We're 35 games into the season, and I've only been really excited for a few of the games; opening day, the 5 games with Minnesota, and now this one.
The Orioles came into Chicago with the second best record in baseball and the top offense in the game. The Sox countered with the best pitching staff in the AL, and the best record in baseball. Well tonight proved the old adage that good pitching beats good hitting.
Jon Garland was brilliant. I thought it was his best performance of the season. Yes, even better than his two complete game shutouts. His only real mistake was a 1-0 change up to Rafael Palmeiro. -- At this point in his career, the last thing that Palmeiro needs is to see a steady diet of change ups. He isn't really turning on fastballs like he used too. -- Jon helped him out in that at-bat.
Through the first 4.1 innings, Garland had faced the minimum, using double plays to erase the two baserunners he had allowed. Garland was doing a great job of getting ahead of the hitter and working ahead in the count, especially early in the game. He pitched to contact, and induced a lot of easy groundballs.
Once again Ozzie gave a longer leash to his starter than I would have. -- That's why he's the manager, and not me. -- In the bottom of the 8th, Jay Gibbons lined a single, that was somehow miraculously turned into an out by Paul Konerko. After looking stupid on two of the first three pitches he saw, Some guy named Jeffery Florentino lifted a single into left field. Brian Roberts singled back through the middle, and I thought for sure that Ozzie had to be ready to pull Garland.
The go-ahead run was now at the plate, and the last three batters had all hit the ball squarely. Ozzie stuck with Garland, who was able to induce a ground ball back to the mound off the bat of David Newhan. Garland easily fielded the ball and turned towards second to see if he could get the double play, but with Roberts running the chances were slim. He quickly wheeled back around to home to catch Florentino completely off guard on his way home for the out.
Now with two outs and runners on first and second, Garland busted Melvin Mora's bat on a flare into left field that scored Roberts. He really couldn't have made a better pitch on Mora. (I think it may have been Mora's third broken bat of the night.) The ball just found it's way over Joe Crede's head to fall in for a hit. All of this set up probably the most memorable out that Garland has ever recorded.
Last year's RBI leader strode to the plate with the tying run just ninety feet from home. The old Garland would have wet the bed, walking him or worse. If you were wondering if the first 6 games were just a fluke, you got your question answered tonight. Garland quickly got ahead of Tejada 0-2. He then tried to get Miguel out of the zone, but Tejada refused to chase three sliders that ended up well outside. After fouling off numerous pitches, Garland finally got Tejada to wave at a sinker just off the inside part of the plate to end the threat. It was just his 4th strikeout of the night, but when you're breaking bats and getting groundballs like Garland was early, you don't need that many strikeouts.
Hawk made his return to the booth last night after coming back from detached retina surgery. Joining him for the entire game was Robin Ventura and Darrin Jackson. I really liked the dynamic of the three-man booth. Maybe it was just because it was something new, but the three of them seemed to have good chemistry. Ventura helped keep the long silences at a minimum, and eased the sometimes awkward tandem of Hawk & DJ. They should really consider switching to a three-man booth full time, but I doubt that the powers that be would sign off on the finances for that to happen. Even if it was just for the WGN games, that would be a special treat about once a week or so.