When last we saw the Indians, I recalled the feelings I had at the opening of the '07 season, when the disparity between the two teams couldn't have been more obvious, and said the Sox had "changed, but not nearly enough, nor in the right spots." I liked the '08 club better than the '07 version, but it still felt like there was a gap --and not in a good way-- between the Indians and the Sox.
And that's what jumped out at me most in this game. Flipping between the NBA Draft Lottery and the first inning of the game, I wasn't filled with doom, even though the Indians had CC Sabathia, who had never lost at USCF, on the mound and the Sox countered with the always adventuresome Jose Contreras.
While the Sox are obviously not without flaws, these Indians have many of the same flaws --they entered the night with a .234 batting average-- and maybe a couple more (like a bullpen that has the second highest OPS allowed in the league). The only gap I feel now is the 2.5 game lead the Sox have built on the Indians.
The White Sox no longer belong in the second tier of "the toughest division in baseball." They're right in the thick of things at the top of baseball's most disappointingly mediocre division.
About the game
Contreras didn't quite have the forkball that he had last time out, but it was there when he needed it, and his fastball seemed to have a little extra zip on it tonight. The lone run he allowed came in an inning in which he took a possible double play ball off the ankle for a base hit to put runners on first and second with nobody out. After looking shaky on the ensuing sacrifice bunt, Count picked right back up where he left off, snuffing out the only other serious scoring threat by catching David Dellucci off second base following a comebacker.
The Sox offense, which consisted of Q! and Thome solo shots in the first 7 innings, added some insurance in the 8th. Q! started the rally with a well earned walk, then busted into 3rd on a Jermaine Dye single. The hustle play, which might have caught Grady Sizemore off-guard, and allowed Dye into second, forcing the bases loaded with a IBB to Thome.
Pablo Ozuna singled home Quentin after Paul Konerko struck out on 3 pitches. Nick Swisher capped the scoring with an RBI groundout to plate Dye. And the bullpen retired all 9 batters they faced to cap off what might have been the most satisfying win of the season thus far.
Because I'd like to be the first to draw the connection; the Sox are 9-3 since Uribe's takeout slide of Brendan Harris.