The season didn't really feel like it had started until Mark Buehrle threw his first pitch. I've become so used to him starting the season off with a series of his patented 2-hour-and-change quality starts that the previous two games felt like exhibitions to me.
Just like the first two games, it didn't take long for the Sox to dig themselves a hole. Grady Sizemore smoked Buehrle's third pitch for his third homer in as many games.
Sizemore had himself one helluva series. If he wasn't running into the outfield wall making an extra-base-hit-saving catch, he was putting the Indians up with balls launched to the Bullpen Sports Bar.
Here's a factoid to further depress you: Sizemore had as many lead-off homers in this series as the White Sox have had since Podsednik was acquired. And it's probably longer than that since Willie Harris held much of the lead-off duties in '03 and '04. I'm not masochistic enough to bother finding out the exact date.
Jeremy Sowers, a Buehrle-like control artist, was handing out free passes like candy on Halloween, walking Joe Crede twice and Juan Uribe once among his 5 base on balls. The Sox could never really take advantage though.
- They productive outed their way to a run in the first after Podsednik led off the game with a single and a stolen base.
- They productive outed Jim Thome home in the fourth after Sowers loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batsman.
- They nearly blew the opportunity to take the lead in the 7th when Juan Uribe couldn't get the ball deep enough to the outfield. Scott Podsednik let Uribe off the proverbial hook with the lone real RBI of the game for the Sox. But by that time Sowers had been lifted, having allowed just one hit.
After Roberto Hernandez allowed two soft line drives to Joe Crede and Jermaine Dye that found the outfield grass just out of reach of Indians fielders, he threw a pickoff attempt into center field, allowing the runners to advance and forcing Eric Wedge to call for an intentional walk to Tadahito Iguchi. Two pitches later, he grazed Pierzynski with a fastball, and the Sox had their first victory of the season.
No home runs. No multiple run innings. The lone run batted in via a hit came off the bat of Scott Podsednik. Hit-by-pitch walk-off. It was Grindtastic!
The main highlight of the game -- aside from the news that Buehrle had not broken his arm -- was the pitching of Nick Masset. Forced into work in the second inning for the second time in this young season, Masset responded with 4.2 innings of 1-run ball. And most importantly after Wednesday's 10-walk affair, no walks. He saved the bullpen, and in turn might have earned himself a spot-start should Buehrle be unable to go on Tuesday.
Masset didn't showcase the mid-90's velocity we were sold when he was acquired, but he did feature a low 90's fastball with lots of movement and nice curveball. He supposedly added a couple miles an hour to his fastball when he transitioned to the pen last season. I suppose he could have thought of the extended outing as a start and backed it off a bit, knowing that he had to "take one for the team" following Buehrle's departure and the 4 relievers used on Wednesday.
Whatever. It's results that matter, and it didn't look like Masset would have any trouble repeating those results as the season rolls forward. I don't expect to see him get any playing time during the Minnesota series, or at least until the Sox have a better handle on Buehrle's status.