James Shields gave up a homer on the second pitch of the game.* He gave up three runs in the first and lowered his White Sox career ERA in the process. The second was a repeat of the first. He threw a routine forceout at second into center field in the third.
(*Adding to the pall, a man was escorted out of my section due to a seizure shortly after Ian Kinsler went deep.)
Shields found a way to post scoreless innings in the fourth and fifth, the latter a 1-2-3 inning. But at the moment, there's no difference between Shields and Mat Latos and 2016 John Danks except a big one -- the level of investment. Shields was a conscious decision, not a flier or an unfortunate post-surgery inevitability. Sometimes the Sox receive too much crap for taking on veterans (see the immediate reaction to Justin Morneau), but through two starts, the Shields acquisition has the markings of punch-drunk ad-libbing, which is not a strategy.
Somehow, the White Sox found a way to win it, and it's the kind of effort that Robin Ventura's defenders will point to. They may be playing poorly, but they haven't checked out, and they could've easily justified an evening full of bad at-bats after falling behind by seven with a guy they hardly know on the mound.
But before we can say this was the kind of victory that exorcises demons, the Sox will have to win a second game against an opponent. They've lost nine of their last 10 series, and the lone victory required Matt Albers' hitting and baserunning to see it through. This comeback may have erased one of the Royals collapses from the luck ledger, but it won't mean anything greater if they drop the next two.
The Sox might be able to make the next game(s) easier on themselves by cleaning up some decision-making. What made Monday's comeback so improbable wasn't just the size of the deficit, but also the amount of self-inflicted wounds they had to overcome.
The first thing I didn't quite understand about this game: Avisail Garcia in right.
With Austin Jackson out, the Sox' best lineup just about always includes Garcia.
Their best defense, however, never includes Garcia.
Yet there he was on Monday, starting his fourth consecutive game in right field while better outfielders like J.B. Shuck and Jason Coats are relegated to DH. Garcia came up short on a handful of plays, and he allowed Miguel Cabrera to turn a double into a triple by kicking one farther into the gap.
Corner outfield defense should've killed them, especially after Melky Cabrera helped the Tigers score their ninth run by playing a leadoff single into a triple (I suppose his throw to third should've erased it). And even Adam Eaton didn't play the cleanest game. While the Eaton Rifle cut down a runner at second, it also allowed the trailing runner to take second on his unsuccessful attempt to get the runner at third after Shields' wild throw. I don't foresee much more glory in three-error games.
The second thing I didn't quite understand about this game: Tyler Danish in the sixth inning of a one-run game.
I don't have to write about how that happened because Larry summed it up in the comments on the recap:
here's the likely decision making process on that.
danish was going to be sent down after the game. so when shields sucked, he naturally had danish warm up in the 2nd(?) inning because it looked like it was going to be a long night for the bullpen and, in that case, you’re obviously going to use the guy who won’t be on the team tomorrow. except shields settled down and managed to go five. naturally not believing that his shitty team could come back from four runs down, ventura only had danish warm in the bullpen to come in for the sixth because, again, he wanted to use the guy who wouldn’t be on the team tuesday (and, probably, that had already warmed up; best practice is to use a guy who has gotten warmed up in a game previously). except his team scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth, somewhat suddenly making it a one run game. for whatever reason, neither he nor cooper nor renteria nor anyone else thought to get someone else ready. so there’s danish facing the heart of the tigers order in a one run game.
The Sox got caught with their pants down.
The third thing I didn't quite understand about this game: Tim Anderson leading off.
I might've enjoyed the lineup card if Robin Ventura had any kind of history of prioritizing his better hitters, because I can explain it: Anderson is accustomed to batting at the top of the order, and he had faced Detroit starter Matt Boyd in Triple-A earlier this season. It was a rare opportunity for Anderson to fight in his own weight class, and Ventura tried to maximize it in order to shake off a couple of hitless games.
But ... Ventura entrenched Jimmy Rollins in the second spot for 31 games earlier this season while Rollins finished his coursework for his DFA. Ventura went through every inferior option before succumbing to trying Jose Abreu last season. When you spend years adhering to an outdated concept despite a mountain of evidence that it doesn't work, the motive behind any deviation will not be given the benefit of the doubt.
Ideally, the manager will be able to try lineups like this on any given day, because he has displayed an understanding of proportion in the past, and because the roles are malleable enough that no one change qualifies as news.