The White Sox needed a big performance from one of their starters to get back on track. Mark Buehrle gave them just that Wednesday night at The Cell, snapping a 3-game losing streak overall and a 7-game skid against the Blue Jays.
It was oddly reminiscent of a start just a month ago against the Red Sox when Buehrle helped erase the memories of 4-game sweep/massacre that succinctly defined the 2007 season. The Sox jumped out to an early lead and Buerhle held 'em scoreless until turning it over to the pen late.
The offensive tone was set early in this game, when Jim Thome and AJ Pierzynski each came up with a rare hit with a runner in scoring position. The Sox entered the game with just 3 hits with RISP in their first 6 games against the Jays this season. By games end, the Sox had added 5 more, an offensive explosion. Pierzynski also came up with another one, a 2-run double to start the scoring in the Sox 3-run 6th.
It wasn't a pretty lineup that Ozzie ran out there, but, at least for one night, it was effective. As somebody pointed out, it looked a little too much like a 2007 line-up without Konerko, Quentin, Crede and General Soreness. But Dewayne Wise, Jerry Owens and Brian Anderson were each productive in their own way. Owens turned his speed into an infield hit and a stolen base, which didn't amount to any runs on the scoreboard, but really came through in a big way with a squeeze bunt* to plate--yeah, I'm using it as a verb again--the Sox 5th run of the game. Anderson, who replaced Owens when the Jays turned to lefty reliever, came through with a 2-out RBI single, which didn't seem that big at the time.
But when Bobby Jenks started throwing batting practice, that run would loom large. Jenks showed maybe the best curveball we've seen from him early in his extended outing, but after he used it to punch out Gregg Zaun leading off the inning, he reverted to mostly fastballs. The Blue Jays were not fooled. Thanfully, he was able to find his slider when Alex Rios strolled to the plate with the tying run just 90 feet from home. It would have been a demoralizing loss if the Sox couldn't hold on to a 5-0 lead after 7.
It was a big win, maybe the biggest of the season. I don't think that's the last time I'll be trotting out that cliche. But when you've got a one game lead on the division, every win is your biggest win until the magic number, or conversely, the tragic number, reaches zero.
* I'm a huge fan of the squeeze bunt. It's easily my favorite play in baseball. But the Sox aren't exactly equipped with the type of lineup that can be counted on to get a bunt down in a situation like that. I think their only attempt of the season was Anderson's failed attempt in the three-month long game. Of course, as I write this Big Papi lays down a sacrifice bunt--he wasn't even trying to beat the shift--in the bottom of the 12th inning.
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This afternoon, Joe Cowley twittered that Javier Vazquez would be starting on short rest Saturday, with Lance Broadway--oh, joy--getting the start on Sunday. Vazquez has previously started on short rest twice in his career, with the last time coming during his stellar first half in New York. Broadway is getting the start over Clayton Richard because Ozzie wanted to throw a right-handed pitcher against a Detroit team that ranks among the best in baseball against lefties.
One is left to wonder--those of us prone to wondering, that is--why not throw Vazquez on regular rest with Broadway going on Saturday? Though I now see that's exactly how it's listed on the ChiSox.com probable starters, so Ozzie may have changed his mind, or Cowley misunderstood him (easy to do), or ChiSox.com is wrong (all possibilities). I'll take the wait and see approach until we get confirmation one way or the other.
[Update by The Cheat, 09/10/08 11:56 PM CDT ]: The Daily Herald's Scott Gregor is confirmation enough for me. Looks like Vazquez will start on Saturday, though he doesn't really explain why. Does Vazquez get one extra start, the 5th starter one less, this way? I don't really want to go through the trouble of counting it all out.