There were nine innings in this game. Nine of them. All of these innings matter equally--in that no inning is statistically more significant than the other--but in a one-game situation, they don't. Innings become what you make of them.
The first eight innings were dominated by the White Sox. Peavy threw seven quality, walk-free frames, Adam Dunn homered twice, Alexei Ramirez did things on offense. The Sox built a 7-2 lead. If a baseball game could be an arts and crafts project, the White Sox spent eight innings building a beautiful miniature ship inside of a glass bottle.
In the 9th inning, they took that bottle and chucked it off of their porch.
Philip Hmber came on to mop things up in the 9th, and gave up a leadoff home run to Jesus Montero, who typically is clueless against right-handers. Humber immediately followed it up with a flyout, but walked Justin Smoak, which really chapped Robin's caboose. With a four-run lead still intact, Ventura yanked his mop-up man for LOOGY Donnie Veal, who swiftly yielded a double to switch-hitting Trayvon Robinson.
At this point, Ventura's irritation with the mop-up crew prompted Addison Reed to make a hasty entry into the game. Reed was in uniform, but anything besides lots of velocity was not in his available compliment. He walked #9 hitter Brendan Ryan, he allowed a two-run single to Dustin Ackley to make it 7-5, and he walked Michael Saunders, setting up the scenario of that bleeding ulcers are made of--an erratic Reed versus the heart of the Mariners order with the tying run on 1st.
Reed conclusively demonstrated that all he had was fastballs down the pipe while giving up a sac fly to Kyle Seager, but he managed to get John Jaso down 0-2 before a third straight heater was laced for a game-tying single, that became a go-ahead hit when Alex Rios inexplicably gunned for the runner on 3rd, and overthrew his target. Reed exited to a chorus of boos, and the White Sox had the bottom of the order up against Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmson. This, was a low point.
As it turns out, it was the low point
In the bottom half, the Sox rallied for the win as naturally as you'd expect. Gordon Beckham grounded a ball to one of the best shortstops in the game, who bobbled it for an infield hit. Next came DeWayne Wise, who made a point of showing bunt, and was walked on four pitches. By the time Kevin Youkilis lined a game-tying single under Wilhelmson glove, it was apparent that the Mariners were no more prepared for a proper baseball game ending than anyone else.
Adam Dunn nearly walked it off with a warning track shot to left field that DeWayne Wise was too mesmerized to tag up on. That was pretty quickly made irrelevant--Konerko launched a warning track shot of his own to the right-center gap that was tracked down by Eric Thames...or Michael Saunders...or both...really it was both of them, which was the problem. Thames squeezed it, and held on through his initial collision with Saunders, but had the ball squirt out on him as he staggered into the fence. Wise circled around to score--a hero rather than the goat he, and really everyone, was in position to be five minutes earlier.
White Sox 9, Mariners 8
Jake Peavy - 7 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, HR, 105 pitches - There doesn't seem to be much purpose to worry about his process anymore. Hopefully he embraces advanced stats enough to ignore the pitcher wins he'll never get.
Adam Dunn - 2 for 5, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 K - Was swinging for the fences all night. It worked!
Paul Konerko - 3 for 5, 2B, RBI, R - And to think, we might have otherwise remembered this as the night he ran from 1st to 3rd on a wild pitch
Alex Rios - 1 for 3, R, BB, K - The middle of the order was quite productive on this night
Dayan Viciedo - 2 for 4, R, K - Given that Jason Vargas is pretty much the perfect pitcher for him to hammer, the bullet single was satisfying.
Alexei Ramirez - 2 for 4, HR, 3 RBI - Awfully nice to see him turn on a fastball for big power
Addison Reed - 0.2 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, K - He certainly played an important role!
For a long time, this section was all set to be about Adam Dunn's 3rd inning home run, a brilliant 436 foot moonshot that gave the Sox a lead they'd never relinquish. But they relinquished it, and half a dozen failures to locate against Mariners batters had a claim on this spot too, before a Kevin Youkilis single on a 2-2 outside fastball tied things up, and took the bottom of the 9th out of the zone of demoralizing spiral of doom, into a more fun slapstick parody of a baseball game.
Things Would Be Different If...
There's certainly an argument to be made to stay the course with Humber in the 9th. The Sox still didn't have a save situation to deal with, the bottom of the Mariners order was cued up, and Humber's proclivity toward runs and baserunners are why he's in charge of mop-up situations, not a reason to panic. Instead, Ventura rushed out the sure fix, and got results from Veal and Reed that indicated that they warmed up in an awful hurry. It's not all on that, as this was a multi-platform breakdown--pitching, defense, even the pitch-calling wasn't awesome--but the tinkering is where the trouble started.
It's hard to say that this game feels good. Well, it feels good, but might not read as encouraging. A perfectly dominant win was thrown by the wayside by drastically renewed closer troubles and shaky management. Saving Reed was supposed to be the benefit of the evening, but now it's wonder whether he's someone we should even want to see if his slider has abandoned him again.
It is however, a win, and if not an exhillirating and exciting win, it's certainly the avoidance of a demoralizing loss. And they even gained a game in standings, in exchange for the loss of brain cells.
Team Record: 69-55, 2.5 games up
Filed under: Instant Rationalization
Tags: Adam Dunn, addison reed, Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez, baseball, Dayan Viciedo, DeWayne Wise, eric thames, Gordon Beckham, Jake Peavy, jason vargas, jesus montero, john jaso, kyle seager, michael saunders, Paul Konerko, philip humber, Robin Ventura, Seattle Mariners, tom wilhelmson, White Sox