With the White Sox bullpen weakened from 25 innings of battling a lineup that features Jeff Francouer and Melky Cabrera, and the offense weakened because Adam Dunn revealed himself to be the type of guy who realizes he has a health problem after seeing it explained on TV, the stage was set for the White Sox to be in dire need of a strong performance from a a starting pitcher.
As Jim Margalus pointed out, the Sox had yet to enjoy a remarkable effort from their rotation; the lynchpin of the team. The closest they came was John Danks' 6-inning, 2-run effort in Cleveland, and even that featured a home run given up to Orlando Cabrera. So....
Into this situation, and in front of a raucous Opening Day crowd, stepped Edwin Jackson, who uncorked easily the best White Sox pitching performance of the season.
There's pretty much no minimizing Jackson's performance on Thursday--ok,
there is: Tampa's offense was horribly depleted this off-season and
their best hitter by a mile is hurt for the whole series. But other than that...whoa.
Jackson didn't have spot-perfect control (64.7% strikes), but his slider
was so unhittable (26.5% whiff rate) and confusing that he worked ahead
in the count frequently while racking up a jaw-dropping 13 strikeouts.
Equally important to Jackson keeping the ball out of play for almost
half the batters he faced, was his endurance. Edwin used 119 pitches to
get through 8 innings, giving the Sox the opportunity to rest a bullpen
that saw Chris Sale and Matt Thornton both throw 2 innings the previous
As bizarrely amusing as Jackson's 149-pitch, 8 walk, no-hitter was last
season, it did hint at the wealth of stamina in his arm. He's just been
too wildly inefficient in his career for it to translate into longer
outings like this one. He was helped out enormously Thursday by having a great feel for his
slider on Thursday, and wound up single-handedly wiping away one of the
big disadvantages for the Sox in the series: a bullpen exhausted by a
hellish Kansas City series.
Maybe the time in Kansas City rubbed off on the Sox, who dinked and
dunked poor David Price for three runs in six innings and tagged him with a loss. Price wasn't outstanding, but
wasn't hit particularly hard and was absolutely betrayed by Sam Fuld in
left field in the 1st inning on a 2-run double.
Perhaps I'm find myself feeling sorry for this now 0-6 Rays team that
seems destined for even more service as footnotes to noteworthy
pitching performances after losing so much of their offensive heft.
Apparently even the best run organization has to go through periods of
batting Sam Fuld and Dan Johnson at the leadoff and clean-up spots when
there's no flippin' cash to go around. Then again, maybe they'll play Embalmed Manny Ramirez Friday.
Of course, the White Sox cannot embrace the same sympathetic sentiment; they're
likewise hampered offensively with Dunn probably subbed out for Mark
Teahen for the rest of the series. The Rays pitch too well to not
expect three more games like this one, where even with Jackson at the
height of his abilities, the Rays were one swing from tying the game in
the 8th inning.
Just the day before the Sox were grateful to crawl out of Kansas City
with a split, and now they're loading up to take advantage of a reeling
Rays team. The difference is EJax. The White Sox don't have an ace but they have four (five?) guys who can deliver their share outstanding performances. This was one of them.