So an internet service lapse due to my phone line being repaired forced me to race out to the North side to good friend Bill Bullock's apartment to watch tonight's showdown with the Twins. The takeout food is Tacqueria Moran, there's Cilantro on my fingers, and Newcastle is the beer. Freddy is on the mound, Bill is complaining about his HD feed, and the Sox have already blown the first inning that had a leadoff hit by Juan Pierre, Freddy got two outs before giving the most fundamentally sound double ever hit in the world by Joe Mauer, and has walked Morneau, let's join him! Bottom 1st
Freddy got ahead of Cuddyer, then decided to make us nervous by throwing two balls and talking to A.J. before inducing a groundout to strand two. The good news is that he doesn't seem to be covered in sweat yet.
Paul Konerko steps in, in front of a sign that brags that it is "The official Frozen Pizza of the Minnesota Twins". I'm resisting the urge to make climate jokes. As Konerko flies out to right Bill, a baseball neophyte, comments "He does not look athletic at all."
Rios flies out to left with a shot that says "There will not be weakly hit home runs tonight"
Quentin pops up easily to end the inning. Bill, just learning to follow the White Sox, is cursing already. He will soon learn that the later innings is where the real cursing belongs.
Watching the game on WCIU gives us the privilege of watching Judge Mathis and People's Court commercials. Bill reveals that our signal quality will be inversely proportional to the number of cars driving past the house. This is the year 2010.
Kubel grounds out harmlessly to Alexei, yet somehow I am convinced he will still homer tonight
Maybe not, Delmon Young hits the stitching out of a ball to center and it dies well before the warning track. The White Sox will need to manufacture runs to win tonight. In theory this is what our team is built for. In practice....
Bill's eyes flicker and I ask him if he can last the whole game, he responds that he simply needs a cigarrette before releasing a hacking cough. This man is in better physical shape than I am.
Brendan Harris, a man who is the replacement player they refer to in that Value Over Replacment Player statistic, lines a ball to left that also dies in the wind. This appears to be ultimate Freddy-weather.
Bill begins to rant about the inanity of AT&T's 'Rethink Possilbe' slogan. I will admit that this does not make sense.
Emerging from a long period of having his playing time jerked around, Teahen lines a double to left that is also the first ball hit high in the air that does not inexplicably hang until an outfielder can run under it. Bill asks why a bunch of sweat flew off of Teahen's rear when he made contact, I suggested that it was dust from him being benched for so long.
Gordon, batting in the 8th hole, is sporting a new turtleneck for warmth, and perhaps a new approach?
Seeing as he stared at the first two pitches down the middle, I'd say Gordon is still struggling. Gordon proves me wrong by ripping a ball that would have been long gone in the Cell, but dies inexplicably in the wind again like everything else tonight, and Young catches it easily at the wall. Hawk will need to be hosed down with cold, cold water.
Ramirez lazily flies out to right with a shot that actually would have been an out in every ballpark in the majors. Chances are we're stranding the leadoff double this inning.
Pierre comes up and Hawk describes his previous single as a ducksnort. Before Bill's reaction to the term, I forgot that this is a completely made-up word. Pierre lines the ball to right, easily the hardest he's hit a ball all season, but it hangs inexpicably in the wind, allowing for an easy out. These 'every line-drive becomes a fly out' conditions are going to get super annoying.
Freddy appears to throw a fastball to Nick Punto that clocks in 85 mph. There should be an alarm that goes off in the dugout when this happens. Nick Punto lazily flies out to left with a looper that almost lands. This game will probably be decided by who can hit three of these fluke hits in a row. I hate this ballpark already
Freddy is looking tricky tonight, as he really screws up Denard Span, forcing him to weakly ground out to second.
Hawk and Stone briefly discuss what a colossal disappointment Orlando Hudson has been in life before he rips what would be a double in any normal place with real weather, but in Target Field is caught by Juan Pierre.
Way to screw up the outdoors Minnesota.
A.J. settles in to face Slowey in what has to be the best pitcher's park in history. You cannot homer in here, you cannot hit line drives for hits here. You will not score. You're best off trying to bunt. A.J. pops up a ball to center that might have taken out a plane. Bill is going to nod off and spill his beer on himself. Truly, your mid-twenties are the most exciting times of your life.
Andruw steps up; he can't end this inning on a double play because there's no one on. For him to hit one of his trademark solo home runs, he'll need to hit something that would normally travel 500 feet. Instead he's about 8 seconds out in front of a changeup for a strikeout.
Konerko pops up a mile high to 2nd base. In theory this game could be over in an hour and a half, except no one will have scored.
Mauer hits the ball into the exact same place as last time for a single. He's an annoyingly perfect player. I strongly dislike him.
If the Twins have a chance to score, it will be this inning with Morneau up and Mauer on. Or the next inning when Mauer gets on...or the time after that. Garcia throws a pretty good pitch to Morneau on 3-2, but he flips it out to left for a single. Now, if Garcia grooved it down the middle and Morneau hit the crap out of it, it'd be an easy out to right. This is why what we're currently playing in this stadium in Minnesota is not baseball.
Cuddyer bounces one hard to Teahen that he whips to Beckham, who endures a hard, hard slide from Morneau to turn the double play. Gordon's been just lost at the plate this year, but has adjusted to 2nd base rather perfectly.
With Mauer on 3rd and 2 outs, Kubel comes up with a chance to make Freddy pay. Kubel is able to check up on a 2-1 pitch in the dirt to establish a hitter's count, only to foul off a ball to force it to 3-2. Apparently Kubel has been struggling because he's been intimidated by Thome's presence. What a loser. Uh-oh! My Twins hatred is shining through. Kubel walks on a repeat of the 2-1 pitch.
Delmon Young lines to right down the line, scoring Mauer easily, but Kubel is sent home inexplicably and is easily gunned down by an Andruw Jones-Gordon Beckham relay. Hey! Maybe Jones should play outfield all the time.
Rios extends his hitting streak to 12 with a crisp liner to right. A few pitches later he steals second, then advances to third as the throw gets into center. Bill remarks that Rios looks like he might actually be an athlete. I assure him that he's correct.
Quentin strikes out swinging on what appears to be a fastball down the middle. So much for him being competent again.
Bill is rejuvenated by his cigarette, and is barking angrily at each individual Sox screwup again. In time he will learn that the team makes too many individual mistakes in one game to decry all of them.
Teahen walks after an extensive at bat. I guess this doesn't count as blowing the scoring opportunity. Though one could argue that leaving the RBI opportunity to Gordon Beckham is the same as eschewing it.
Beckham has gotten the count to 1-2 and is flailing wildly at everything at this point. I feel a strikeout coming on.
And there it is.
2 outs. As a reminder, there was a runner on 3rd with no one out, and now two people have struck out. This is called blowing a scoring opportunity.
Alexei Ramirez lines a fastball deep to left center that hangs, hangs, hangs, but magically lands beyond Span and Young on the warning track and one hops the wall. Rios and Teahen come around to score, and I have no reason to be mad for now...except that I have to pee badly and this inning won't end. Not that I want it to! I just....oh god this hurts.
Juan grounds it to Orlando Hudson, who stumbles, gets up, gathers himself and throws it to first not in time to get Juan. This is exactly the type of hit I didn't think he was still capable of getting. Perhaps warm weather will fix everyth--wait...they're in Minnesota tonight. I guess I don't know why that happened.
Pierzynski lines a shot to right-center off a pretty miserable Slowey pitch. It didn't do nearly as much inexplicable hanging as most line drives tonight, and hit the warning track in right-center. Ramirez and Pierre score, 4-1 Sox. I shout "Let's Get Wasted!", Bill applauds politely.
After two of the biggest swings and misses in the beginning of the at-bat, Jones hits a looper that lands in right field, Pierzynski comes around to score, and it's 5-1 Sox. Did I mention all of these hits came with 2 out? I'm going to need more beer, just so I can shake it up and pour it on my head. Amusingly, there's some guy right next to the field microphone for WCIU who keeps shouting excitedly for the Sox. Hearing some drunk Chicago native scream "Yeah baby! Woooooooo!" has got to make this feel like a home game for the Pale Hose.
Konerko hits a sharp grounder into the hole at 3rd, Harris boots it, then picks it up and crazily whips it at 2nd far too late to get Jones. The inning continues, but not for Kevin Slowey, he's getting pulled. Unfortunately the Twins bullpen has been decent.
22 year-old Alex Burnett comes on for the Twins to face Alex Rios. He has a 4.61 ERA and he can't seem to find the plate. Rios fouls a 2-0 pitch into foul territory to Morneau at first base, who inexplicably drops it to extend the inning. I'm pretty sure this is as bad as the Twins can play.
Rios cues a ball up the middle which Brendan Harris dives to stop in the infield, but loses it in the great mystery that is his baggy shirt. Jones hangs up at 3rd. Bases loaded for Quentin. Frankly having watched Quentin in his earlier at bats, I've accepted that if Rios didn't knock in a runner, that this inning was over.
Quentin strikes out on an outside fastball against a guy who can only throw fastballs...there are some holes in his swing right now.
After somewhere around a 35 minute break, Freddy allows an opposite field single to Nick Punto, a guy he traditionally dominates. Expect to see him on 2nd soon.
Oh my god, Brendan Harris flied out and I didn't even see it. That man is not remarkable.
Span hits a liner to Teahen, who boots it, resulting in a valiant attempt by Ramirez to throw Span out at first, which fails. Teahen will not make anyone forget about Joe Crede down there at 3rd.
Hudson strikes out horribly. Maybe he really is a disappointment.
Mauer comes up with runners on. I am scared, seeing as he has hit everything.
For some reason Garcia owns Mauer in this at-bat, consistently mystifying him with changeups that dip down and away. Hawk extolls the virtues of changing speeds on Mauer, as Freddy strikes him out to end the inning with a forkball to strand two runners. That was an important moment in this game, as indicated by A.J's raucous fist pump.
Teahen hits a first pitch liner to Orlando Hudson for the first out.
Gordon Beckham grounds out weakly to Hudson at 2nd. On the plus side, Beckham can fall back on an acting career where he plays the petulant son of a rich southern slaveholder in every film that calls for such a role.
Ramirez rips a line drive down the left field line that hangs, hangs, hangs, and finally twists foul. He's looking a bit more locked in tonight, even his eventual fly out to center was decently struck.
Right after I text my sister that this game has been encouraging so far and that Freddy has been rolling, Morneau hits the first pitch into the right field bleachers to make it 5-2. Cuddyer hits the ball hard out to center for an out, before Kubel singles hard up the middle for center. All of these balls were hit hard.
Young pops out to Andruw Jones in right, one could argue that this ball was hit kinda hard. Maybe this should be Freddy's last inning. Maybe I shouldn't boast that things are going well when it's only the 6th inning. On the road. Versus the 1st place team.
Harris fouls a ball off to right...hard. I sense a theme, and I hate it. With two nice breaking balls on the outside corner, Freddy strikes out Harris to end the 6th, and earn himself a shower.
Pierre cues a grounder to shortstop, and nearly manages to run it out. He's still not better than Scott Podsednik, but he's definitely better than just not having a third outfielder.
Seeing as trading him to San Francisco gave them Francisco Liriano, and they replaced him with Joe Mauer, it's a little curious that the Twins fans boo A.J. Pierzynski, but they do, even when he flies out to center lazily
Andruw Jones swings very big. He probably always has, but has anyone ever explored the possibility of him not doing so? Goodness, he's chopping wood out there. Another big swing on a high fastball for Andruw ends the inning with a pop up to short. Bill has resigned to lying down and giving in to sleep.
To my horror, Freddy remains on the mound for the 7th inning, probably on the notion that he can get through the 9, 1, and 2 hitters without incident.
The 9 hitter, Punto, lines a single sharply to center, followed by shots of Twins fans covered in blankets in their seats. Yeah,.yeah , GREAT IDEA MINNESOTA! OUTDOOR BASEBALL!
Span hits a fairly sharp liner to left that is hauled by Juan Pierre. We'll need a double play to avoid Joe Mauer in this inning.
Orlando Hudson comes to plate as we see a shot of Matt Thornton and Randy Williams both warming in the bullpen. Hmm...which one should we choose?!?!?!
Hudson hits a sharp grounder to Konerko at first, he pivots, throws it to Ramirez at 2nd who rifles it back at Konerko to turn the double play to end the inning. Raucous fist-pumping follows from Garcia. Good effort, Frederick.
How often do you see a guy make a great play in the field and follow it up with a nice job at the plate? Well...how often? Konerko's up...is there reason to hope? Bill is snoring, ever so weakly...I think a lady-friend of his is supposed to show up soon.
Konerko lives up to the adage by lining to the wall in left, then sliding into second before the tag off a good throw from Delmon Young. The Twins fans boo lustily at the call because apparently they can't see.
Rios strikes out on a pitch low and in for the first bad at bat he's had in a while. This could be the start of something bad.
Speaking of bad, the frantically regressing Carlos Quentin steps to the plate and immediately goes to an 0-2 count. I'm not digging this. Quentin strikes out for the 3rd time. Twins fans cheer as the Sox fan sitting next to the field mic obnoxiously chants "Scoreboard, scoreboard!" He's not our best representative. Not to say that this is an obnoxious chant, but there's something intolerable about this guy's voice. Chances are if he seems insufferable to me, Twins fans are slowly passing a shank to the guy sitting next to him.
Ron Mahay comes on sporting a perfect ERA and a losing record. As perplexing as that is, it would clearly seem that he is just a left-hander brought in to face the left-handed Teahen. Mark strikes out on a dubious check-swing ruling, but he looked overmatched in the at-bat as is.
If you put Matt Thornton in the closer role, yes, you have a great pitcher in the 9th inning every time, but you wouldn't have him now, in the most important situation of the game, facing the 3-4-5 hitters in the 8th.
With that said, Mauer lines a pitch right back at Thornton up the middle for his third hit of the night. What a brilliant hitter he is.
Morneau comes up and hammers a ball to center that just dies in the wind as balls have done all night. For all my complaining, the ballpark really helped us right there. It should be 5-4, but then again, maybe Beckham's drive leaves the yard earlier in this game, and it should be 7-4.
Cuddyer gets jammed badly in the first at bat in this inning where Thornton looked like himself, and now there are two outs, with Mauer on first.
Thornton strikes out Kubel easily with high fastballs, and the Sox are into the 9th. It's more than a little concerning that he let Justin Morneau hit a ball around 405 feet to center field, but out of the inning is out of the inning. I have no idea who is coming out in the 9th. Hopefully not Randy Williams.
Word is that Bobby Jenks is coming in the game into the 9th. As much as I hoped there wasn't some moronic plan to make Williams or Linebrink into the closer, my memories now fall back to Sunday afternoon, and I am filled with dread.
Luckily Gordon Beckham has done the best thing he possibly could, and drawn a walk. We need some runs, and by some I mean 11.
Did I mention Jesse Crain is in the game now? Did I mention he's not throwing strikes? Mauer has gone out to talk to him. I wonder how Mauer relates to players with flaws in their game. Is it like Michael Jordon treated Steve Kerr? Is it like how Dr. Manhattan talks to humans?
Alexei Ramirez lines a pitch to center on a hit and run and the ball just hangs, hangs, hangs, and hangs until Span catches it, and easily doubles Beckham off first. This a dumb ballpark, with dumb weather.
Juan Pierre hits another one of those hanging liners, but into the gap in right-center. It drops between Span and Cuddyer and, and...my God, Pierre is running to 2nd! It's his first extra base hit of the season!!!! I don't believe it!!! Is this real? Am I awake? Am I alive? Is this all a dream that Bill is having right now? Minnesota's pulling Crain for a Brian Duensing out of the bullpen, and why wouldn't they? Anytime a pitcher allows something impossible he should probably get yanked.
A.J. hits the first pitch for a fly out to left. That was a waste of Duensing's time.
Jenks steps in with his awful stats, horrible appearance, and terrible demeanor. He throws the first two pitches for balls, and I have begun scanning the apartment for a sharp object. This man has absolutely nothing going stuff wise.
Delmon Young lines a 3-1 pitch down broadway out to right field. To be fair, this probably is off the wall in in U.S. Cellular, but even more than this is Freddy-weather, this is definitely ideal Jenks-weather. Then again, ANYONE COULD PITCH IN THIS WEATHER!!!!!!!
Pinch-hitter Jim Thome hits another rocket liner to center, it hangs and hangs, but actually gets it over Rios in center for a double. Minnesota inserts a pinch runner and we'll face the top of the order. Hawk points out the absurdity that Bobby would throw Thome a low fastball having played with him for four years and probably knowing how much he loves them, Ozzie walks out to the mound, and probably doesn't mention this point as much as he suggests Jenks is missing some important body parts. Jenks responds with a wild pitch to move the runner to 3rd.
Jenks strikes out Punto with a very sharply breaking change up. While this was a very impressive pitch, Jenks is still my 25th favorite White Sox (Active Roster players only).
Jenks jams Span with an inside pitch that he takes down the line to Konerko, who steps on the bag to end the game and hand Jenks his sixth save of the year. Sox win 5-2.
Hard to criticize this win, it definitely belongs in the bizarre category due to the ridiculous conditions, the runs and hits taken away by a terrible ballpark made for an annoying and stupid team rooted for by ugly people. But still, the Sox rallied and scored five 2-out runs on a vulnerable pitcher at his most vulnerable period. The blew other opportunities, but with good pitching, you don't need to take advantage of all opportunities if you score 5 runs in your one outburst. Garcia was excellent tonight, especially when you remember that it's our 5th starter giving us 7 innings and 2 runs allowed. His strike out of Mauer in the 5th was a testament to what a crafty veteran pitcher with good movement and changing speeds can accomplish. Jenks was pretty terrible tonight, and really got lucky. It looks like Ozzie realizes that Putz is not quite ready to take over the role, but his quick trip to the mound in the 9th to yell at Jenks display he has no more patience for that oaf's bumbling either.
It was nice to see the team pumped for this game. It was certainly a big one, but they all are at this point with the team's record in the tank. Yet seeing A.J. and Freddy pump their fists at crucial moments, and seeing the smiles and energy in the dugout suggests that the team has a good sense of urgency, and are finally reacting to it positively.
On a final note, we might just have a leadoff man after all. 3-hit night for Juan Pierre including a double. His shortcomings are still present, but it's a lot better to have a guy who can hit decent but can't draw walks, than someone who does neither.