Early on, it seemed like Braves just might be up to the task; peppering John Danks for three runs in the first two innings, including a home run on the second pitch of the game. Yet Johnny managed to settle down, and chances are it was because of the large implosion that took place on the mound during the bottom half of the innings. The White Sox defeated the Braves 9-6 Tuesday night, but they did so with a lot of help from the worst start of Tommy Hanson's career.
Striding into the game with a 7-3 record, a 3.38 ERA, and a WHIP of 1.22, the case for 23-year old Tommy Hanson being the 2nd best starter on the Braves is a pretty solid one, and it was possible to tell why Tuesday night....albeit only for portions at a time. Hanson has good life on his fastball (he topped out at 95), a sharp breaking curveball, and a changeup. It's impossible to tell what irked Tommy before Tuesday night, be it a bad meal, scratchy bath towels, or maybe it was just what it seemed like; that he temporarily forgot how to pitch.
Hanson's most effective pitch is his curveball, so it would seem like after the first five times he threw it nowhere near the strike zone, the Braves coaching staff would have realized how epicly screwed he was. Hanson certainly did, as the 2nd and 3rd inning featured comical attempts for him to get his curveball working again, even at the cost of a consistent throwing motion. Hanson overthrew and fell of the first base side, at other times he cut himself off and seemed finish his motion straight ahead, and at the most humorously transcendent moment of the night, Hanson twisted his body to force some more break out of the ball, and fell over backward during his follow-through.
Impressively, Hanson proved himself too smart of a pitcher to walk himself out of the ball game, resolving instead to try to challenge Sox hitters with heat.....which happened to fail, but was at the least pro-active. Sure, Hanson suffered big blows on fastballs laced by Pierzynski in the 2nd to get the scoring started with a 2-run single, lined by Vizquel with 2 outs for 2 runs to give Chicago the lead, and crushed by Quentin to left with two outs in the fourth for a 3-run HR that effectively ended the game, but at least he made the White Sox perform. 9 runs and 13 hits in 3.2 innings probably eliminates Hanson from the All-Star team, but his one walk on the night showed he was fearless...even if it was courage as he charged into his own evisceration.
Hanson was also betrayed by pretty poor infield defense. One infield single is unlucky, two is a freak occurrence, but the five infield singles that the Sox picked up in as many innings were a product of lazy fielding as much as luck.
Yunel Escobar's lackadaisical approach to an Alex Rios grounder in the 2nd gave the White Sox an extra out and an extra run, and I can't say that I ever been more enraged at a player who not only didn't play for the White Sox, but also just helped them score. Hanson might have also made it out of the 4th unscathed if an Alex Rios grounder didn't get miraculously lodged in 3rd baseman Brooks Conrad's shirt, which kinda sums up how Hanson's night went.
Credit the White Sox for once again beating a hapless opponent as they whirled in agony; God knows they might not have been up to the task earlier this season. Every night where guys like Carlos Quentin, A.J. Pierzynski, and Alexei Ramirez make solid contact and slip closer to their rhythm is a positive step, but the search for a validating win will have to wait another night for the White Sox, especially seeing as they couldn't touch the Braves after Hanson's departure.
Any time a team wins 7 games in a row, there's going to be a fair amount of luck involved; be it a ball falling into an infielder's shirt, winning a game that features the team going 9 straight innings without scoring, or Jake Peavy pitching with his right arm held on by duct tape. But the White Sox are going to need some wins against these Braves when everything isn't going wrong to silence some of the doubters who still feel that this team is wasting its time by not selling now. And even then some jerk will talk about how they're just an NL team.
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