I closed yesterday's recap with a note that the Sox were due to give back the game they had just picked up on the Twins because of the incredibly lopsided pitching match-up facing them Tuesday night. Clayton Richard entered the game with zero major league wins, and hadn't allowed fewer than 5 runs or pitched more than 5 innings in any of his 3 previous big league starts. Felix Hernandez, on the other hand, is one of the best pitchers in baseball; he strikes guys out, he gets ground balls, he throws in the mid-90's, he doesn't allow many homers.
To put it another way, Hernandez is the pitcher you create when you're cheating on MVP baseball, while Richard is the pitcher you turn to when your 5th starter ruptures his Achilles and all the other options seem unpalatable. The Sox were supposed to get owned hard, like that kite-surfer who thought it would be fun to set sail in a tropical storm; but Richard was up to the task, and the White Sox offense chipped away at Hernandez in each of his 6 innings of work. Baseball is a funny game. Any team can beat any other team on any give night. Take your pick of any number of clichés.
If I was the type to draw drastic conclusions after one encouraging start--and I don't think I have to tell you that I'm not--I might say that Richard looked like he learned something from his first go around with the big club. I missed Richard's first start, so I don't really know how he struck out 7 in his big league debut. But I caught every pitch of his last three, and can see the makings of future major league pitcher.
Richard's main weapon is a fastball that he adds and subtracts off of to great effect. According to GameDay, Richard's fastball averaged 90.26 MPH on the night, yet some of his fastballs clock in around 86 and below, and one even hit 94.7 MPH. In both this start and the first four innings against the Twins, Richard showed a veteran's ability to ramp up his fastball to get key outs. In fact, the 94.7 MPH pitch was an expertly located 2-2 fastball to strike out Wladimir Balentien with 1-out and a man on third base.
Richard is still rough around the edges, however, as he showed when he once again threw away a throw to first on the opening play of the game. His secondary stuff still needs work and he always seems on the verge of giving up the big inning, but you can see the hints of a possible back-end rotation fixture in there somewhere.
The Sox offense, outside of General Soreness, is really clicking right now. Everyone had a base hit except Griffey and JD, who combined to ground into three double plays. We'll forgive Dye on account of his great season thus far, but Griffey needs to do something or take a seat for good. Swisher, Konerko, and Thome have all hit well since his acquisition, and I see no reason to worsen the defense in favor of less offense and a better box office draw.