Gavin Floyd finishes his first half in style.
During the fifth inning on Friday night, Kevin Youkilis came to the plate with a lefty on the mound (Aaron Laffey), first base open, one out, and Adam Dunn behind him. Instead of pitching around Youkilis to challenge the lefty-challenged Dunn, Laffey went right at him. Youkilis smacked a single, giving the Sox a 3-1 lead in a game they went on to win 4-2.
During the fifth inning today, Youkilis came to the plate with a lefty on the mound (Ricky Romero), first base open, two outs, and Dunn behind him. John Farrell might be the kind of guy who gets his tongue stuck to the frozen flagpole twice, because Romero came at Youkilis, and Youkilis gave the Sox their decisive run once again. Or runs -- this one was a 423-foot shot to center. The White Sox took a 2-0 lead, and the score would stay there thanks to some surprisingly strong pitching by Gavin Floyd.
Floyd's line -- 7 2/3 innings, four hits, two walks, three strikeouts, zero runs -- reversed a career-long trend of struggling against Toronto. He entered the game with an 0-5 record and a 7.26 ERA in seven appearances against the Blue Jays (five starts), but he faced very little trouble over the course of the game's two hours and 25 minutes. After allowing the first batter to reach with a single, he found a nice rhythm by retiring the next 11 batters.
He didn't have swing-and-miss stuff, but he did have his best changeup of the year, which kept Toronto hitters off-balance in three turns through the lineup. The double-play ball also helped, as he induced two 6-4-3 grounders off the bats of Brett Lawrie and Rajai Davis.
Floyd's effort was needed, because outside of Youkilis' bomb, Romero kept the White Sox off the board. They had a couple chances, including a bizarre series of events in the first inning. With runners on the corners and one out, Romero struck out Paul Konerko, then did the same to Alex Rios on a pitch in the dirt. As the Blue Jays headed to the dugout, Ron Kulpa ruled that Rios got a piece of the pitch to keep the at-bat alive. Video evidence and Rios' body language showed otherwise, but the inning stayed alive. Rios ripped the first/next pitch he saw, but Yunel Escobar made an outstanding diving stab to get the force at second.
And speaking of odd occurrences, the ninth inning certainly had one. With Addison Reed unavailable, Matt Thornton was on to pick up a four-out save. With one down in the ninth, Jose Bautista hit a liner to left. Dayan Viciedo tracked it,, but lost it in the sun as it arrived at him. He took a knee to try to get an angle, but the ball missed his glove and rolled to the wall. Viciedo took his time regrouping, which gave Bautista the idea to try for third.
It was a bad idea. Viciedo hit the cutoff man, and a good relay allowed Youkilis to slap the tag on Bautista both before he reached the bag, and after he fell off it. He argued, for some reason, to no avail (Update: additional replay angles show that Bautista might have reached the bag before the tag, and then argued he was pushed off).. But hey, that was better-than-average defense with Thornton on the mound, and he struck out Edwin Encarnacion looking to end the game.
- Youkilis has driven in the deciding run in four straight games.
- Romero drilled Pierzynski with an 0-1 pitch in the fourth inning -- a fastball right to the ribs. Pierzynski wasn't pleased, and it led me to wonder if it was payback for his fake-HBP shenanigans during Romero's no-hit bid in 2010.
- De Aza had a really nice day in center, making catches left, right and back.