Tuesday night, the White Sox were walking into Kaufman Stadium--frequent home of their worst-played games of the season--coming off a emotional triumph over their chief rival, facing inconsistent but occasionally capable Luke Hochevar, and starting Gavin Floyd; the famous linguist who coined the term "mercurial".
It started with the appropriate amount of dread and malaise.
Alejandro De Aza ripped the second pitch of the game into the right-field bullpen to give the Sox a 1-0 lead, but was followed by 10 straight outs as the lineup failed to reel in an ordinarily erratic Hochevar. Floyd walked the leadoff batter in the bottom half of the frame, and had turned the early lead into a 2-1 deficit within minutes of his entrance. Why, through the first five innings, the Sox had themselves a prototypical flat effort and loss on a quiet Kansas City night.
Things didn't turn around with a cathartic breakthrough, or Hochevar suddenly falling apart; it was just two more solo home runs. They're not so bad, after all.
Gordon Beckham turned on a low-fastball down the pipe on a 1-0 count and put it into the left field bleachers to tie things up in the 6th. The Royals stuck with Hochevar--wrapped up in one of his better nights--in the 7th, and paid for it when he grooved another get-me-over fastball while behind in the count. This time it was Alex Rios pulling the ball into the left field seats with a moonshot around the foul pole, giving the Sox a 3-2 lead, and tying his single-season career-high for home runs with 24. Beckham, has long since passed his.
The meager solo-blast offensive effort stood up because Gavin Floyd and Matt Thornton did as well. The leadoff walk was Floyd's only free pass of the night, Billy Butler's two-run single were the only runs allowed, and he had separate consecutive batters retired streaks of seven and 10. Thornton breezed through a 1-2-3 8th, and stayed on to face Alex Gordon in the 9th to take away a tough lefty matchup from Addison Reed.
He took an interesting tact by throwing three straight nowhere-close balls to start the at-bat, but after grooving his way back to 3-2, Thornton put Gordon away with nasty sinking fastball low and away. Addison Reed came on looking his typical shade of shaky, but tricked Billy Butler into a groundout on a changeup, and closed things out with a lineout from Salvador Perez.
White Sox 3, Royals 2
Gavin Floyd - 7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, BB, 3 K, 78 pitches - His night probably would have gone longer if it wasn't his second start since returning from the DL, and he wasn't Gavin Floyd.
Alejandro De Aza - 2 for 3, HR - Coordinating a slump with the emergence of Dewayne Wise hasn't been Alejandro's greatest career move, but he snapped out of it in his first start in two games.
Alex Rios - 1 for 3, HR, BB - If this game had taken place in U.S. Cellular, he would have had two home runs....which doesn't mean he deserved two, just that there would have been two.
Gordon Beckham - 1 for 3, HR, 2 K - That one home run really tied the game together.
Three pitches into the at-bat he was only in the game to complete, Matt Thornton was way behind Alex Gordon, and had failed to hit 95 mph once. After pretty much grabbing strikes to work the count full, Thornton took at least two miles off of his final offering, producing some drastic tailing action at the end that Gordon flailed at helplessly for the first out of the inning.
Thornton should use that pitch again.
Things Would Be Different If...
Luke Hochevar switched things up a bit more in his sequencing.. He got hurt three separate times by falling behind in the count, trying to work back by slipping in something less than his best fastball over the plate, and whipping around to watch the result reach the seats.
The win was hardly gorgeous from an offensive standpoint, but on the flip side, Gavin is now one good start closer to unexpectedly being the third in line for a playoff start--an unthinkable result as recently as ten days ago.
Nowadays, there's a stone cold number to state to convey the significance of each win.
Team Record: 81-66, Magic Number is 13