Instant Rationalization - Beckham's blast carry Sox in tight, testy Crosstown opener

Instant Rationalization - Beckham's blast carry Sox in tight, testy Crosstown opener
Samardzija reacting to the critical blow // MLB.com

For a rivalry considered irrelevant due to the poor records of the participants, it didn't take much for the tension to ratchet up.

After a Konerko home run put the Sox up 2-0 in the top of the 1st, the Cubs responded with a run and a trio of deep flies in the bottom of the frame, and 15-14 offensive blood bath seemed possible.

The wind blowing out to left would play a factor, but not until later.

In Konerko's next at-bat in the 3rd, he was nailed in the face by a wayward Samardzija cutter, who had been busting Sox players inside all game (good strategy), and finally erred too far in the direction of the batter.  Konerko left the game with a laceration under his eye, Samardzija initially seemed apologetic, and there was no retaliation when he came to bat in the bottom half.

Instead, Philip Humber retaliated (though he admitted nothing later) in the 4th by buzzing a fastball behind Bryan LaHair, which Samardzija was shown in the dugout being less than pleased about.

Emotions continued to run high in the 5th, when a would-be double from David DeJesus was rubbed out by Gordon Beckham colliding with him as they both raced for the bag.  The quasi-tackle knocked DeJesus off the bag, the umpire strangely decided to reward Beckham for the effort, and an irate Dale Sveum was tossed as he argued.

The 8th turned sentimental, as the Cubs brought out Kerry Wood for the final appearance of his career.  Wood looked to exit on a positive note, and a wild-swinging Viciedo obliged by striking out on three pitches.  Wood exited to a standing ovation after facing one batter.

In the mean time there was a tightly-pitched game.  Humber threw 6.1 innings while allowing two runs,while Samardzija had a chance to establish himself as a full-blown Sox villain.  He struck out eight, singled home a run to tie the game 2-2 in the 7th, and was working into the 8th when Gordon Beckham lifted a fly ball that drifted into left field power-alley, never to return.

Strong relief from youngsters Nate Jones and Addison Reed (who pitched around Alex Rios dropping the final out) closed out a tight 3-2 win.

Key Performers

Philip Humber - 6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 66 pitches - He's probably not going to have perfect game stuff again, but was staggeringly efficient and only got pulled due to the tightness of the situation.

Paul Konerko - 1 for 1, HR, 2 RBI, HBP - Had two plate appearances and supplied most of the offense.

Gordon Beckham - 2 for 4, 2R, HR - A groundball single, sharp defense, an illegal tackle, and wall-scraping HR added up to a great game

Nate Jones - IP, H, K - Put in a big-time hold situation in the 8th, and responded despite not having a feel for his slider,

Addison Reed - IP, H, K, SV - The hit was a dropped fly ball by Rios.  The strikeout was more legitimate.

Turning Point

To get unconventional with this one...

The Cubs had one run in, and the go-ahead run on 3rd in the 7th inning with one out.

Thornton induced a pop-up from Dejesus, who had been on fire up to that point, and Tony Campana's attempt for a two-out suicide squeeze ended up in Pierzynski's glove behind home plate.  Rios' goof-up in the 9th created the only other threat they'd have.

Things Would Be Different If...

Gordon Beckham's footprint on the game was sizable before he put the Sox up for good with an 8th-inning HR.  His seeing-eye single in the 1st added a run to Konerko's blast, and he erased at least two hits in the field; one on a sprinting play to his right, and another through more nontraditional means.

Takeaway

The Sox took a game despite a lot being taking away from their offense.  Alejandro De Aza was worthless against Jeff Samardzija and struck out three times, the problem of Dunn playing defense was abetted only by losing Konerko to injury--which has no report of being more than a black eye at this point.

The Cubs aren't the greatest offense, but the excitement of Addison Reed excelling as a closer is matched by Nate Jones thriving in an 8th inning role.

 

Team Record 19-21, 4 GB

 

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