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Danks Returns to Form, Sox Still Fall

There was a small silver lining to be found from Sunday's loss to the Angels. John Danks appeared to have worked through his dead arm period, lost release point, whatever he had going on, to put together a nice (though not "quality") start. Danks still found himself leaving his changeup high in the zone in his last two innings of work, but the change was down in innings 1-4. Plus, he seemed to have both better control and the ability to more readily put hitters away, as evidenced by his 7:1 K/BB ratio.

Danks was pulled in the 6th after he allowed his first run of the game following back-to-back-to-back hard hit balls over the span of just 5 pitches. His quick exit was determined more by base and out situation and the scoreboard than it was by pitch count, but with his change losing effectiveness late I'd say he was getting a bit tired. Still, Danks as an 80-90 pitch pitcher is better than the Danks we saw doing 5th starter impersonations in the last few outings. If I was Ozzie, I'd keep Danks at or around 90 pitches for the remainder of the regular season.

Offensively, the Sox managed just two solo-shots (one each by Paul Konerko and Toby Hall) against Joe Saunders. Ozzie went with a rare all-right-handed batting order, subbing in Brian Anderson and Josh Fields (combined 0-6) in addition to Hall. Individually, all of the subs could be defended, but I don't like seeing 3 subs in any one so-called Sunday lineup and I would have liked to have seen at least one left-hander breaking up the parade of righties.

The Angels scored the eventual winning run following a couple of questionable choices. First, Horacio Ramirez entered a tied game. As if that wasn't bad enough, Ozzie called up Ehren Wasserman with the go-ahead run 90 feet from home and nobody out. After Wasserman coaxed a first-pitch ground out from Vlad Guerrero, Ozzie called for the intentional IBB of Torii Hunter to load the bases, which seemed odd to me with Juan Rivera on deck, almost assuredly to be replaced by the left-handed Garrett Anderson. Sure enough, Anderson came on as a pinch-hitter, and lifted a deep fly ball down the right field line. Jermaine Dye caught the ball in foul territory, just a step or two from the wall, which allowed Guerrero to score easily from 3rd.

I questioned the IBB, but if you're going to play for the double play, if your intent is to increase the likelihood of allowing no runs in the inning at the expense of increasing the odds of a big inning, why catch a ball in foul territory that results in a sure run? Wasn't the all-or-nothing directive set by the walking of right-handed batter to load the bases for what eventually turned into left-handed batter? I don't fault Dye for catching the ball. It just seems to me that the two plays came from opposite ends of the run-prevention playbook. But baseball players probably don't think that way, and certainly not as they're running toward the line to make a catch just a few feet in front of a low wall.

Where Was That Pitch?

For once, Hawk's constant whining about balls and strikes was warranted. Just take a look at this chart. See those 7 or 8 little green squares in the lower right side of the zone? Those are called balls for White Sox pitching. Notice all those red triangles around that area? Those are essentially the same pitches thrown by Anaheim pitchers, but they were called strikes. One or two of those pitches going uncalled is unfortunate, 7 or more is a pattern. That pattern really seemed to get accentuated after Ozzie Guillen gave home plate ump Eric Cooper an earful from the dugout when he awarded timeout to an Angels batter for the second time after Danks had started his motion.

I'm not saying. I'm just saying...

Make no mistake about it, the Sox did not lose Sunday's game because of Cooper's divergent strike zones. But there's no question that those strikes-called-balls changed the outcome of at-bats, which in turn changed the shape of an inning, and thus influenced the outcome of the game.

Bigger Picture

For a weekend that started out about as poorly as imaginable, with the loss of the unicorn-riding, stuff-you-liking, homer-hittin' Carlos Quentin, and ended with the Sox blowing a 2-run lead, I'm feeling pretty good about the weekend in general. I quickly processed the loss of Quentin, with a little Al Davisism "Just win, baby."

The Sox and Twins are both flawed teams. The Sox are an offensively old, slow team and don't really know what they're going to get from any of their 5 starters on any given night. While the Twins offense is powered by 2 superstars surrounded by a merry band of role players, but their bullpen, which is usually a strength, has let them down. One of these two teams, flaws included, has to make the post-season. Might as well be the Sox.

If you had told me on Friday, in that woe-is-me happy hour after we found out Q! had passed on but before first pitch, that the Sox would have taken 2-out-of-3 from the first place, playoff-bound Angels, I would have been happy. If you would have told me that the Twins were gonna drop 2-out-of-3 to the Tigers in the Metrodome, blowing leads in both losses, I wouldn't have believed you. Picking up a game on the Twins, while simultaneously taking 3 home games off their remaining schedule is a big win for the Sox.

All-in-all, the weekend turned out about as well as you could have reasonably expected.