 0-1
I'm drinking a Brooklyn -- not quite a Manhattan but it'll do in a pinch: bourbon, cherry juice, ice. Delicious.

We get a break. Dye went to a full count then hit a slow grounder to third. But Mora's throw sailed high and pulled Millar off the bag. This time it's scored an error: even Mora's cousin couldn't pass that off as a hit.

But wouldn't you know it -- Mora redeems himself. Crede hits another grounder to third and Mora starts a successful 5-4-3 double play.

A.J. comes up and pops foul to third.

There's a lot of balls being hit to third off Bedard.

6:30 -- bot 2, 0 outs, 0-1
My wife called. She's the most considerate woman in the world because the minute I told her I was blogging the game she blurts out, "I'll be home from work by 8:00" and hangs up to let me get back to this. I'm lucky.

Garcia did a little better in the second inning. He gets an easy grounder to first and then two strikeouts.

I'm feeling a little better.

6:36 -- top 3, 0 outs, 0-1
Three pitches from Bedard and Uribe strikes out. Now I'm not feeling so good. Bedard looks like a pitcher who has won 7 in a row.

6:38 -- top 3, 1 out, 0-1
Okay, now I feel better again. Brian Anderson, who's really been hitting well, hits a long, loping double to left center. A runner on second for Ozuna, who can maybe be patient for more than two pitches.

Okay, so he doesn't get past the second pitch, but he does hit a hard grounder to left for a single. Not enough to score Anderson, but runners at first and third for Iguchi.

Sac fly to right, deep and near the foul line. Anderson scores easily.

6:41 -- top 3, 2 out, 1-1
Thome's up. He needs to just put the ball in play; he's mediocre against lefties.

And he does put the ball in play. A lazy single to center. Runners at first and second for Konerko, who is awesome against lefties: 1.146 OPS.

Uh-oh. Konerko goes down 0-2, but hits a ball off the top of his foot, and he's having a hard time walking it off.

6:46 -- top 3, 2 out, 1-1
Very relieved: Konerko steps back in.

Wild pitch! It hit the dirt a few feet in front of the plate and spiraled past the catcher. Runners at second and third now.

Konerko's having a great at bat -- he went down 0-2 quick but he's being patient and fouling off a lot. After 9 pitches the count is full. On the 10th pitch he walks.

Awesome at bat.

Now Jermaine Dye, who really doesn't get the recognition he deserves.

Of course, it doesn't help when he hits into a fielder's choice to third on the first pitch with two outs and the bases loaded.

At least they loaded the bases. Haven't seen that too often recently.

6:53 -- bot 3, 0 outs, 1-1
After a pop up to center, Garcia gives up a high home run to center to Roberts. It was a low breaking ball that Roberts just scooped off the ground and sent very, very far.

6:57 -- bot 3, 1 out, 1-2
A high pop up to second makes it look like Garcia will get out of the inning without too much damage. But Mora hits a grounder to short that Uribe bobbles, then on the throw Uribe sails it past Konerko.

The ball bounced back towards the infield, so Mora couldn't get to second on the error. The umpires were about to award him second, but they discussed the ground rules for a few minutes and, to loud boos from the Baltimore crowd, sent Mora back to first. It might not make a difference, because Tejada's up.

Nope, doesn't matter. All that sending Mora back to first does is make Mora run an extra 90 feet. Tejada sends a ball down the right field line this time, so far into the corner that Mora scores from first. They can't get the ball back quick enough to make a play. Conine goes down on the next pitch to end the inning.

Uribe's error really hurt.

7:05 -- top 4, 0 out, 1-3
Crede hits a ball deep to center, but it's just a long out. I thought it would be another solo homer. A.J. hits a first pitch single to left, his first hit in ten tries against Bedard. Darrin Jackson points out the Sox hitters are working on opposite field hits. It's working for A.J.

Uribe hits a double play ball to short, but Fahey doesn't handle it smoothly and A.J. breaks up the play after being thrown out at second, so it's just a fielder's choice.

As an aside, Brian Anderson looks like he should be a surfer. He might want to think about it: Bedard got him to swing at an awful pitch. Seriously, Anderson's been hitting well, but he looked awful on that pitch.

Time for another Brooklyn.

7:13 -- bot 4, 0 outs, 1-3
Cubs castoff Corey Patterson hits a leadoff single against Garcia. Patterson steals second and A.J. sends the ball into center on the throw. So Patterson's at third with no outs. He may as well have hit a triple.

Either good luck or good pitching: a chopper to third by Hernandez gets the first out and holds Patterson at the bag.

Millar hits a ball down the line past Crede. A pretty weak chopper but out of Crede's reach. Patterson scores and Millar is safe at second after sliding in and sending Iguchi tumbling.

Garcia's losing it a little. He went 3-0 on Markakis before the first strike, the walked him on the fifth pitch. Pitching coach Don Cooper comes out to calm him down.

7:21 -- bot 4, 1 out, 1-4
Roberts lines out hard to Dye in right. That's the third hard hit ball to right or right center he's hit, and one of them left the park.

David Riske is up in the bullpen. Garcia needs to get the third out from either Fahey now or Mora next, because after that is Tejada and there's no way Ozzie Guillen will let him pitch to Tejada again.

Garcia gets a grounder to deep second. Iguchi gets to it and snaps the ball to Uribe at second base for the third out. A lesser second baseman and it might have bled through for a single.

Garcia gets out of trouble but I don't know that he'll be back.

7:27 -- top 5, 0 outs, 1-4
Ozuna leading off shows bunt early, then eventually draws a walk. Maybe he can steal a base. Haven't seen that too much recently from the Sox.

Bedard gets Iguchi to strikeout on a breaking ball down and inside. Bedard misses low again on the first pitch to Thome.

Pow! Thome blasts a double off the high right field wall. Hit so hard it's just a long single, but lefty Thome gets another hit off tough lefty Bedard, and Ozuna gets to third for Konerko.

Konerko doesn't have nearly as strong an at bat this time. He strikes out on low breaking ball similar to the one Iguchi struck out on.

Bedard is pitching the way you expect from a good pitcher: he bears down and gets a strikeout when he needs one. That's something the Sox pitchers haven't been able to do.

Dye flies out to right and leaves the runners stranded.

7:37 -- bot 5, 0 outs, 1-4
Garcia manages to get Mora swinging, then get Tejada looking. So Garcia is bearing down, but just an inning too late. He needed those strikeouts with Patterson on third.

A fly ball to center ends the inning.

7:45 -- top 6, 0 outs, 1-4
After Crede flies out to right, A.J. gets another hit to left, a single. Ozuna then rolls a ball down the left field line. Everything is going through third for the Sox. It's a double for Ozuna and now the Sox have runners on second and third for Anderson. Hope remains.

Anderson pushes a ball to the other way, and the first baseman has no other play but a toss to Bedard covering first. A.J. scores and Ozuna moves to third. Good baseball, like the Sox played last year.

Now Ozuna falls behind trying to bunt. Maybe a little too much small ball there. Ozuna strikes out on another good curve ball from Bedard. At least one run gets in. If Garcia's still in, hopefully he'll get another quick inning.

7:56 -- bot 6, 0 outs, 2-4
The Red Sox got rained out hosting the Angels; the Yankees lead the Devil Rays (it was Scores Around The League time at the break).

Garcia's still in, but Ross Gload is in for Konerko, presumably because of the ball he hit off his foot. Garcia gets the first out on a pop foul to catcher, but Neal Cotts is up in the bullpen.

DJ is trying to be hopeful, saying each day he feels like the Sox will bounce back. Hawk pours cold water all over that notion, saying he hasn't seen enough positive signs yet to think the Sox are out of their slump. Sort of painful how he shut DJ's optimism down like that. Hawk makes sense, but it was still sort of sad. Poor DJ.

A pop up and a ground out, both to third, end the inning.

8:05 -- top 7, 0 outs, 2-4
It looked like it would be an easy inning for Bedard: Iguchi out on a high fly ball to right center, then Thome strikes out on a check swing. Gload, in his first at bat, hit a slow chopper to short, but the throw was off and he's safe when Millar got pulled off the bag.

Todd Williams is up in the bullpen, but after a short conference, Bedard decides he wants to stay in against Dye.

Dye's 0 for 3 and due, but can only manage a high pop foul that Millar catches near the stands.

The Sox have 6 more outs to get two runs and hold the Orioles to four runs.

8:12 -- bot 7, 0 outs, 2-4
Garcia gives up a lead off single to Markakis and is done for the game. Cotts is coming in with Roberts, who hit three hard balls off Garcia, coming up.

8:22 -- bot 7, 2 outs, 2-4
Ad notes: I am eternally grateful that there's only one Bob Rooohhhrrrrrman!

Cotts came in and got Roberts to act like the light hitting leadoff hitter he is by striking him out. Then Fahey bunted Markakis over to second. So with two outs, new acquisition Mike MacDougal comes in to face Melvin Mora. He gets him out on a hard line drive to first.

The bullpen held the core down, now the hitters need to bear down and get some runs across.

8:26 -- top 8, 0 outs, 2-4
Chris Britton comes in for Bedard, and on the first pitch gets Crede out on a high pop foul to nearly the exact spot as the ball that ended the top of the seventh.

Bedard's line is pretty impressive, and he deserves to get his eighth straight win: 7 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K.

Garcia's line is not impressive, though not completely horrible: 6 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO, 1 HR. He earned the loss.

A.J. grounds out weakly to second. That pitch would have been the third ball and taken him to a 3-1 count. Uribe flies out weakly to left.

Three more outs for the sox.

8:26 -- bot 8, 0 outs, 2-4
MacDougal still in against Tejada, who hits a high pop up to second for the first out.

The Oriole closer Chris Ray is getting warmed up. He's got 26 saves in 27 opportunities, and batters are hitting .260 against him. I hate closers. Or at least, I hate the other teams closers when they're that good. All the more reason to have a lead going into the 8th and 9th.

MacDougal gets Conine to strike out, then gets pulled for lefty Matt Thornton.

Patterson comes up. Unlike other Cubs castoffs, he still sort of sucks since leaving the Cubs. Well, that's not entirely fair: he's average, which is less than people expected. He grounds out to third.

8:42 -- top 9, 0 outs, 2-4
Last chance for the Sox. Three outs to get two runs, with Scott Podsednik hitting for Brian Anderson leading off, followed by Rob Mackowiak to hit for Ozuna, then Iguchi.

Pods gets a base hit, but is held to a single when left fielder Luis Terrero, in for Conine knocks the ball down before it gets past him. Next Mackowiak gets a grounds a ball between short and third for hit, and it's runners on first and second for Iguchi.

The Orioles play the bunt, but it doesn't matter because Iguchi drops the bunt down in front of the mound and moves the runners over to second and third.

Thome comes up next, but they intentionally walk him to copious boos from the crowd. They don't want to get beaten by Thome. They'll take their chances on backup Gload, who came in for Konerko earlier. It's righty against righty. Alex Cintron comes in to run for Thome.

8:50 -- top 9, 1 out, 2-4
Bases loaded for Gload. Every player on the field right now is a replacement, and only one of them, Podsednik, is a regular starter. Two pinch hitters got hits for the Sox to start the inning, and no a backup first baseman can tie the game with a single. I don't recall when I last saw backups and pinch hitters be so effective.

Gload gets ahead 3-0. DJ called it: he said, when they walked Thome, that Ray might lose some of his concentration after being asked to throw an intentional walk. It looks like he has. More boos from the crowd.

The Sox are standing at the edge of the dugout, as Ray gets a strike looking then a foul for the second strike.

The sixth pitch, and Gload sends it high and deep to left.

It's gone! A grand slam! Sox up 6-4.

Amazing. You never see that. Pinch hitters, pinch runners, backups, all in the game for what might be a winning grand slam.


8:53 -- top 9, 1 out, 6-4
It was Gload's first home run of the season and his first grand slam ever.

I love baseball: the damndest things happen.

Gload is a 30-year-old, 6-year veteran who only once played in more than 100 games in a season. He is the quintessential bench warmer.


Much joy in the Sox dugout.

After all the excitement, the inning ends sort of weakly. Dye strikes out swinging and Crede grounds out to short.

Now the Sox have three outs for a win. Jenks gets to come in for a save. Finally.

9:00 -- bot 9, 0 out, 6-4
Jenks gets Patterson on a high chopper to first for the first out. The ball went so high that Patterson nearly beat the throw. Javy Lopez comes in as a pinch hitter, but Jenks gets him swinging on a pitch in the dirt.

One more out left.

Two balls and then a nasty strike to Markakis.

A grounder to short, a high, overexcited throw from Uribe, Gload leaps to grab the ball and lands on the base just before Markakis gets there.

Sox win.

I almost don't believe it.

9:10 -- postgame
Amazing win. I don't know if this will turn things around, but it was win that came from Ozzie making moves. Not that he hasn't been before, but this time they actually worked. That has to make the players feel better. And even though they won on another homer, they had the tying runs in scoring position the old fashioned way: two singles and a bunt. That's more like last year's Sox.

During the game, Hawk observed that the players seemed distracted. Maybe a win like this will get them feeling better and more focused on the game. They have two more games in Baltimore before going to Kansas City and then to Toronto.

Thornton gets the win tonight, but really any of the Sox relivers deserve it. Ray gets the loss.

No comments: