There's no simpler way to describe Sunday's victory in San Francisco than "bizarre."
It appeared as if the White Sox would be in for a long day, with a good pitcher in Matt Cain on the mound and John Danks representing their only baserunner offensively in the first 4 innings. But Joe Crede's HR in the 5th broke up the no-hitter, and brought the Sox even, if only for a few minutes.
Danks surrendered the lead moments later when a routine groundout to second base turned into anything but routine when the ball took a weird hop off the base itself. When Orlando Cabrera hit the first of his two HR --that's right. OC hit two HR in one game to raise his SLG to .301-- the game started to smell like a Sox victory. But when Danks left, things really started to get interesting.
The back end of the bullpen had been a bit taxed over the Sox 4 game win streak, so Ozzie was forced to go with some unusual choices in order to keep those guys fresh and healthy for the rest of the year. And after all, it was the Giants offense. What could go wrong?
Wassermann. Thornton. Dotel. That's what. The trio combined for 8 baserunners in just three outs, yielding 5 runs after being staked to a 3-run lead. Twice. If not for the fine relief work of Nick Masset, who got the emergency call in the 8th when Dotel loaded the bases, the damage could have been much worse. Masset needed just 4 pitches --or maybe the Giants needed just 4 pitches... It's all perspective-- to wriggle out of the bases loaded, nobody out jam. And it might have been less if not for blown call/poor throw/poor footwork play at second base.
Nick Swisher's bases clearing double will probably grab the morning headlines, but it was Masset's work that truly saved the game. Just for good measure, the offense added 4 runs in the 9th to allow Bobby Jenks a much-needed day off, even if he did have to warm up.
The offense was long overdue to pick up the pitching staff, especially the bullpen, who have grown used to the Sox bats going quiet late in games. You probably could have made some money taking bets that the Sox, who went the first 25 innings of the series with a total of 1 hit with a runner in scoring position, would reach a dozen or more runs after the 4th inning. Likewise, you probably could have made a lot more taking bets on the Giants 8. It was some exciting, truculent baseball.
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The Sox come home from their 10-game west coast trip with a 7-3 record and back atop the AL Central standings. I'd say it was a successful trip, if an unimpressive 7-3. Seattle and San Fran aren't exactly playing good baseball, and aside from a couple of brief outbursts, the offense still has major issues. The starting pitching has been impressive, however. And I have to admit that the offense's ability to keep giving the bullpen a lead to blow Sunday made me feel a little better about their future.
I suppose you could spin the trip any way you'd like. I'll chose to point out that the '07 Sox shared a 23-20 record, though they were 4 games back in 3rd place of what appears to have been a much tougher division. This team could still fall on its face, or the pitching could be for real, the offense could get more consistent, and they could march into October.
A year ago at this time, I called the Sox "a lifeless team inexplicably treading water above .500." I can't say the same about this team, which, I think, says a lot about their future.