I don't want to sound too hyperbolic, because a win in tomorrow's game with the Twins puts the White Sox right back at square one, 2.5 games up with 4+ games left to play, but the Sox looked like a team that had already begun to play out the string Tuesday night; like they had conceded the fact that they can't play in domes (4-14 in '08), let alone the Metrodome in September with the season on the line.
Ozzie Guillen issued a challenge to Javier Vazquez this week with some less than flattering comments. Vazquez responded by saying he didn't care, the controversy 'overblown,' then let it slip that he
was teething "had an ear infection," or some other infantile malady. Vazquez had the opportunity to prove his detractors wrong; to reinvent himself as an ace, if only for a short time, as Jose Contreras did in late '05. But with the ear infection talk, it was almost as if he was looking for an out, an excuse for his poor performance, even before he threw a pitch.
Vazquez was staked* to early lead thanks to what appeared to be some inspired play by the white, immobile veterans. Jim Thome led off the second inning with a opposite field single to beat the shift, and advanced to third when he got a great read on Paul Konerko's bloop single (Yes, you read that right.). That was the extent of the Sox offensive highlights for the night, however, as Ken Griffey Jr. erased the threat, and gave the Sox the lead, with a routine double play ball.
Vazquez greeted the lead by throwing 6 straight balls to put the go-ahead run at the plate with a hitter's count. Seconds later, Hawk broke into "and we've got ourselves a 2-1 game" about halfway through Jason Kubel's swing on an absolute no-duobter of a homerun on a hanging changeup from Vazquez. In the span of 8 minutes, the Sox had gone from runners on the corners nobody out, to down by 1, and going through the motions.
Kubel led off the bottom of the 4th with a triple beyond the reach of a diving Griffey (read: an out for Brian Anderson), and quickly scored a bloop double that fell in front of Jermaine Dye (poor range again allowing the ball to find safety). What Griffey and Dye lack in range, they've clearly made up for at the plate, especially since Quentin's departure. (.257/.325/.343 6 extra-base hits, 0 HR for Dye; .244/.311/.341 4 XBH, 0 HR for Griffey)
The entire inning was a microcosm of the difference between the two clubs. Minnesota's first two runs of the inning came courtesy of the Sox' poor defense combined with some timely hitting, while their final run crossed home thanks to a stolen base and a suicide squeeze. The Sox showed a faint heartbeat in the top of the fifth, when the first two batters reached on a hit and a walk. The runners would stay right there for two outs, however, and when Orlando Cabrera came up with a clutch hit with a Runner In Scoring Position, the Sox only such hit on the night, Junior was unable to score.
That just about says it all right there. The Sox get a rare hit w/ RISP, nobody scores; and their offensive highlight is a second inning GIDP that plates a run. I suppose you could count Griffey's 9th inning HR as a highlight if 9th-inning-down-by-8-run-homers are your type of thing, but I can't count any play that makes his presence in tomorrow's lineup more likely as a highlight. The Sox finished the game win 1 extra base hit (Griffey's 26th out HR), and only put a runner in scoring position, a laughable term with this team, in the 2nd and 5th innings.
If there was a You-Just-Have-To-Laugh moment in Tuesday night's mess, it had to be the last inning. First it was Horacio Ramirez proving he is good for something; he's good for a perfect inning of work anytime the game has a margin of 8 runs. Seriously, he has two perfect outings in his White Sox career, one in the 9th while up by 8 runs, and Tuesday in the 8th with the Sox trailing by 8. You can't make that shit up. Then it was Griffey, who hasn't homered in over a month, putting one deep over the baggy, all but ensuring he'll see more time in center this series.
Back when I was wondering what the heck the Griffey deal was all about, I never could have imagined that we'd still be complaining about Griffey in center field in the final week of the season... with the Sox holding onto a 1.5 game lead... in a Carlos Quentin-less outfield... with Nick Swisher on the bench. I gave Joe Cowley shit earlier in the year when he called Cabrera the 4th best shortstop on the White Sox--Cabrera's hit .301/.353/.392 since then--but you could honestly make a case for Griffey, who is, without a doubt, a first-ballot HOFer, being the Sox' 4th best CFer right now; even on a night when he drove in all 3 of the Sox runs.
Is it OK for me to use the word staked as a verb here, or does the only acceptable use refer to the act of driving a peg through Vazquez?