Alexei Ramirez struck a familiar pose in the 10th inning on Friday night. He did it for the 18,000+ fans who sat freezing for an eternity while Edwin Jackson and Trevor Cahill played coy with the strike zone. He did it for Juan Pierre, who caught every routine fly to the sound of Bronx cheers, and Alex Rios, who actually deserved them by dropping a flyball. He did it for the bullpen, which stood toe-to-toe with an excellent Oakland relief corps after a shaky start by Tony Pena.
He also did it for himself, erasing two miscues in the field, including an error with two outs in the fifth inning that prevented Jackson from getting in position for a victory he didn't truly deserve.
Yes, the exaltation generated by Ramirez's bat reverberated through thousands as he stood at home plate, arms extended, watching his fly ball soar over the left-field bullpen to give the White Sox a grueling victory in 10 innings. It was Ramirez's second home run of the game, and the biggest hit of the young season.
Chris Sale recorded his
first second victory of the season, but Sergio Santos deserves a share. Before they entered the game, White Sox pitching battled through one tough inning after another.
Jackson was the main culprit. The Sox gave him a 4-1 lead after two innings, with three runs coming on Ramirez's first blast of the night. Jackson couldn't make that lead hold up, mainly because he couldn't find his release point, and his best guess was premature. He put quite a few fastballs in the right-handed batter's box, and a lot of sliders chest-high. A better lineup would have punished him, but he managed to limit the A's to three runs.
He did not look pleased when Ozzie Guillen lifted him with two outs in the fifth - especially since he should've been out of the inning. Ramirez wasn't able to get a glove on a grounder around the bag at second earlier in the inning, and Ramirez put a fifth out on the board when he couldn't corral a hard grounder hit right at him.
But Jackson really can't blame anybody but himself. When Will Ohman has to clean up your mess in the fifth inning, you had to have screwed something up somewhere along the line.
Ohman got out of it with a grounder to third, but the second-shakiest reliever, Tony Pena, had his own problems. He was greeted with a swinging bunt single to start the sixth, and then he threw one of his too-familiar rolling sliders. Kevin Kouzmanoff roped it into the White Sox bullpen to give Oakland a 5-4 lead.
But give Pena credit - he pitched around yet another dropped flyball. This time, it was Rios who watched it go in and out of his glove, a rather routine play made moderately difficult when he broke the wrong way. That loaded the bases with one out, and the A's lead was on the cusp of exploding. Pena toughened up and escaped the jam with no further damage, getting a shallow fly to right, and then throwing Kurt Suzuki a nasty 3-2 slider for a swinging K.
The Sox offense rewarded Pena for his resilience. Ramirez led off the bottom of the sixth with a walk, advanced to second on a hit and run, and scored on Pierre's single up the middle. That took Pena off the hook, and the teams exchanged zeroes for the next few innings. Santos played a huge role in calming things down, as he retired all six batters he faced, striking out three.
Sale then took the baton for the final two, pitching around an infield single and passed ball in the ninth, and a two-out walk in the 10th. He allowed a few flies that looked good off the bat, but kept the A's off balance just enough to keep the ball in the park.
Bobby Cramer appeared to be on his own roll until he fell behind Ramirez 3-0 with two outs. The Sox were growing increasingly displeased with C.B. Bucknor's erratic strike zone, and they had more fuel for their fire when Bucknor gave Cramer a courtesy strike on a pitch that looked worse than ball three, more inside than the one prior.
Little did they know that Bucknor did the Sox a favor. Cramer tried going to the same place, but he didn't get the fastball in enough. Ramirez jumped on it, golfing it into the seats and sending everybody home well past their bedtime.