I'll take 7.2IP and 0R from Jose Contreras anyway I can get it, but he didn't do a whole lot to instill any extra confidence in me as we approach the playoffs.
Contreras looked a lot like the pitcher we got used to seeing from July '04 - July '05. He was falling behind batters, working slowly, and throwing his splitter in the dirt. The difference was he fought through his control problems to keep the Royals off the scoreboard. Again, that probably has something to do with it being the Royals, and not a real major league team.
There are two ways you can look at El Conde's start from last night.
- He fought through his control problem, making key pitches when he had to.
- He looked just like the old Count, and would have gotten torn apart by a patient playoff caliber team. (A's, Yankees, BoSox)
My gut tells me that it was a little bit of both. We'll have to watch his next few starts closely to really tell if we have a new pitcher on our hands.
In the 4th inning, Juan Uribe hit a deep flyball that looked like it would get over the wall for a home run. It fell just short, hitting the top of the wall before bouncing back into the field of play. -- We've come to expect our players to admire their tape measure shots (Carlos Lee & Paul Konerko come to mind), but Juan did just the opposite. He busted hard out of the box, and ran full speed around around first. He was already around second base by the time the ball had bounced back into play and made it fairly easily into third on a ball hit to left field. (You don't see that too often.) -- This is the Juan Uribe that I loved to watch play last season. It was nice of him to show up.
I know you're expecting me to question Ozzie's bullpen usage tonight. So... Here it is.
Jose Contreras was pulled in the 8th inning after allowing the tying run to reach base via a 5-pitch walk. He had reached 100 pitches -- Surprisingly economical for El Conde -- Pulling him was the right move.
Ozzie brought in Bobby Jenks for what appeared to be a hold opportunity in a close game while inheriting the tying run on base. -- Good move. Get the kid some more high leverage innings, even if it is against inferior competition. It should help build his confidence after last outing.
Jenks starts the top of the 9th. -- I would have gone with Hermanson, but I can't fault Ozzie for sticking with Jenks. -- Leave him in there, see if he can get the 4 out save in a tight game. He only has to face the 7-8-9-1 hitters of the Royals. They're not exactly murderer's row.
Jenks retires the #8 hitter, and Matt Stairs is announced as a pinch hitter. -- Ozzie immediately motions to the pen. Time to bring in the lefty -- WHY!! I'm screaming. I would have started the 9th with Hermanson, but if you're going to put Jenks out there, let him have a chance to close it out.
Marte, predictably I might add, promptly plunks the first two hitters he sees. The oh-so-dangerous Matt Stairs and Aaron Guiel lefty tandem. -- Coming into the night, Marte had allowed lefties to reach base at a .385 clip. Any casual White Sox fan has seen his struggle to throw strikes to lefties. This is a problem when your manager uses you every time a lefty comes up in a late inning situation.
Dustin Hermanson is brought in to clean up the mess. He didn't look pretty doing it, hanging a few sliders, and falling behind the KC's only dangerous hitter 3-0, but he got it done. Ozzie comes out smellin' like roses again.
Neal Cotts, the forgotten man in the White Sox pen, who incidentally plunked the second batter he faced last night, has allowed lefties to get on base at only a .281 clip this season. I think it's time for Ozzie to switch Marte and Cotts' roles in the bullpen.