Sunday offered the Philip Humber experience in all its tortured glory. He simultaneously flashed his compliment of plus breaking pitches, at one point striking out five consecutive Houston Astros. He also made horrible mistakes over the plate that resulted in three home runs, including a blast by fourth outfielder Justin Maxwell down the left field line that somehow found its way into the club deck. The last time something was hit that hard with a wooden stick, it was Charles Sumner.
The Sox actually managed a half-decent offensive effort against prodigal son and Astros starter Lucas Harrell, even though a 6th inning rally was extinguished by Paul Konerko being thrown out by about five steps trying to score on a wild pitch.
However, that was lost amidst Humber's failure to get out of the 6th. Nate Jones was brought in to put out the fire, but instead allowed both the runners he inherited to score, added three of his own, and was witness to White Sox second failure to prevent a double steal of the series.
Zach Stewart--whose presence typically marks the end of the game as a competitive endeavor--came on and allowed a two-run home run to Astros second basemen and registered lilliputian Jose Altuve. It seemed meaningless at the time when it made the game 11-4, but wound up being the difference when the Sox scored five runs in the last two innings on blasts from Konerko and Hudson.
Astros 11, White Sox 9
Philip Humber - 5.1 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 3 HR, 86 pitches - An absolutely maddening statistical line. Defending his performance after this one is going to give me an ulcer.
Nate Jones - 0.2 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, BB, K - Even a good pitcher had a bad day; lending credence to the notion that there's some sort of airborne virus in the White Sox clubhouse
Paul Konerko - 2 for 4, HR 2 RBI, 1 TOOTBLAN - Strangely, the only player with multiple hits on a day where they scored 9 runs
Lucas Harrell - 7.1 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, BB, 5 K, HR - Too bad the NL isn't actually a minor league development system for the AL, otherwise the Sox could call Harrell up
Perhaps the alarm bells should have already been going off when Humber spoiled an 0-2 count against 4th outfielder Justin Maxwell in the 5th. Maxwell was only playing because regular starter Jordan Schaffer had pink eye, and also had a career strikeout rate of 32.2%. And yet, Humber threw him three straight balls to work the count full, and saw him foul off two fastballs before jumping on the eight pitch on the at-bat and rifling it down the left field line.
460+ feet and one obnoxious bat flip later, and the Astros were up 4-3, and never trailed again.
Things Would Be Different If...
...Humber could make his results match his stuff. You don't strike out nine major league hitters without some ability, and yet he still can't minimize the damage. Every pitcher throws mistake pitches, but the breakdowns Humber's having in terms of location and sequencing are going to really cost him job security.
An ugly ending to an ugly week with some of the better teams in the NL coming up on a harsh road trip. It might be re-evaluation time for Ventura & company, who found themselves whisked into the midst of a pennant race, and now find themselves with a legitimate pitching problem on their hands.
Team Record: 33-27, .5 game up