The tone was set for a pitchers duel early Thursday night when it became clear that home plate umpire Bill Hohn had a rather wide strike zone. Mark Buehrle and Zach Greinke took full advantage, combining for 16 strikeouts against just one walk and one run in the first 7 innings.
Jermaine Dye homered -- homered doesn't seem descriptive enough for a ball that cleared the fountains in the left field gap -- with none of those distracting baserunners in his line of sight to mark the game's only real action in the first two hours.
Things got interesting once again in the 8th inning, only this time it was the Royals staging a bizarre comeback. After giving up a lead-off single to John Buck, Buehrle induced what looked to be a routine 6-3 double play ball off the bat of David DeJesus. The Sox made the play look anything but routine, and the game turned on their failed attempt.
Buehrle reached out and got a glove on the ball, forcing Orlando Cabrera to change directions to make the initial grab, and necessitating a flip to Alexei Ramirez to turn the DP successfully. Paul Konerko was unable to handle the throw from Ramirez, the ball tricking out of his glove as DeJesus crossed first. Ramirez' throw was a bit wide at first, but not wide enough to place most of the blame on him for a poor throw, especially after replays showed a rather pathetic stretch from Konerko and his foot on the middle of the bag.
One pitch later, Mike Aviles, who is a total douchenozzle, BTW, doubled into the left field corner to tie the game. An out later, Octavio Dotel gave up a deep flyball double to Jose Guillen to put the Royals on top for good.
And then things got really crazy.
Mark Teahen realized he had gone a total of two games without homering against the White Sox, so he decided to further exploit and embarrass the Sox defense by hitting an inside the park home run, or as Konerko calls it, a stand-up double. Teahen was significantly aided by Ramirez falling asleep after receiving the relay throw. In Ramirez' defense, as the smartest player in baseball, he was probably calculating Boone Logan's FIP after the play.
Konerko's poor play, and the events that followed, should give considerable ammunition to the talk radio folk who are always looking to get rid of Konerko and/or Jim Thome. As long as Konerko isn't hitting, it's tough to argue that the Sox aren't a better club with the improved defensive alignment of an Anderson/Wise CF and Swisher at 1B. But the time to make a change isn't here yet. To quote mgl:
I am so sick of EVERYONE equating a player’s 3 month (or 6 month, or one month, or one year) performance with their "true talent" that I can’t stand it anymore.
Where do they think that we get our projection algorithms from? From real life! When REAL LIVE PLAYERS who are 33 years old hit .780 in their careers and then .577 in 3 months, they hit .740 (or whatever the number is) from then on in! We don’t just make these projections up. They are based on what players actually do, given their histories.
Konerko may be hitting .213/.319/.360, but he entered the season with a PECOTA projection of .264/.354/.483, and as mgl states, that projection hasn't changed much. Konerko's revised projection for the rest of the season is probably something like .255/.345/.470, which would figure to outpace the theoretical production of his replacements by enough to ignore the defensive downgrade.
There may come a point when it's time to remove Konerko from the lineup altogether, but it's not tonight, no matter how much it might feel like the right decision this very second.
BTW, here's Jim's opinion: SoxMachine: To the official scorer's phone!