Anyone who watched the past two games knows that the White Sox absolutely deserved to win Monday night, and that the Kansas City Royals absolutely deserved to win on Tuesday night. Yet while Wednesday night's game will inevitably be given an AP recap that contains the words 'blowout', 'rout', or 'puppy murder', whether the Sox are deserving of such praise for this game is a murkier issue. Under typical rules no writer would be in the wrong for using such terms (well, except for 'puppy murder') for a game that the Sox won by 7, hit five extra-base hits in, and led 7-0 after four innings.
But that would overlook the fact that the Sox and Royals both played similar games. They both received poor efforts from their respective starters Freddy Garcia and Brian Bannister, who each left pitches without much on them up in the zone to be hammered, which they were. While both pitchers were tagged to a comparable degree, Bannister was out of the game after only 3 innings pitched, while Garcia only allowed two runs in six innings, and will see his ERA drop fairly drastically after tonight (it was pretty high coming in).
The reason this occurred is because situational hitting is paramount in baseball.
Against the first batter of the game, David DeJesus, Freddy Garcia threw the same bland 87mph fastball at the high, outside corner three times in a row. One of them was a strike. Unfortunately not bored to sleep by this approach, DeJesus waited till Garcia lilted one of these lifeless fastballs closer to the middle of the plate and hit it 399 feet to Alex Rios at the wall in center. This was quickly followed by Scott Podsednik lining a single at about 200mph past Paul Konerko, making it clear from early on; Freddy was going to get hit tonight, and hit bad. And by all means, Freddy's weak collection of high-80s fastballs and hanging breaking balls got hammered by a very game Royals team. They laced 10 hits off of Garcia, not a one of them cheap. Yet lacking in the process of the Royals becoming Ike Turner and turning Freddy into their Tina, was a big hit. The type of blow that would send Tina running to get her own hotel room, er, I mean send Garcia to the showers.
A back-breaking double, or two-out hit to extend a rally, would have completely changed the complexion of this game for Kansas City. Instead the Royals flied out when they need to move runners over on the ground, struck out when they needed to keep the ball in play, and while they repeatedly hurt Freddy, they never wounded him.
Situational hitting is always easier to recognize when it's present than when it's absent, as it's hard to argue that the Royals' hitters did a poor job tonight. At best one could argue that they got unlucky, where as I would argue that at some point in history that Kansas City committed some act of unspeakable evil that has resulted in the city being karmicly punished by the Kings moving to Sacramento, the Chiefs bottoming out in the past five years, and everything that has happened to the Royals since George Brett retired....and some of the things that happened before.
The White Sox however, had situational hitting in spades; they had no less than three two-out RBI hits (four if you count Rios' 2-run HR in the 6th), and made the most of the contact they made. While all of the Royals 10 singles were sharply hit, the Sox one-upped them with doubles, homers, and immunity from divine reprisal.
Most importantly, Brian Bannister was slightly worse than Garcia tonight. While he's struggled historically against the Sox, he was further crippled tonight by an inability to throw his breaking ball for a strike, forcing him to overuse a far-from dominant fastball and walk a looooot of people. Now, I pondered for a while writing a "Brian Bannister: Bad at His Job" featurette, but instead I'll just say this; if you're 29, aren't overpowering and lack good control, and have a penchant for throwing home runs when you play in a pitcher's park, maybe it's just not going to happen for you. I can't wait till the Sox deal prospects to KC to make him our 5th starter after Freddy Garcia falls down the staircase in Flash Taco/Underdog three weeks from now.
In other good news, the Sox won their second series of the season (not a lot), givng them one more series win on the season than the Royals (legitimately depressing).
Juan Pierre is showing signs of life. He's hitting .467 with 6 stolen bases and 5 runs scored in the past four games. Now, Juan still doesn't have an extra base-hit on the year and I'd still take the frozen ropes that Podsednik's been hitting over the opposite field loopers Juan has started pumping out any day, but at least we're getting the Juan Pierre that was advertised instead of a 33 year-old guy who runs like Arethra Franklin. Better yet, his bra-slingshot arm actually was strong enough to throw out Billy Butler when he tried to stretch a single--wait, no, actually Andruw Jones played left field tonight, that wasn't Juan Pierre at all. Juan's arm is still terrible.
Gordon Beckham has reacted to his incredible inability to hit by putting a temporary moratarium on swinging, and drew six walks in the Kansas City series. Either this will stop working when the Sox face a team with better pitching, or when someone realizes what the hell he's doing.
All in all, the Sox did a passable job with the Royals. One cannot really balk at a series won, and KC is well...better than they usually are this season. As has been the case for a while, the Sox are in dire need to begin a run that takes them back to the good side of .500, but the Blue Jays are not going to be an easy start. They've won four straight and are 9-3 on the road. Look for a later piece on pitching matchups.