Delayed Rationalization - Thornton luck ruins plucky comeback story

Delayed Rationalization - Thornton luck ruins plucky comeback story
It's not the pain in his forearm, it's the pain of losing....and also, good God, the forearm // Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune

The recap is late due to the time it took for me to voyage back from Camouflage Hat Night at the park to my Logan Square abode.  The rumpus from around the White Sox-ian internets is that this was a frustrating 9-7 see-saw loss to the Oakland A's, but what could be frustrating about a temperate night at the ballpark?

I sat next to a man who knew the key to Adam Dunn's strikeout problems, multiple attempts to start the wave were launched from my very own section, and a person behind me thought the Liriano no-hitter took place this year.  I can't imagine an occurrence that more obviously did not occur this season.  This season may very well go down in flames and prolong the playoff drought another year, but at no point could it possess the combination of crippling dread and terrifying inevitability of the 2011 White Sox getting no-hit by a magnificently discombobulated Francisco Liriano.

As it so happened, that same Liriano pitched for the White Sox this Saturday night.  I had grown to associate starts that begin with a blizzard of strikeouts and end with a such internal fan monologues of "Well, if he could find a way to throw another strike before he dies, he might get this thing into the 5th" with Edwin Jackson, but I realize now everyone associates it with Liriano, and I will now fall in line.

Frankie got his first five outs via the strikeout, and didn't record another one on the night.  His command evaporated into the ether during a five-run 5th inning that was dotted with two walks and a hit batsmen.  On a night where the Sox needed a sterling effort to cover up their Konerko-less attack, Liriano gave way to Philip Humber after six runs and 3.1 IP.

That should have been curtains for the Sox, but they went off script.

Philip Humber was lights out in three inning of spot relief.  Offensive zero Tyler Flowers was a triple short of the cylce, drove in three runs, and wasn't retired on the night.  Kevin Youkilis continued to enjoy his new confines with a 'just barely' two-run shot in the 5th, and A.J. Pierzynski was actually a suitable DH, and flicked an RBI single to center in the 7th to cap a five-run rally and put the Sox up 7-6.

It was the kind of stirring rally that convinces fans this year is different.  Heck,it was proceeded in the top half of the 7th by the Jesse Crain escaping a jam when a Cliff Pennington line drive (right after I loudly mocked "Who pinch-hits Cliff Pennington!?") bounced into the pad in the outfield wall for a ground rule double, keeping Brandon Inge from scoring.

But it did not hold.

Matt Thornton came on for the 8th inning and the fates did not come with him.  He skirted around Tyler Flowers dropping Coco Crisp' pop-up, but had his still-newish slow breaking ball crushed for a solo home run by Johnny Gomes in an absolutely horrible match-up for him.  After being forced to step back on a Yoenis Cespedes grounder, Alexei Ramirez rushed an offline throw in what was ruled an infield single, and that was followed by a Chris Carter ducksnort to place runners on the corners and chase Thornton.

Brett Myers--working a ton of recent--did not have any swing-and-miss to him, and allowed a go-ahead single to Brandon Inge, and another insurance tally in the 9th.  Kevin Youkilis took a pitch to the forearm to bring the tying run up in the bottom half, but Grant Balfour cleared his way through the heart of the White Sox order.

A's 9, White Sox 7

Key Performers

Francisco Liriano - 3.1 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 76 pitches - Considering how badly the Sox need him to be an asset as the #3 starter, this was a pretty disquieting effort.  If he wasn't a Cooper rehab project coming in, he might be one now.

Philip Humber - 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 5 K - The seemingly random distribution of when he has lights-out breaking stuff is more charming when it's coming out of the pen and he can be yanked at a moment's notice

Kevin Youkilis - 2 for 4, HR, HBP, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2 K - A home run every 8.4 at-bats in U.S. Cellular Field since joining the team

A.J. Pierzynski - 2 for 5, RBI, R, K - He's the best hitter on the team at this point.  What a world.

Adam Dunn - 0 for 4, 2 K, BB - He's dangerously close to being a black hole again.  What a world.

Tyler Flowers - 3 for 3, HR, 2B, HBP, 3 RBI - He doubled his RBI total, and even was sorta bad at defense behind the plate to bring back all the memories of his old self.

Turning Point

The game had a Win Probability chart that resembled a cardiac patient, but Thornton's disastrous 8th inning turn was the defining moment of the night.  It was a tough call on who should pitch the 8th, since Thornton was presumably on to turn around Coco Crisp and handle Josh Reddick.  In between the two was Johnny Gomes, who is only in the major leagues because he can crush lefties.  Ventura chose to have his ace lefty for Crisp and Reddick (which Thornton took care of), and hoped the face-off with Gomes would avoid disaster, and he got burned, just as Bob Melvin was burned sticking with Pat Neshek on Friday night

Perhaps come late September, Leyson Septimo turns around Crisp, Nate Jones handles Gomes, and Thornton works from there.  That kind of tinkering doesn't play in early August, but it's tough to watch.

Things Would Be Different If...

Derek Norris and Brandon Inge walked four times.  Neither has an OBP over .280 (and still don't).  They only scored one run between them, but these are automatic outs that weren't taken advantage of because no one could throw strikes.

Takeaway

A Mike Olt walk-off against Detroit saved the division lead for another day, and a strong offensive effort without Konerko was nice to see, but the most important element of the evening was a disastrous effort from Liriano, who very much needs to be at his best to stabilize a rotation with a lot of uncertainty.

 

Team Record: 61-51, 1 game up

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