The White Sox treated tonight's ballgame like a science experiment. The question: Just how poorly could they play and still escape with a win?
The Sox taunted all senses of good taste for 8⅔ innings while clinging to a lead. But karma came back to bite them -- and Hawk Harrelson, specifically -- when Jose Bautista came to the plate in the ninth inning.
You see, back in the first inning, Harrelson dismissed Toronto's sabermetric reasoning behind batting their best hitter second. In Harrelson's mind, the second hitter is supposed to be the bathandling, productive-out machine that gives himself up for the good of the leadoff hitter. That's how it's been for 130 years, and that's how it shall remain, whatever and ever, amen.
The Book says the #2 hitter comes to bat in situations about as important as the #3 hitter, but more often. That means the #2 hitter should be better than the #3 guy, and one of the best three hitters overall. And since he bats with the bases empty more often than the hitters behind him, he should be a high-OBP player. Doesn't sound like someone who should be sacrificing, does it?
The White Sox certainly wish it sounded like it to John Gibbons and Alex Anthopoulos, whom Harrelson went on to compliment in a very patronizing way in order to drive the traditionalist point home.
Had the Blue Jays put the usual contact-oriented player in the second spot, Bautista would've been in the on-deck circle as Addison Reed tried recording the final out of the game for the fourth consecutive night. Instead, Bautista stood in the batter's box, and when Reed threw a hanging slider on a 1-2 count, Bautista crushed it into the White Sox bullpen to tie the game.
But the Sox still pressed on with the experiment!
In the 10th inning, Ramon Troncoso (who was warm on Monday night when Reed pitched with a four-run lead) gave up a leadoff single to Rajai Davis. He took off for second, but didn't get a great jump. Tyler Flowers got off a throw quickly to second, and it would have been in time to get Davis had Alexei Ramirez handled the hop.
Alas, Davis stood on second with no outs, moved to third on a flyout to right, and came around to score on the next pitch. Troncoso threw a curve in the dirt, Flowers didn't get the mitt down on the backhand side, and it skipped to the backstop, allowing Davis to score.
And still they weren't done. Maicier Izturis kept the inning alive with a two-out single, then scored all the way from first on Munenori Kawasaki's double. He should've been out by 15 feet, because the first half of an Alejandro De Aza-Ramirez relay went swimmingly. But Ramirez's throw shorthopped Flowers, and while Flowers caught it, he didn't have it secure enough to maintain possession after Izturis ran into him.
That gave the Jays a 7-5 lead, and although Casey Janssen allowed a two-out single and walk to bring the go-ahead run to the plate in the form of Adam Dunn, it didn't amount to anything. Dunn grounded out to short to end the game, and bring the Sox's three-game winning streak to a close.
Here's a brief inventory of the way the Sox mishandled this game in the field and on the basepaths:
- Second inning. Ramirez can't come up cleanly with a tricky hop, allowing leadoff man Mark DeRosa to reach.
- Second inning: Flowers can't catch a Jose Quintana fastball that's too inside to J.P. Arencibia, and DeRosa scores on the passed ball.
- Sixth inning: With two outs, Conor Gillaspie keeps the inning alive when he overestimates Izturis' speed and rushes a throw. Dunn can't handle the in-between hop, but Quintana escapes the inning with no more unearned runs.
- Eighth inning: After Matt Thornton allowed a pair of singles to start the inning, he doesn't look back at Davis, who is on second. He swipes third easily to set up an easy sac fly situation, but Thornton gets a strikeout and double play to preserve the one-run lead.
- Second inning: Dayan Viciedo is thrown out at second by Arencibia when he tries advancing on a pitch in the dirt that doesn't get that far away.
- Third inning. Chien-Ming Wang picks off De Aza to end the inning.
- Fourth inning: Gordon Beckham stumbles around second trying to go from first to third on Flowers' single to right. Bautista guns him down to end the inning.
- Fifth inning: With the bases loaded and nobody out, Paul Konerko strikes out. Dunn follows with a line drive past the pitcher's mound, and Ramirez, who's on second, breaks toward third. Little does he know that Kawasaki was almost behind the bag, and he catches it for the inning-ending unassisted double play.
It's hard to win when giving the opponents a net edge of eight extra outs. With the Sox getting a couple big hits -- Dunn went deep again, and Gillaspie broke out of an 0-for-23 skid with a big three-run homer that gave the Sox a 5-2 lead -- and Wang looking shaky all night, this should have been another big victory. Instead, they have to deal with the kind of loss they can no longer absorb.