Tyler Flowers: Today's player of the game.
Facing the first soft-tossing rookie lefty of the Robin Ventura era, the White Sox didn't exactly turn the page on their years-old problem, but they did enough.
Adam Wilk's minor-league history indicated that he didn't walk many batters, but he was susceptible to the gopher ball. Anticipating strikes, the Sox swung early and swung often. They only made him throw 62 pitches over five innings, but two of their three hits left the yard. Alexei Ramirez and Tyler Flowers connected for solo shots, and that was enough to make a loser of Wilk in his first major-league start.
Oddly enough, though, Wilk was most vulnerable to a foul ball from one of his own teammates. In the bottom of the fifth, Prince Fielder roped a foul ball into his own dugout, squarely hitting Wilk on the left arm. He went directly to the clubhouse, and Jim Leyland had to go to the front of his bullpen earlier than anticipated.
In the other dugout, Gavin Floyd made Ventura's job a lot easier. He shut down the Detroit offense with six scoreless innings of aggressive pitching, setting up a comfortable finish as the offense gave the lead some padding. With the victory, the White Sox took over first place, knocking the Tigers out of the lead for the first time all season.
Floyd's line is what it looks like when a pitcher doesn't give in. He struck out six while allowing just three hits over six innings, which is great. He walked three, which is questionable. He plunked three, which is baffling.
The thinking behind his approach was sound against a strong lineup. He threw a lot of hard, biting breaking balls and fastballs in on hitters, and if he missed, he was going to miss inside or low. Sometimes it led to more baserunners (he twice loaded the bases with control issues), and sometimes it erased them (three double plays in the first four innings).
Ultimately, the strategy won out. Floyd found himself on the ropes in the sixth when he walked Delmon Young to load the bases with two outs, bringing Alex Avila to the plate. Floyd didn't throw him much to hit either, but it was close enough. Avila swung over a 1-2 slider to end the threat.
(Flowers was his best friend today, blocking/snaring just about everything Floyd put in the dirt, and even gunning down a baserunner in the third to complete a strike-him-out-throw-him-out. Floyd set it up by freezing Miguel Cabrera with a 3-2 curveball.)
Avila's strikeout ended the tension, as the Sox added single runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. Brennan Boesch spoiled the shutout with a solo shot off Jesse Crain in Crain's second inning of work, but Paul Konerko answered with his 397th career homer, so the Sox could pretend Boesch never happened.
- Flowers also stole his first base of the season in uncontested fashion, tying him for the team lead.
- Adam Dunn interrupted his regularly scheduled strikeouts with an RBI double in the sixth.