Gavin Floyd did everything you could have reasonably asked of him Thursday night to give the Sox a victory. But a lackluster offensive performance against a pitcher tailor made to shut down the Sox, some poor relief work, and a few extra outs conspired to give him his first loss since July 19th.
For 7 innings, the White Sox and Blue Jays were locked in a thrilling pitcher's duel. Shaun Marcum was every bit as dominating as we saw back in May, and once again there was a Sox pitcher matching him nearly pitch-for-pitch.
Floyd breezed through 6 innings, allowing only 3 baserunners while pitching over an extra out in 3 of those innings. One out was self-inflicted, with Juan Uribe pulling Nick Swisher off the back with a high throw. But the other two were comically bad calls by first base umpire Jim Wolf. In the 7th, he gave up a leadoff double, but pitched out the jam with relative ease. Amazingly, even with the "extra outs," Floyd had only thrown 77 pitches through 7 innings. He was getting the Jays to put the ball in play quickly, inducing mostly weak contact. And then came the 8th.
The 8th inning was a calamity. Floyd gave up 4 hits over the span of just 7 pitches, and added in a sacrifice bunt in there as well. Marco Scutaro, 9/11/08 inductee to the SSS Douche Nozzle Hall of Fame provided the first first blow, lacing a first pitch fastball for the game's first run. Even Mark Buehrle had to be impressed by the speed at which Floyd went from in control to bases loaded and behind. Some complained about Ozzie's slow hook in the game thread, but the sheer speed with which the Jays broke through limited Ozzie's options.
And it's not like the bullpen provided any relief anyway. Matt Thornton recorded the only out of the inning that wasn't handed to the Sox with a strike out of Adam Lind, but the rest of the inning was a debacle. In all, 6 runs crossed the plate in under 10 minutes (including 2 pitching changes) and only 23 pitches.
The Sox offense mounted a comeback, putting up 4 runs of their own in the bottom half of the 8th, and eventually brought the go-ahead run to the plate in the 9th inning. But it was a hollow comeback, with Orlando Cabrera striking out to end the Sox hopes.
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If you were to build a pitcher pitch-by-pitch with the purpose of shutting down the White Sox, you might just start with Shaun Marcum. He doesn't throw anything straight. His fastball, which he throws infrequently, isn't fast, both of which are death to a White Sox team that has largely been a fastball-hitting club for years.*
If the infrequent use of an off-speed fastball is the first pitch you'd give our theoretical Sox-shutter-downer, a plus cutter and a plus changeup would be close behind. Marcum possesses both, of course, with his cutter probably being his best pitch. The cutter and change neutralize any advantage a Sox lefty might have, while a change of pace curveball is enough to keep the Sox right-handers off balance.
* According to Fangraphs, the Sox faced three of baseball's least frequent fastball throwers in this series, all of whom possess a cutter as well. So, it should come as no surprise that, for the most part, they got shut down.
I would probably enjoy watching Marcum pitch if it didn't have to come at the Sox expense. It's doubly tough to watch Marcum carve through the Sox lineup, because he's essentially got the same tools as Lance Broadway. But Broadway left his cutter in September '07, and has taken a step back in nearly every phase of the game this year. Marcum is what Broadway could be, with a little coaching, some better control, and some of that fabled pitchability for which he was drafted.