Javier Vazquez was infuriatingly inefficient over his first three innings against the Tigers Thursday night. He needed 60 pitches to get out of the third. Thankfully, his only real mistake, beside throwing too many damn pitches, was a low and inside fastball that Miguel Cabrera parked for the Tigers first two runs.
Ozzie Guillen must have given Vazquez a talking to in between innings, because when Vazquez returned he was a strike throwing machine. He needed just 15 pitches to set down his next 4 batters, all of them on strikeouts. The success was short-lived, however, as Detroit countered with back-to-back extra-base hits, the second of which was our third triple hit to Ken Griffey Jr in just his 4th game played in the field.
By my count, that's 5 extra bases that Griffey has allowed in the field (over an average fielder), which nearly matches the total number of bases he's produced offensively; 6: 4 singles, a walk, and a HBP. In just four games, it's become painfully clear that Griffey is exactly what I expected defensively, an amazing liability any time he takes the field. How long will the Sox keep trotting him out there?
Making matters worse, Nick Swisher reached base in 3 of his 4 plate appearances, hitting two doubles, but he never came to the plate with RISP. Alexei Ramirez made sure of that. The only time Swisher came to the plate with a man on, Ramirez, who reached one batter in front of him on a error-ruled-a-hit, failed in an attempted steal of second base to end the inning.
The Sox had their chances Thursday night, but each time it seemed like Griffey or Ramirez was there to make a key out. Though in Ramirez' defense, he did lay out a rope in the 8th. When Griffey and Ramirez, who left 4 and 5 runners on base, respectively, weren't killing the Sox rallies, they found other ways to shoot themselves in the foot. Moments before Ramirez' rope in the 8th, Paul Konerko doubled down the left field line into the corner. The ball took a funny hop and scooted by Ryan Raburn. It was the type of play that should have allowed even the slowest of baserunners to score from first, but Jim Thome looked like he had MS rounding third and was thrown out by a solid 15 feet. It's hard to fault Jeff Cox for sending Thome after the bobble, but he'll have to be more conservative in the future.
Ozzie stuck with Vazquez for as long as he could, letting him throw a season high 122 pitches. But not even Nessie could bring home the Sox a victory. Ozzie didn't use him properly. You have to leave him in to be eligible for the win, not pull him with men on base. Ehren Wasserman, whom Ozzie called upon to replace Russell, immediately put the game out of reach.
The loss puts the Sox just a half game up on the Twins--as if I had to tell you scoreboard monkeys--who play the Royals this weekend while the Sox host the BoSox for a 4 game set. Let's hope it turns out better than last season's 4-day ass-whooping.
* * * * *
Scott Linebrink, who last we heard was well on his way to recovery, now "isn't close to throwing a bullpen session," which pushes his return to the team back to the end of the month at the earliest. Ugh.