Man, did the White Sox really need that one. The difference between 3-4 and 2-5 feels much larger than it actually is. At one game under .500, it feels like the White Sox are right where we thought they'd be, whereas at 2-5 it feels like they have to play well for a week just to scratch their way back to the .500 mark.
Oh, and there was that little thing about not being able to win north of the border (0-fer their last 10). To put things in perspective, the last time the White Sox won in Toronto, Jerry Owens led off, Tadahito Iguchi had 2 RBI, Rob Mackowiak and Alex Cintron started, and Javier Vazquez got the win. So yeah, the Sox really needed that win any way they could get it.
- Jake Peavy wasn't sharp for the second straight start, and it might be time to start getting worried about his longer term effectiveness; not because of two straight sub-par starts, but because his fastball velocity is down. I wasn't expecting the guy who sat at 94 MPH from his Cy Young year, but I did expect a guy who would have a max velocity greater than that of Freddy Garcia (link). I'm not panicked yet, but I've got the antacid on hand for his next start.
I was expecting Alex Rios to get a not-so-friendly welcome home, but I was blown away by the commitment to stupidity by the Toronto fans. Not only did they boo him every time he was introduced and came up to bat, but when he caught the ball in center. They even had a "You Suck, Rios!" chant going during his at-bat in the 10th.
I tried to come up with a White Sox corollary for the vitriol spit at Rios, and thanks to your help, came up with two options (maybe 3):
- Jose Contreras, who was good, got a large contract then underperformed expectations with mostly frustrating starts and a few trips to the DL. He was shipped out for essentially nothing. But his status as a World Series hero probably negates any ill-will over his poor performance.
- Nick Swisher, who cost the Sox 3 prospects then underperformed expectations -- though he was still a decent player, albeit a frustrating one -- and clashed with personalities in clubhouse. He is hated, especially around here. But I know I hate him more for putting the Sox in the position to get next-to-nothing in return when they hastily traded him. There were boos for him last year on his return, I'm sure, but it wasn't anywhere near as universal as the jeers raining down at Rogers Centre. Our hearts just weren't in it.
- Jon Garland, who was quietly very effective for the Sox, but received far too much media and fan scorn for his perceived California surfer, couldn't-give-a-care attitude. This mirrors the perceptions of Rios in Toronto, but we gave Garland a standing ovation on his return (World Series influenced, no doubt). Plus I think of Garland as a true White Sox in that he came up through our system (even if he was drafted by the Cubs) and was with the White Sox organization for 10 years.
- On any other day, Andruw Jones would be the offensive hero of the day with 2 homers, an RBI in his first three trips to the plate, reaching base 4 times. But Mark Teahen earned his way out of the doghouse with an incredibly clutch, don't tell me what you hit, tell me when you hit it performance. Teahen tied the game at 6 in the 6th with an opposite field bloop single, then tied it again in the 9th with an opposite field homer, THEN drove in the game-winning run with the Sox first triple of the season in the 11th. According to Fangraphs, Teahen's performance was worth .764 WPA (Win Probability Added), which is like a win-and-a-half all in one game. I don't know how to query WPA data to be absolutely sure, but that strikes me as a clutch performance the likes of which the White Sox haven't seen in years
- Mark Kotsay's pinch hit to lead off the 11th was the Sox second pinch-hit in as many games. I'm not about to give Ozzie's "DH flexibility" credit for the capable bench work, because, frankly, I like Kotsay as a bench bat. He simply demonstrated how effective he can be in his role.
- Oh and the bullpen was really good too.... Once RAAAAAAAAANDY got out of the game. (5.1 IP, 0 H, 9 K) Sergio Santos has officially earned high-leverage work over guys like Tony Pena and Scott Linebrink. But not Matt Thornton, because Thornton is just ridiculously awesome.