Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Live Blog -- Chicago White Sox @ Detroit Tigers

It's been a stressful few days for me -- the news has been hard enough, but I'm also looking to make a job change and that can be quite a strain (BTW, all serious offers will be entertained by yours truly, so fire off an email if you've got a tip). I've decided I need a break and that I will live blog the Sox / Tigers game tonight. I did this a couple of weekends ago -- here and here -- and enjoyed it greatly. The game starts at 6:05 pm CDT, and I'll pick up this post as soon as I'm home, which should be a few minutes before first pitch (knock on wood).

The White Sox have struggled the last few games. They lost two of three to the Red Sox before the break, then went to the Bronx and got swept by the Yankees. The pitching has been a little off, but these things happen from time to time: all players slump, and some teams suffer multiple slumps at once. The series against Detroit is a major test. If they get swept here, not only do they drop 7.5 games behind the Tigers, they'll have gone through the rotation twice without a starter getting a win.

Detroit has succeeded under the radar. I don't think many casual baseball fans realize just how strong their record is: they're the top team in baseball by 4.5 games (over the White Sox, the second best team). They're enjoying a season similar to the one the White Sox had last year. The key difference is that unlike the White Sox last year, the Tigers have not had any strong recent seasons. The Sox had been a pretty good team for a few years before they finally broke through last year; the Tigers have been atrocious for about a decade: in 2002 they lost 106 games, and in 2003 they lost 119. Teams usually don't get that much better as fast as the Tigers have, so it's not unreasonable to expect them to fall apart some time soon. However, they have shown no signs of weakness so far, and they may turn out to be the exception that proves the rule.

I'll stick to the game provided world events don't intervene, and I can't guarantee they won't. As to my bona fides, I'm a moderately serious baseball fan, and, after the Red Sox, the White Sox are my favorite team.

I also know that some of my readers come from overseas, and that they may not understand baseball that well. I'm sorry, my friends -- I know that much of what you'll read in this post will seem absolutely insane. Let me assure you that phrases like "bloops a single" and "doubled up 4-6-3" make perfect sense to millions of people the world over, and my use of such phrases does not indicate grievous head trauma. I know that it might seem that way to you, because once I made the mistake of reading a cricket report that Tim Blair had linked to. I knew nothing about cricket and was simply curious. If I hadn't known cricket was a legitimate sport loved by millions, I'd have thought the writer a candidate for a lobotomy. The story sounded that insane to me. I'm not sure I've fully recovered from trying to understand it.

The pitchers tonight are Jon Garland for the Sox and Nate Robertson for the Tigers. Garland gives up a lot of home runs, which might not be a problem in a spacious park like Comerica. Robertson hasn't pitched in 8 days thanks to the All Star break, which could be a problem against a lineup as dangerous as the Sox. Garland has won his last four decisions; Robertson has lost his last two starts.

6:02 -- Back in the nick of time (traffic was nasty -- stupid Touhy Road!). The line ups will be below, filled in as the first inning proceeds:

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

C. Granderson cf
P. Polanco 2b
I. Rodriguez c
M. Ordonez rf
C. Guillen ss
M. Thames lf
O. Infante dh
C. Shelton 1b
B. Inge 3b

6:07 -- Pods out fast -- Roberston went after him and struck him out -- then Iguchi out on a weak grounder to short. Two more quick strikes to Thome, a ball, then a huge swing and a miss. Robertson looks rested, not rusty.

6:13 -- DJ and Harrelson are talking about how hard the ball is for hitters to see. Detroit's at the western edge of the eastern time zone, so the sun will be hitting the outfield stands and beyond at an angle for a while longer. Garland gives up a weak fly ball, a chopper to the mound, and high pop fly by IRod that Pods barely handles. 1-2-3 for him too.

6:19 -- Konerko has a good at bat before popping out to right, then Dye hits a massive double to center -- 420 feet and a home run a lot of other places. A.J. tries to hit to the opposite field and stabs a ball down the third base line, but Inge grabs it backhanded and throws him out. Dye still at second for Crede, who launches a ball to right-center to get Dye home. 1-0 Sox. Then Uribe pops up to second. Crede's hit was nearly as long as Dye's.

6:24 -- Hawk thinks this series is bigger for Detroit than Chicago because Detroit has something to prove to themselves. If they lose 2 or 3 of these games, they'll have to question whether they belong in first. Let's see if they lose 2 or 3, and how they lose them, before relying on that, though it is a smart theory.

Konerko probably made a great play on a hit Mags sent hard down the first line. I say probably because the game came back from commercial late and I didn't see it. He had to knock the ball down though -- apparently he couldn't catch it. Either way, Mags is out and 1 down.

Carlos Guillen bloops a single to left on the fifth pitch. Saying "bloops a single", as I stated above, is not in fact evidence of a head injury. Thames strikes out swinging on five pitches, plus a couple throws to first to hold Guillen. Infante chops a ball to Iguchi, who throws him out easily. Still 1-0 Sox.

6:34 -- Anderson, who has a low average, is on a 3-game hit streak. He hits the ball well but it's a line drive right to the third baseman. DJ is explaining how the batters are trying to deal with the difficulty of picking up the ball by shortening their swing and waiting for an easy pitch to hit. Pods chops the ball to second for an out, then Iguchi launches yet another long double, this one to right center. All three doubles from righties hitting against lefty Robertson.

Thome up, but the only damage he does is to his own bat: he breaks it on the first pitch on a ground out to first. 1-0 Sox.

6:40 -- Again the first Tiger batter goes for the first pitch, and Iguchi ranges all the way past second, nearly Uribe's spot, and makes a throw to first. The toss is slow and short, but Konerko picks it off the dirt and Shelton's out. Inge flies out to center -- Anderson made a nice catch -- and the lineup turns over. After giving up the first walk of the game to Granderson, Garland throws a ball high and inside to Polanco. Polanco chops a ball to Crede, who throws Granderson out at second -- barely -- for the third out. Boos are heard on the call.

6:48 -- Inge makes a great play at third to get Konerko. Inge can't get to a ball down the line by Dye, who gets another double. It actually skimmed off Inge's glove a little. Now lefty A.J.

He fights off the first pitch inside, then pushes the ball to short, moving Dye over to third with two outs. Now righty Crede. Robertson is pretty average against righties: they have a .280 average against him.

And Crede walks, bringing up righty Uribe with two outs. Uribe gets a lot of stuff inside. DJ notes his slump -- 3 of 24 recently -- but Uribe gets a single to left and drives in Dye. Hawk points out that Robertson switched from pitching away in the last game against the Sox to pitching inside tonight. Uribe took note, because he was looking to fist a ball after a few pitches inside.

Robertson comes back and strikes out Anderson swining. 2-0 Sox.

6:58 -- Ad note: apparently that dude with one arm in the man law commercials cut off his own arm in the desert -- I assume it was necessary to his survival and not merely on a whim -- and he seems a little bitter about it. Do we really want someone like that making laws that effect an entire gender? And what the hell happened to Burt Reynolds' face?

7:00 -- The first Detroit hitter manages to get past the first pitch. It's IRod, and he chops a ball off home plate that rolls like a bunt down the third base line. IRod really slipped last year -- he's an aging catcher and I would have said he was done -- but he's come back very well this year, with an .802 OPS vs. .734 last year.

With a runner yet again on first, this time with no outs, Mags has a nice, patient at bat -- 9 pitches before it gets to a full count. 10th pitch fouled to right. 11th pitch a third strike swining, then A.J. fires the ball to second to get IRod running. But Iguchi bobbles it as IRod slides in, so Detroit loses only one out and gets their first runner to second base. That was an awesome at bat for Ordonez, but Garland had the better of him. Garland's the best pitcher the Sox have right now.

Guillen's up now -- no relation to Ozzie but also from Venezuela. He hits a deep fly ball to center that's an out but gets Rodriguez to third. Thames comes up, but hits a high fly ball to left for the third out.

The game's through 4 innings in barely an hour. 2-0 Sox.

7:12 -- Ad note: The most insipid thing about the Pepsi truck baseball commercial is not, surprisingly, ARod. Its that they want me to belive semis can around that fast. Please! If I had a dollar for every time I was stuck in traffic behind one of those lumbering behemoths I'd be a rich man!

Sorry. I'm still pissed about the traffic on Touhy.

Robertson looked a little off on the first two pitches, but eventually gets Podsednik on a grounder deep to second. Polanco had to go a long way to get it, and Pods looked a little slow, like he might have made it if he had run harder. Hard to tell from the camera angle though.

Iguchi is out on a high pop up to first, just inside foul territory.

Robertson got two quick outs, but he's looking a little wild. Next he goes to 3-0 against Thome before a full count on a strike and a foul, then a third strike looking.

7:18 -- Infante also manages to get past the first pitch, but then sends the second pitch hard into left for a single.

Andy Van Slyke is the Tigers first base coach. I did not know that.

Pods caches a high pop up from Shelton that isn't enough to move Infante over.

Inge sends a ball deep to right. It looked like it would go, but Dye gets it at the wall. Infante thought it would go -- he had to rush back to first to avoid getting doubled up. He just barely made it.

Granderson singles. The light is softer now, so maybe the batters are seeing the ball better. Garland still looks in control, unlike Robertson.

Runners at first and second for Polanco. He slaps a ball past a diving Konerko and gets Infante home. Runners at first and third with two out, and the pitching coach is out to calm Garland down.

Now Ivan Rodriguez. Be afraid.

Hard line drive to right, enough to be scary, but it's still an out. 2-1 Sox.

7:27 -- I just realized I'm disseminating an account and description of this game without the express written consent of the Chicago White Sox. Yikes -- Jerry Rheinsdorf is gonna have my legs broke.

Awesome -- Konerko blasts a solo homer to deep left. The Sox get the run back.

Dye pops up to second.

A.J. strikes out, and for a moment it looked like it might be a repeat of the incident with the Angels. IRod bobbled it, so A.J. casually trots towards first -- after first leaning towards the dugout. But Rodriguez is too smart.

Awesome -- Crede gets a solo homer just over the wall in left.

Uribe flies out to center for the third out. Sox get 2 and lead 4-1.

7:37 -- Garland gets Mags looking -- barely. Guillen hits an easy fly ball to left. Thames drops to 0-2 looking, then swings and misses the third pitch. Fast inning. Garland gave up no ground whatsoever. The perfect way to come back after getting two runs back from your offense.

7:43 -- Anderson gets to a full count before a hard single up the middle. It was a high pitch, but he got to it. Maybe he'll live up to his potential.

Pods is showing bunt on the first three pitches. He gets a little pissy at the called second strike, and eventually strikes out swinging. Iguchi is up, and I think Robertson needs a strikeout or double play to get out of the inning.

He almost gets the latter on an easy ground ball to second, but Anderson breaks it up and it's a force. Iguchi now at first for Thome.

Thome's a lefty, and I think he'll do nothing.

So far so good on that prediction: he's down 0-2. Then he's at 2-2 and puts it into the opposite field. So Thome does something: a single to left and runners at 1st and 3rd.

Robertson's done. Jason Grilli is in. Robertson's ready to lose his third game in a row, unless the Tigers hitters come through for him.

7:54 -- Grilli in against Konerko. Pow! He sends the ball to deep right. Iguchi in from third, Thome all the way in from first, then the umps suddenly call it a home run: it hit the top of the fence. 7-1 Sox. They might be back. God bless good pitching.

8:02 -- Dye struck out to end the inning, then came back and made an awesome catch for the first out in the bottom half. Shelton grounds out to short.

Inge hits the ball hard -- again. He's been hitting really well since the All Star break, but he's still only at .229. A double to deep center. Garland comes back and strikes out Granderson. 7-1 Sox with 6 outs left.

8:08 -- Robertson's line was pretty weak: 6.2 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 6 ER. He did have 6 strikeouts though. Grilli has settled down since the homer to Konerko: he struck out Dye to end the inning, got A.J. 1-3 on the first pitch, struck out Crede, then got Uribe on an easy flyball to center. Of course, his one mistake pretty much put the game out of reach, but who's keeping score.

Oh, wait, Major League Baseball is.

8:16 -- Brandon McCarthy comes in the game for Garland, who was impressive. There's been talk that the Sox will trade Javier Vazquez and move McCarthy to starter. We'll see.

McCarthy gets Polanco on a fly ball before Rodriguez gets a hard single to right. Then Ordonez lines a shot right at the shortstop. Each of the three batters McCarthy has seen has hit the ball hard on him. Now they're bringing in a new pitcher.

8:20 -- Matt Thornton, a lefty, comes in. He's up against righty Guillen.

Garland's line is nice: 7 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO.

Thornton gets Guillen swining. Thornton looks like he might be good.

3 outs left, still 7-1 White Sox.

8:25 -- Grilli's still in. It's probably over at this point, but that's what I said late in the Sox game before the All Star break: it ended up lasting 19 innings. Grilli gets Anderson, Podsednik, and Iguchi on strike outs. Awesome job by Grilli, except for that 3-run homer.

8:33 -- Thornton's still in. He gets two outs quick on fly balls, then Shelton fists a ball that dies into Uribe's glove. Game over.

8:37 -- A very impressive and much needed win by the Sox. Garland gets a very strong win. The hitters could do nothing against him or Thornton. McCarthy was a little shaky, but he got his two outs and, anyway, before tonight he'd only had a third of an inning since the All Star break.

At least tonight, the Sox seemed the better team. They were more patient hitting and Garland had more control of himself than did Robertson. It's just one game, but we'll see tomorrow and Thursday if this represents a breaking point, or if Detroit will come back strong.

NOTE: I don't know why, but I kept calling Darrin Jackson "Singleton", conflating him with Sox radio broadcaster Chris Singleton. I changed the references above -- I had the TV audio on the whole time.

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