The second guessing started even before the first pitch was thrown on Wednesday night. I heard callers to sports radio, and obviously a number of you (including myself), question the decision to start Rob Mackowiak in the park with deepest center field in the American League. And since I'm bringing this up at the very beginning of the post, you know it came back to bite the Sox.
With runners on first and second and nobody out in a 2-1 game, Mackowiak froze on a bloop to shallow center letting the ball fall just in front of him to load the bases. I can't say with 100% certainty that Brian Anderson would have caught that ball, but because he plays a very shallow center, I'm confident that he would have, at the very least, kept the runners close enough to gun one down on the bases. That would have set up the double play, instead Juan Uribe came home to cut the run down at the plate for out number one. Double play. No more damage. 2-1 Sox.
Of course, I'm not blaming this game on Mackowiak. He's not the one out there making PHAT pitches. I'm just trying to illustrate why run prevention is more important than run production.
If there's any bright spot to this game -- I know, I'm really reaching here. It's my birthday, and I'm not going to let a baseball game get me down. -- it's that maybe, just maybe, Javier Vazquez helped Don Cooper, A.J. Pierzynski, and the Sox realize that he needs to drop the curveball from his repertoire. True, the pitch Monroe crushed was actually a hanging slider, but throughout the night on ESPN, CSN, and STO, the announcers commented that Vazquez might be better off without his curve. Poor pitch selection and execution, not the Tigers, kicked Vazquez' ass tonight.
There's just no excuse for throwing 2 different 0-2 hanging breaking balls for Pudge to crush. There's no excuse for leaving a 2-2 hanging slider on the inner half to Monroe, who really isn't a very good player, in the Carl Everett/Jacque Jones all-or-nothing sense. He's not a difficult out. Get the slider low and away, and you live to fight another day. Hang it, and, well, you all know the results.
The Sox wasted a golden opportunity to have the Tigers on ropes, to have the Tigers questioning whether they could really beat these White Sox, to pull another game closer in the standings. All of that was wasted. Wasted on one pitch.