The White Sox needed more than a win Tuesday night in Detroit. They needed to make a statement; not just to the Tigers, reinforcing that indeed it was the Sox who were defending champs, but also to themselves, to show that, yes, they do remember how to play good baseball. Jon Garland, who earlier this season seemed to be lacking confidence and pinpoint pitch location, had the tough task of putting a stop to the string of lackluster pitching performances which had seen the Sox starters record just 1 quality start in their last 7 outings, and he had to do it against the best team in baseball.
Garland pitched brilliantly for 7 innings, allowing just 1 run on 6 hits. The lone run came on a 2-out RBI single off the bat of Placido Polanco who slapped a slider that was well off the plate into right field past a diving Paul Konerko. It was a play that most fine defensive first basemen make, but Konerko was surprisingly close. Seeing him diving well in the hole between first and second seemed a bit out of place, sort of like a dolphin jumping out of the Gulf of Mexico and landing near St. Louis.
The peak of Garland's dominance was on display in the 6th inning. He needed just 11 pitches to record 2 strikeouts and an opposite field flyout, but what was most impressive about the inning was the location of each of those 11 pitches. I don't think AJ had to move the glove once all inning as Garland continuously peppered the black of the plate. It was Garland's 6th straight game without allowing a HR, a stretch where he's not surprisingly been the Sox most effective starter, going 5-0 with a 2.79 ERA.
Konerko made up for his lack of range in the field with a big night at the plate, going 2-4 with 2HR and 4 RBI on the night. I'm not sure if the second was a HR -- they never did show a clear replay -- but it really doesn't matter since it would have cleared the bases anyway.
It's just one win, but thanks to the strong performance of Garland, and the fact that it was against the Best-Record-in-Baseball Tigers, it feels like a lot more.