Starts like Friday's are what really make Freddy Garcia frustrating. You have to wonder why he doesn't throw like that every time out. Well... it's not really starts like Fridays that are frustrating, but rather starts like Fridays in comparison with his other recent efforts. (I'm trying to put a clever analogy here, but it's just not happening tonight. Make up your own. It's like ______ ; You _______ .)
In his last three outings, Garcia has struggled mightily with his control in the early innings. Friday, on one of the hottest days in recent memory, Garcia breezed through the early innings. He needed just 6 pitches to escape the first inning, which I missed completely thanks to his new found economy. He had only thrown 16 pitches through 2 innings. To put that in perspective, he needed 40 pitches to get out of the first inning in his last outing. Some of the credit, however, needs to go to the hacktastic line-up Dusty Baker and the Cubs ran out there.
Inexplicably, Garcia chose to wear black jerseys on the hottest day of the year. This came as no surprise to me. Here's a breif recap of a conversation I had with my brother around lunch time.
Cheat: Yeah, how'd you like to play a 3PM baseball game in this?
Cheat: I bet Garcia chooses to wear black jerseys, and has on the long sleeve under armour on too.
Cheat: I don't know. He's crazy like that.
Sure enough Freddy chose both the black jerseys and the long sleeve under armour. My concern wasn't about Freddy. It was for his teammates who weren't the ones who chose to wear the blacks yet had to stand out in the field all day. They seemed relatively uneffected, and Ozzie was able to get a number of them out of the game in garbage time.
The 12-2 score indicates that it was a blowout, and indeed it was, but it did remain close for a while. Early in the game, the Sox failed to capitalize on opportunities, and I thought it would come back to haunt them. In the first, Scott Podsednik got picked off first base. Then two batters later, Frank hit a bomb of a HR. In the second inning, Rowand was on second base with nobody out, yet the bottom of the line-up failed to bring him home. It should have been 3-0 after 2 innings played, but was only 1-0, soon to be a tie game. It didn't look like that promising of an afternoon.
The Sox finally strung some hits together in the third inning. Though it again appeared like they might not capitalize on a great scoring opportunity. Tadahito Iguchi put the Sox back up 2-1 with a sacrifice fly in the 3rd, then Sergio Mitre walked the bases loaded with one out. Aaron Rowand struck out looking, failing to take the bat off his shoulder the entire at bat, to make the second out. It was only a wild pitch by Mitre that gave the Sox a slight cushion. The inning was a microcosm of the Sox season of sorts. They didn't really drive in the big run, but they got them in somehow. For the inning, the Sox were 0-3 with runners in scoring position, yet scored 2 runs.
The key moment of the game came in the top of the fifth inning. Freddy allowed a leadoff single to Aramis Ramirez and a then walked the aptly named Todd Walker to set up a great scoring opportunity for the Cubs. Garcia struck out Michael Barrett; got Todd Hollandsworth, who had homered off of Garcia in his last at bat, to ground out; and struck out Jason Dubois with the tying run in scoring position to end the inning. That ended the Cubs threat for the day. I didn't seem like they played at all after that inning. The 5 runs the Sox tacked on in the bottom of the 5th might have had something to do with that, but it would have been a completely different game had the top of the inning gone a little more in the Cubs favor.
The Sox would go on to add 9 runs before Jason Dubois made his numbers look better with a stat padding HR in garbage time. The Sox were not immune to stat padders either. -- Joe Crede, I'm looking at you. -- In Joe's defense, his HR was something of an 'excuse-me' shot down the right field line. It's not like he was looking to turn on everything.
It was a good game. The Sox came out on top. But the lop-sided score was not indicative of the tightness of the game. There's two more games to be played, and I'm not ready to gloat yet.
10.5 feels pretty good though.