Stop me if you've heard this one before: On a warm, windy day, Sox hitters use the long ball (and a little help from an incompetent defense) en route to a blowout victory.
In a performance that's becoming increasingly common, the Sox had 17 hits, 14 runs and two more home runs as they eviscerated Cleveland pitching and bailed out a shaky Jake Peavy.
Things started auspiciously, as Peavy worked a laboring but 1-2-3 first before Gordon Beckham and Dunn reached on singles against Indian's starter Derek Lowe. Konerko continued the inning by crushing a "sinker" left up in the zone. Then Alex Rios hit a shoulda' been HR to center that center fielder Michael Brantley effortlessly pulled back as he timed his jump perfectly and snatched it back.
Somewhat surprisingly given his numbers coming in (although a 15/18 bb/k ratio is pathetic, he was at least getting a ton of ground balls), Lowe continued to struggle as AJ and Viciedo hit pitches left up and over the plate hard to help score four in the inning.
With Peavy on the mound and Cleveland's lineup hit hard by injuries, you figured a four run lead might mean a nice tidy three hour game and a relatively easy victory.
But Jake struggled to locate his fastball at times and didn't have much bend on his breaking stuff as Cleveland battled back to take a 5-4 lead in the top of the 3rd.
It wasn't to be a long lead as solid base running and more hot hitting from Konerko, Rios and Tank plated four more runs in the bottom of the inning.
That margin didn't last long either as the Tribe plated three more in the 5th thanks mostly to a nice piece of hitting by one of their few threats: Jason Kipnis took a sinking changeup out of the park for a two run shot that made it 8-7, Sox. It wasn't a horrible pitch, but it wasn't a great one either and Kipnis made him pay.
Story of the day though was more Sox offense as yet again the combination of Konerko, AJ, Rios and Viciedo really made life miserable for Tribe pitching, including four very nice insurance runs off noted Sox (and AL) killer Joe Smith. Cleveland's defense didn't do their pitchers any favors today, and a would be double play that wasn't (Casey Kotchman verse a sloth, ok go!) came back to haunt them.
Thornton, Crain and Ohman finished it off to cap a fun day at the park.
It's hard to say who hit the ball hardest today out of Konerko, Rios and Viciedo. Each of them are in a great groove at the plate right now and it's fun to watch. Rios' HR (the one that nobody except a fan could catch) swing was like a Tom Emanski video -- a nice cock of the wrists, hip turn, arms through and head dead on the ball. Jeff Manto might not be helping, but he sure ain't hurting these guys.
The Sox now sit at 25-22 and are 1.5 back of Cleveland for the division lead. They are 5th in runs scored in the AL and have the 2nd best run differential at +24. While it's too early to say they are the division favorite, it's safe to say that they are no longer a clear 2nd or 3rd to Cleveland or Detroit.
Don't stop now boys.