White Sox 3, Tigers 2: Dunn makes closer woes mutual

Addison Reed and A.J. Pierzynski celebrate

(Recap courtesy of elgonzo4sox...)

The baseball gods never run out of challenges for those who try to play and manage the game. After a day in which White Sox management triggered the biggest controversy of the season by changing Chris Sale’s role from starter to closer, thereby giving up on rookie closer Hector Santiago in the process, and after Matt Thornton had failed in his chance to change their minds, the gods must have been smirking. "Hmmm," they were saying, "Let’s put the Sox in a save situation and see what they do – this ought to be interesting…"

It was almost not to be. Thanks to some uncharacteristically good pitching from Detroit right-hander Max Scherzer, who entered the game 1-3 with a 7.77 ERA, and some good luck on balls put in play (and less-than-stellar White Sox defense), the Tigers had a 2-0 lead after two innings. That score held up through six.

In the seventh Adam Dunn, who had broken up Scherzer’s perfect game with a fourth-inning single, hit an opposite field fly ball that sent Andy Dirks to the fence where he made the catch. Paul Konerko, watching this from the on-deck circle, decided to teach Dunn how to hit a homer in Comerica Park by pulling the very next pitch over the wall in left. Scherzer exited after seven with the 2-1 lead, and Joaquin Benoit pitched a perfect eighth to put the game in the hands of Detroit closer Jose Valverde.

The 2011 Valverde was perfect in save opportunities last year. The 2012 Valverde, however, is not as good or as lucky. Alejandro De Aza led off the White Sox ninth with a hard hit single into center. He stole second on the first pitch to Alexei Ramirez, and Ramirez moved him to third on a bunt. Up came the Big Donkey, Adam Dunn, who showed he had learned his lesson from Paulie by hitting a massive pull-field home run to right that reached the Comerica concourse (422 feet according to the Fox broadcast, but it looked farther).

This sent the game into the bottom of the ninth with the Sox ahead 3-2, and Nate Jones having pitched the eighth, with Hector Santiago and Addison Reed warming in the Sox bullpen.

With lefty Alex Avila due up first, White Sox manager Robin Ventura tapped demoted closer (and still left-handed) Hector Santiago to start the inning. Santiago got Avila to fly to left, but then walked Jhonny Peralta. Santiago got the second out by inducing Andy Dirks to fly to center, but with righties Ryan Raburn and Austin Jackson due up, Ventura left Santiago in the game.

Santiago ran the count to 3-2 on Raburn, which put pinch-runner Danny Worth in motion and meant he easily made third when Raburn hit the ball into left. With Gordon Beckham for some reason deciding to be a cut-off man (right next to Alexei) instead of guarding second, Raburn advanced into scoring position, representing the winning run.

Ventura had seen enough of Santiago, so he summoned Addison Reed to face Austin Jackson. Reed, throwing very much like a vintage 2005 Bobby Jenks, threw 97 mph fastball after 96 mph fastball until he had struck out Jackson, giving the Sox the victory and earning his first major league save in the process.

The Tiger runs were not nearly as impressive as the Sox runs, and perhaps could have been prevented with better defense. Four singles, two off the gloves of White Sox infielders, put the first two runs on the board for the Tigers in the bottom of the second. Avila hit a sharp grounder to Ramirez who dove but couldn’t grab the ball from his glove for what would have been a seat-of-the-pants throw to first. Peralta, Friday's walk-off hero, followed with a broken bat flare the eluded a sprinting Alexei. Andy Dirks hit a seeing-eye grounder in the 5.5 hole that drove home Avila when Tiger third base coach (and ex-Sox manager) Gene Lamont correctly surmised that the ball wasn’t hit hard enough to give Dayan Viciedo a good chance to throw out Avila. Viciedo didn't make a good throw anyway, as A.J. Pierzynski had to jump to get a glove on it.

After a Raburn flyout, Jackson hit a grounder that went off the end of a diving Brent Morel’s glove into left, once again giving the runner from second, Peralta, enough time to run home. With Detroit’s bombers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder waiting on deck, Floyd prevented more serious damage by striking out Brennan Boesch.

The Sox finally started chipping away at Detroit starter Max Scherzer in the fourth. Alejandro De Aza and Ramirez worked the Sox’s first three-ball counts before making outs, then Adam Dunn broke up the perfect game with a clean single over the infield into right. In the fifth, A.J. hit a ball off Scherzer’s right foot and made it to second when Scherzer’s throw to first sailed wide. An Alex Rios flyout to right set up the Sox with their first good scoring opportunity of the game with A.J. on third, but Viciedo and Morel both fanned swinging at pitches outside the zone. De Aza hit a solid single in the sixth but was picked off first, which left all the Sox scoring up to Dunn and Konerko.

Notable:

  • Floyd set down eleven consecutive Tigers in the middle innings, matching Scherzer, who did it at the start of the game.
  • The win, his first in the majors, went to Nate Jones, who pitched a scoreless eighth in relief of Floyd.
  • Addison Reed remains unscored upon in 2012.
  • Two-strikeout performances at the plate (bronze sombreros?) for Viciedo and Morel, whom were both pinch-hit for in the eighth.

Record: 13-14 | Box score | Play-by-play

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