I was expecting a pitching duel Wednesday night, and that's just what we got.
Zack Greinke, who has the one of the most easily misspelled names in baseball, has been a popular pre-season Cy Young pick thanks to a strong finish to a year that saw him reestablish himself as a more than capable major league starter following what can only be described as a mental breakdown. And Gavin Floyd, well you know how I feel about Floyd, plus Floyd is coming off a spring where he was arguably the Sox most impressive pitcher from day 1. So I expected the two newly-extended pitchers to go out there and justify their new contracts, at least for one game, with some fine pitching on a cool Chicago night.
Greinke and Floyd did not disappoint. Floyd turned in a performance as impressive as any of his early-season outings last year. Unfortunately for us, and the White Sox, he wasn't the most impressive pitcher on the US Cellular Field mound tonight.
Greinke was every bit as dazzling a hurler as Joe Posnanski recently described in this lovingly crafted piece. He walked one more batter than Floyd, and didn't fan as many, but he left no doubt as to who was the better pitcher on this night. Those three walks were a result of making sure he missed out of the zone. What Greike did better than Floyd on this evening was make sure his mistakes wouldn't be the type of mistakes that would hurt him.
Example: Mike Aviles killed the Sox last year to the tune of a .359/.388/.531 batting line. He hit everything White Sox pitchers threw at him; sliders in the dirt, fastballs off the plate, and every once in a while he'd hit one that was thrown over the plate. Point is, the Sox had no clue how to get the guy out. But after two games, it appears like they at least have a plan this season.
Both Mark Buehrle and Gavin Floyd tried to elevate fastballs out of the zone to get Aviles to chase the ball. Buehrle had some success with that approach, making Aviles look foolish in the process, but Floyd couldn't get the ball up enough. In fact, the only time Floyd got hit hard Wednesday was when he got his fastball up; twice to Alives, once to Coco Crisp immediately following Aviles, and again on Mark Teahen's RBI single. Floyd got burned for each time he failed to execute his plan.
Greinke didn't. He left a number of fastballs right over the heart of the plate; Jim Thome and Carlos Quentin each got one served up on a tee in their final at-bat against Greinke, but neither could do anything with them. Greinke's plan, which seemed to include throwing up-and-in on righthanders, specifically Quentin, when ahead in the count to open up the outside corner for the slider, was simply executed better than Floyd's.
I don't know if Greinke intended to hit Quentin, but he was clearly pitching inside with a purpose. And the White Sox aren't likely to forget with another 16 (17?) games left with the Royals on the schedule.
Dewayne Wise Deathwatch
Because the Sox have only produced one run this season that wasn't via the HR. They must need a new leadoff man...
Dewayne Wise went 0-4 with another strikeout and a pop-up bunt. He walked back to the dugout to an increasing roar of boos after each one of his at-bats. At least he made all the plays you expect a major league center fielder to make.
Josh Fields and Chris Getz, meanwhile, continued to look like they belong even if they didn't fill up the box score with hits. Fields drew a walk after falling behind 0-2, and made a nice stop and a better throw from his knees to keep Floyd away from a big inning; while Getz smashed an 8th inning Juan Cruz fastball, but it was hit directly at douchenozzle.
You aren't going to win many games with only 3 hits, all singles, but the Sox pitching staff, specifically the bullpen, is attempting to give them the a chance. After Clayton Richard, Octavio Dotel and Bobby Jenks combined for 4 innings of shutout relief yesterday, Matt Thornton and Scott Linebrink answered the call tonight with 4 strikeouts and nary a baserunner in their two innings of work.