White Sox right fielders are no strangers to diving-catch attempts with disastrous consequences. In August of 2011, Carlos Quentin jammed his shoulder, sprained his AC joint and missed all but one of the last 37 games of the season. Avisail Garcia busted his clavicle at Coors Field during the first fortnight of last season and missed the next four months.
But those are two big, broad, burly, clompy designated hitters with gloves. Trayce Thompson is a graceful long-striding defensive whiz who can handle all three outfield positions with aplomb. So how did this happen to turn an easy Monday night into a stressful Tuesday morning?
Considering Thompson's wrist bent the wrong way, his elbow locked and his whole arm rolled underneath his body, it looked like dealer's choice for the kind of surgery he'd require. Instead, he might get away with a mere elbow sprain:
"I’ve seen those injuries happen before, especially when I was a kid playing football," Thompson said. "I wasn’t too excited to kind of check it out once I stood up for a second. It could have been a lot worse. I’m pretty lucky. I saw the replay and everything. I’m very fortunate. Just a tough play. Just trying to make a play and it is what it is. I’ll be OK, though. It’s not that bad."
He's still not out of the woods. Quentin's injury looked like a busted collarbone and/or a dislocated shoulder, but while the sprain diagnosis was good news for his medical future, it had the same effect as a season-ender. Thompson doesn't have Quentin's checkered health history, so it shouldn't cause the same alarm, but if there's anything we've learned from this season, it's that we can't have nice things.
And Thompson is still a nice thing. He had a couple of outstanding at-bats against Sonny Gray as he bolsters his case to start no matter the handedness of the pitcher. He worked the count full and hit a screaming lineout to left in the second inning, then waited on an 0-1 curveball and hit it out a few rows deep to left center in the third. He's hitting .355 with three of his five homers against righties.
Yet while Thompson had his best at-bats against the (now former?) Cy Young contender ... so did everybody else. The Sox didn't score in the second inning, but four of the five batters who came to the plate had good-to-great plate appearances. Gray might've slipped out of that inning, but it served a harbinger for things to come, as the Sox smoked him for four runs in the third inning, and three more in the fourth. By the end, everybody but Avisail Garcia was hitting line drives or drawing walks.
Then the beleaguered A's bullpen entered the fray and threw 10 scoreless innings before Cabrera's walk-off single with two outs in the 14th. It'd be nice to call it a tremendous display by the White Sox offense, but perhaps it was a reflection of just how little Gray had.
Another reflection: John Danks outpitched Gray handily. He allowed three homers, but it was the Erik Johnson kind of three-homer performance, and not the Chris Sale kind of three-homer performance. To update to update the bar bet from a very sad bar:
- John Danks: 4.56 ERA
- Jeff Samardzija: 4.89 ERA
While that's a sizable disparity for a few starts remaining, Danks is no stranger to the land-mine start. Alas, so is Samardzija. His ERA has risen in four consecutive starts, and by two-hundredths of a point in each of his last three.
Danks and Gray ended up with no-decision, though, because Tyler Flowers had a terrible defensive inning. A wild pitch on a strike three, catcher's interference on a potential double-play ball, and a passed ball on a high cutter that seemed to catch him off guard.
In another universe, Flowers is Evan Gattis. He comes up through the Atlanta system, catches for a couple years, then shifts over corner spots and DH for an American League team, offsetting a sub-.300 OBP with a bevy of his savage brand of Murder Time bombs and a sense of humor that endears him to the fan base.
In this one, though, he somehow transformed into a defense-first catcher whose best skills go unseen by the untrained eye, and most fans hate watching him hit too much to give him any benefit of the doubt. That makes such gaffes behind the plate all the more glaring, and his deadpan wit serves more as a defense mechanism.
David Robertson helped him deflect the criticism. While Flowers is on an island for the interference call -- the centerpiece of the four-run collapse -- Robertson walked in a run, then crossed up Flowers on the game-tying passed ball. So Robertson hung in with Flowers during the postgame interview, and since the game ran two hours after the ninth inning, enough time had passed to make light of it:
Flowers: We managed to make a debacle of the ninth inning.
Robertson: Yeah, I would agree.
Flowers: Mainly we have to point out.
Robertson: Klay Thompson’s brother should have caught the ball.
Flowers: It starts right there.
Robertson: That’s where it started. I almost killed Flow crossing him up.
Flowers: I touched it though so it was ok.
Robertson: You did get a glove on it. Once I realized I threw the wrong pitch, it was really bad.
Flowers: It was a bad time for it too with the tying run on third. Other than that, if I could have blocked the ball, it would have been better.
Robertson: Well, yeah. But I almost killed you or the umpire.
Flowers: That would have been OK. It was Joe (West) back there.
They carried on for a while, but Flowers made sure to put a button on it.
Flowers at the end of the comedy routine: "This wouldn’t be happening if we didn’t win."— Scott Merkin (@scottmerkin) September 15, 2015
For a 14-inning game featuring a dramatic collapse, Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone had one of their better broadcasts of the year. Maybe it was the big lead off Gray that buoyed them against the horror to come later, but they remained in it through the end, even getting a little giggly as the game crossed the threshold into #weirdbaseball.
However, when Cabrera delivered the walk-off single, they delivered the call first with excitement, and then with on-the-point analysis about Geovany Soto's secondary lead:
Even if Josh Reddick's strong arm threw out Soto at the plate, it would've been damn near impossible to call it a bad send by Joe McEwing, since the alternative was Gordon Beckham with two outs. Beckham stranded the winning run on third in the 10th with a strikeout, then did the same thing with the bases loaded in the 12th.
At that point, the question wasn't whether to send Soto, but rather how much Soto would have to be thrown out by to consider it a bad decision. The break-even point might've been 40 feet.