When Jake Peavy, he of the revamped delivery said to increase his fastball from 90 mph to 94, threw his first pitch of Wednesday night's game; a 90 mph fastball ripped for a single to right field, I laughed aloud. Not a sarcastic snicker, or an embittered chuckle, but a maniacal laugh that a psychotic serial killer might have when learning their execution date, or perhaps a broken man realizing he was a party to $15 million being spent on nothing. But as the inning wore on and Jake Peavy re-ignited Josh Hamilton's season, walked three batters in a row, then let all three of those walks score, my maniacal laughter transitioned into silent brooding rage. A rage that came on as I realized that the White Sox were most likely not winning this game. But I could only be upset about this fact if in my heart of hearts I expected the Sox to win. Because their defeat still aroused indignation in me means that I do not yet expect the South Siders to lose every single game, even if I should.
Now that, dear readers, is a true glimmer of hope. On a night where the Sox road record dropped to 2-7, our starting pitcher who is making 15 million dollars a year pitched the team out of the game in the first inning, and our speedy leadoff man grounded into two double plays, was caught stealing, and was thrown out by half a step at first to end the game, one might not expect a blog post tonight. At least, not a real one, just a few lazily uploaded photos of a depression-fueled Jameson bender, posted somewhere between 4 and 5 in the morning.
But while Jake Peavy was certainly awful in the first and ruined everything, his 'settling down' period that occurred after yielding five runs in the opening frame provided some encouragement. Now I've always said that a pitcher settling down after a disastrous start is kinda like a guy being nice to you after he's kidnapped you and tied you up in the basement*, but Peavy pitched 5.1 more innings, gave up only 2 more hits and 2 more walks while striking out six. This start doesn't exactly have a rosy glow around it, especially because it ended with that Michael Young drive to the warning track that nearly broke every bone in Carlos Quentin's body, but if Peavy is sharp in his next outing it wouldn't be a shock. Of course, neither would it be if he walked 11. I still think he flash some dominance this year....it just might not be till....well...I don't want to put a date on it. I'll just be wrong.
*(Here's a helpful scale for this analogy. For giving up 5 runs in the 1st inning and then settling down it's the kidnapping scenario discussed above. For 6 runs, he kidnaps you, beats you savagely for 20 minutes but then treats your wounds. 7 runs, kidnapping and then does something extremely unfavorable to the family pet while forcing you to watch, but then puts on your favorite movie. 8 runs, kidnapping, ropes, etc., amputates all your limbs but then hold a glass of soda to your lips so you can drink. 9 runs, sets the house on fire around you, but loosens the knots around your arms just before he leaves. 10 runs, OH MY GOD WHY IS HE STILL IN THE GAME?!?!?)
The team grounded into 4 double plays tonight. This is a lot. This is also not an anomaly. The White Sox were leading the American League in double plays grounded into going tonight and...I think they protected their lead. Hell, they may have overtaken the Giants for the major league lead. AND THEY START ONE OF THE MOLINA BROTHERS! What's worse is that two of these double plays came off the bat of Juan Pierre. The so-called speed guy is not just failing to start rallies, but is now actively killing them. I guess this was Juan's worst game of the season, but who's to say? As opposed to other nights, he actually got on base, but was thrown out four separate times on plays he would have been safe on if he were still 25. When we pushed for stricter drug-testing in baseball, sure we weeded out a culture of roided-out super-cheaters ripping down time-treasured records, but imagine what HGH could do for Juan Pierre's speed! You chose restoring a sliver of integrity to America's pasttime over Pierre being an effective player until the age of 39. I hope you're happy when Juan is struggling to adjust to being a bench coast next season.
Oh right, I promised a glimmer of hope. Amidst all the poor offseason-acquisition flotsam, the darndest thing happened; A.J. Pierzynski went 2-3, scored a run, knocked in another, and drew a walk. One of the reasons it's great to be angry blogger for your favorite team is that you can spew gloom and doom all day, and when it comes true, you're proven right. However, when you're proven wrong, it's because your team is doing well, which is also great. And to see A.J. keep his hips locked in, rip liners out of the infield, and not look like he just watched Precious on DVD three times in a row before the game started was genuinely thrilling. It would have been thrilling enough to just have A.J. come back to life, but Carlos did him one better by going 2-3 with a big 3-run HR that started the Sox' scoring, a 9th inning double that started a late rally, two runs scored, a walk, with his only out coming on a deep fly to center. While he also stopped just short of wearing a huge neon "Play Andruw Jones in the Outfield" sign around his neck, Quentin's offense reminded us that we have a bonafied slugger in his physical prime on our roster.
And then there was Alexei Ramirez. Alexei Ramirez...walked. Walked! Four balls! His first walk of the season! The unthinkable is now reality. And it wasn't just that Alexei ran into a pitcher with no control, he took relatively close pitches, and walked on a full count. Maybe Ozzie threatened to deal him to somewhere colder. This would have been astounding enough if Alexei hadn't reached base three times on the night, and hit a two-out single in the 9th to bring the game within one. Hell, if Mark Kotsay's liner (Yes, as in a line drive, hit by Mark Kotsay) gets over Smoak at 1st base, Alexei's hit ties the game.
But in the end the Sox fell short. And despite all I've talked about, it is entirely the fault of Randy Williams. Randy is terrible. Randy must go away. As per usual, Ozzie brought Randy in as his first guy out of the bullpen to replace the starter with runners on. To make things easier, Williams was allowed to intentionally walk Guerrero to get a lefty-lefty matchup with David Murphy, who had a .176 average going into the at-bat. Naturally Williams gave up a run-scoring double because he's the worst pitcher in the major leagues. And again, this run was charged to Jake Peavy, keeping Williams' ERA at a sub-awful 4.66. Now I'm not a sabermetrician, and I don't think it's a stretch to assume Ozzie isn't either, BUT RANDY WILLIAMS WHIP IS ALMOST 2. BLOODY 6. 2.6!!!! 2.6 baserunners every inning. Opponents have a .463 On-base percentage against him. Do you know what you call a guy who has a .463 On-base percentage? MVP!!! So think of it this way, any batter who is facing Randy Williams is essentially the best player in the league for that moment of time, because he's certainly going to hit like it. The ludicrosity (Randy Williams is so bad words get made up for him) of keeping this man not just on the roster, but as the go-to guy is as big of a factor in the Sox being 8-13 as anything else going on with this team. For neither Ozzie or Kenny to just say "Whoa, this is ridiculous, there've gotta be other left-handers in the world" and put a stop to this is slowly becoming the glaring flaw that you can't ignore, one that makes you question their judgment in all other things even if it isn't warranted. Like "Hey, Tom Cruise is a good actor and I like all his movies but I don't know if I'll go see his new one because he's a crazy person who does crazy things and I can't trust him to do something that's not completely crazy!". This is your Oprah couch, Ozzie. Get rid of Williams, or wear the same eye patch that Cruise wore in Valkyrie. Those are the choices