Tuesday night's 3-2 White Sox triumph in the Bronx had plenty of options for story lines.
- Paul Konerko's 2-run 8th inning blast gave the Sox the lead and looked to redeem an offense that cranked out 10 hits but still produced another meager output versus a mediocre starter.
- Bullpen drama continued as Matt Thornton was swiftly yanked by Ozzie in the 9th when he lacked control and walked Mark Teixiera. Reliever of the Moment Sergio Santos came in to replace him, and didn't do much to impress....uh, more on that in a moment.
- Gavin Floyd had been pitching well enough in his first four starts despite not having his best curveball. It figured to be an event when he finally found his feel, and his 8 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 10 K effort was just that.
Irrelevant, all of it.
With one out, runners on 1st and 2nd, Sergio Santos stepped in and faced
Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano. A-Rod and Cano ripped two screaming
liners down the right field line that were simply put on this Earth to
be game-winning doubles...
...and Brent Lillibridge caught both of them
first was an inside-out drive to the wall from A-Rod. Lillibridge
ranged right on the warning track and stretched his glove out toward the
foul line and squeezed it while crashing into the wall. Athletic,
brilliantly-timed, and almost assuredly staved off defeat...it was also
far from his best work.
Cano followed that up with a sinking
liner with a lot less hangtime to it. With barely a moment to judge it,
Lillibridge raced to cut it off with a dive, planted his back foot,
laid-out horizontal, and snagged it centimeters away from the grass
while sliding on his belly. His arms were raised in triumph while his
face was still buried in turf, and entry into the game-opening video
montage at U.S. Cellular was assured.
As far as baseball moments
go, they don't get a whole lot better. And as far as baseball moments
in April go, I can't think of much to compare it to.
For the Sox,
in scuffling to what's now a 10-14 mark (thanks be to The Bridge),
there's been plenty of late-inning drama so far, and most of it awful.
Lillibridge's heroics punctuated two games that have provided the
overwhelming majority of the little catharsis the South Siders have
enjoyed this season. At the very least, Lillibridge spared the club
from another round of bullpen letdowns, as both Thornton and Santos
failed to register a convincing out.
For Lillibridge, an outsider
guess is that this has to be the most satisfying moment of career.
It's rare moments where athletes let down their professional facade
enough to allow us viewers to know that they're as emotionally invested
as we are. Brent's elated slapping of the turf followed by long
stretches of goofy grinning were as transparent as I've seen a
ballplayer in the field this year, and made a great moment all the more
Indeed, it'd be easy enough to enjoy Tuesday night's
festivities without knowing what Lillibridge went through to get here,
but his underdog story makes things just a little sweeter.
It was a little more than a month ago that Brent was diving all over the
field in Spring Training as he desperately tried to hold on to a roster
spot. Out of options, and trying to overcome the team's need for an
extra reliever, organizational infatuation with Lastings Milledge, and a
poor offensive performance in 2010, his White Sox career appeared to be
at an end.
If Lillibridge really is playing with house money at
this stage of his career, it looks like he's steeled himself to make one
hell of a run so long as he's still wearing a uniform. In a
development perhaps as surprising as his play Tuesday night, Brent
provided the Sox this season with everything you could want from a 25th
man on the roster; speed and defense off the bench.
Whenever you need it.