Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Game No. 14, White Sox-Blue Jays: Tank In Toronto

 White Sox 4, Blue Jays 3

With the Bulls heading to the playoffs soon (and likely no advancing further than the second round) and the NHL playoffs beginning in two weeks, I'm hoping to have more time to focus on the White Sox and, yes, Michigan football offseason minutiae. I'm still working out a summer schedule of sorts, but, as always, whatever happens, happens.

In any case, the White Sox have struggled since I last wrote about them, when I visited the Cell for the second game of the season, back in the halcyon days when the Sox were 2-0.

Now, Robin Ventura's club sits at 5-8, having been swept by the Nationals, dropping two of three in Cleveland and losing yesterday's contest against some guy named Mark Buehrle. You may have heard of him at some point. The White Sox got to this Buehrle character in the first inning, but quickly relinquished the lead in the second frame after a Maicer Izturis home run. The Jays held on for a 4-3 win in the end.

Today, Josh Johnson took the mound for Toronto, whose last appearance saw him get shelled in Detroit; he exited the game after just four outs.

Naturally, the White Sox went down 1-2-3 in the first inning, with Alejandro De Aza recording a strikeout for the eighth time in his last nine games.

For the White Sox, Dylan Axelrod took the mound, his third start of the season. Axelrod did provide a solid performance on April 6 against Seattle, recording the win, but didn't fare quite as well in Washington. giving up seven hits and six earned runs in 3.2 IP.

On the bright side, Axelrod started the game with a K, getting 2B Emilio Bonifacio on some breaking stuff, the fourth pitch of the AB. Axelrod did give up a sharp single on the next at bat, but managed to get out of the first unscathed.

Adam Dunn struck out to start the second, but the White Sox started some trouble after a Konerko single and a Gillaspie walk. With a runner in scoring position, I'm pretty sure the White Sox are contractually obligated to not get said runner home. Viciedo struck out, but on the next AB Ramirez ripped a hard single to center. Unfortunately, Paul Konerko was forced to stay at third, leading to a bases loaded situation with two outs for Hector Gimenez.

Gimenez quickly went down 0-2; it appeared that the Sox would come away empty-handed once again. He did eventually strikeout, but not before J.P. Arencibia failed to corral a Johnson pitch in the dirt, allowing Konerko to come home.

Axelrod appeared to be on the way to another solid inning before Colby Rasmus launched a knee high fastball over the outfield wall, tying the game at one Rasmus's fifth of the season). He recovered in the third, however, with his first 1-2-3 inning of the game.

Arencibia started off the bottom of the fourth with a single, but Axelrod pitched into two straight fielder's choices. For the third out, Alexei Ramirez produced one of the nicer (if not the nicest) web gems of this young White Sox season, a diving, full extension catch on a sharply hit ball.

The Sox' failure to get more than a run in the second inning started to loom large; upon going 1-2-3 in the 6th, Johnson had retired the last 10 Sox hitters he'd faced.

Once again, Axelrod appeared to be in the clear in an inning, only to get burned. With two outs and a 1-2 count, Axelrod served up a meatball to Arencibia, who launched the second Blue Jays solo homer of the game. It truly was a shame, but such is baseball: mistakes don't always kill you, but they very often will.

Axelrod started to unravel, giving up two straight singles. A sharply hit ball to short led to a fielder's choice and, mercifully, the end of what was beginning to look like a disastrous inning for Axelrod. The White Sox went into the final third of the game down 2-1.

"Come on fellas, we need some runs. Let's do this," Hawk said to start the top of the seventh. I think I detected a barely audible sigh at the end of that exhortation.

As if on cue, Konerko launched a shot over the left field wall, his third long ball of the season. The White Sox couldn't add to that, however, because scoring runs in any way other than solo homers or off of wild pitches would be unseemly.

Hector Santiago relieved Axelrod to start the 7th, tossing a perfect 1-2-3 inning. After the White Sox failed to put anything on the board in the 8th, Santiago returned and got the first two batters out before Venture made the call for Matt Lindstrom, who would face Arencibia. Lindstrom got ahead in the count and eventually forced Arencibia into a harmless infield flyout, sending the game into the 9th at 2-2.

The White Sox began the 9th with two straight walks (Dewayne Wise pinch ran for Dunn). Gillaspie went on to strike out, but you'll never believe what happened next: Dayan Viciedo showed great plate discipline, fought back from a 1-2 count, and launched a double into left center field, scoring Wise from second. WHAT IS THIS FEELING I DON'T EVEN.

To make matters even better, Konerko tagged up from third and blazed a trail home, beating Rajai Davis's throw from right field, extending the lead to 4-2.

Addison Reed took the mound in the 9th, looking for his fifth save in as many opportunities. Reed got himself in trouble right away, putting runners on the corners before recording an out. A sac fly cut the lead to 4-3, but the Sox were now a double play away from victory.

After battling Rajai Davis for a few pitches on a 1-2 count, Reed got him to lineout to left field. Reed then closed the door, getting Izturis to flyout meekly, also to left field.

Although the White Sox made a thus far struggling Josh Johnson look quite good, it's encouraging to see them pick up a close win with some clutch hitting. Ignoring a pair of mistakes, Dylan Axelrod has pitched two solid starts out of three this season.

The White Sox move to 6-8 on the season, with two more games in Toronto before they finally return to the South Side on Friday.

  • Paul Konerko was 3 for 3 on the evening, including a solo homer. He also walked once. 
  • Jeff Keppinger batted 0 for 4, seeing only 14 pitches. 
  • Hector Santiage retired all five batters he faced, throwing 15 of his 20 pitches for strikes.

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