Instant Rationalization - Bullpen, division lead is Scherzered in half

Instant Rationalization - Bullpen, division lead is Scherzered in half
A.J. Pierzynski, Robin Ventura, and a guy who may or may not stick around // Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

Entering into this game, the White Sox were hard up on ways to get to Max Scherzer.  They removed every questionable righty from the lineup in preparation for him, which included pulling a guy who had homered in back-to-back games, as well as turning to Dan Johnson.

It was not enough.  It did not come particularly close to being enough.

Scherzer was overpowering.  He was regularly above 95 mph, his slider was untouchable, he even flashed a changeup against lefties.  They don't have a statistic for weak pop-ups by batters flailing at fastballs, but I kept track anyway - it was four.  Four weak pop-ups along with seven strikeouts, and one Kevin Youkilis solo home run as the only tally over six innings.

That's a tall order to ask Gavin Floyd to match up to in his first game off of the disabled list, but he seemed capable for the first four innings.  The breaking stuff snapped, the fastball stayed out of the seats and he struck out seven.

In the 5th inning, Floyd's control faded.  He allowed the first two runners to reach base, and efforts to avoid a big inning by conceding one run on Omar Infante's groundout were undone by Austin Jackson drilling a hanging curveball for an RBI single.  Then the bullpen came...

I would write out the combination of bullpen screwups and curious strategy uses, but long lists deserve bullet points

  • Hector Santiago--Friday's presumed starter--came in to face left-handed Andy Dirks, and walked him.  He stayed in to face right-handed Miguel Cabrera, and was burned with a tricky-swing RBI single on a decent screwball.
  • Brian Omogrosso was brought in to face Miguel Cabrera with a runner on in the 7th.  He allowed a single.  Cabrera is now 3 for 3 against Omogrosso.
  • Leyson Septimo was brought in to face Prince Fielder with two runners on.  Some would have preferred Donnie Veal, or Matt Thornton, or just someone else.  Septimo hangs a slider and it's crushed for a three-run homer to put Detroit up 6-1.
  • Dylan Axelrod is brought on for the 8th--guess he's not starting Friday either--and is bled for two runs.
  • Matt Thornton woke from a nap sometime in the 9th

The last two runs from Axelrod getting ceaselessly knocked around really stung, because  a second Youkilis home run (of the three-run variety), and a couple hits in the 9th brought the score to 8-6 with a runner on 1st...at which point Ventura neglected to pinch-hit for Orlando Hudson.

Tigers 8, White Sox 6

Key Performers

Max Scherzer - 6 IP, 4 H, ER, 0 BB, 7 K, HR, 115 pitches - Probably good he didn't go longer

Gavin Floyd - 4.2 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, BB, 7 K - It was encouraging!  Honest!

Kevin Youkilis - 2 for 4, 2 HR, 4 RBI - Well, he was good.

Paul Konerko - 2 for 4, 2 K - He turned around a couple of fastballs, which was nice to see.

Dan Johnson - 2 for 3, BB, K - I had no idea he was having this good of a game.  He's slow.

Bullpen - 4.1 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, K, HR - Having just as many home runs as strikeouts over more than four innings isn't very good, so I hear.

Turning Point

The game was slipping away steadily from the point Floyd took the mound in the 5th, but Leyson Septimo taking a lefty-on-lefty situation with two out and blowing the game open with a hanging slider that also doubled as Prince Fielder's first hit of the series really ruined things.  Ventura managed in blowout-loss mode from there on out.

Things Would Be Different If...

Pretty much nothing looked right for Ventura for a second-straight night.  The expanded rosters give him a lot of room to work with, and he seems a little too eager to hold onto his best cards, and often winds up losing with his lesser contributors in the earlier innings.  He pulled Floyd early because he was fresh off the DL, but also because he had a lot of options to play matchups with.

There's a reason to hold on to Thornton and Veal, but to come out of a game having burned Santiago--the expected starter for Friday, and having gotten burned by Leyson Septimo, while Veal was held onto for a lesser situation and Thornton sat, is a point of failure.

So is using Brian Omogrosso as some sort of specialist against Miguel Cabrera, or not pinch-hitting for Orlando Hudson immediately after Scherzer left, let alone for the last at-bat of the game, when at least three options off the bench would have been better.

In-game tactics is a small, opaque part of the job, but from here it looked like another rough night for Robin.  It's a bad time for those.

Takeaway

Well, the chance for a split is still there, and it's the same difficult-as-hell matchup that ended the final series--Sale vs. Verlander.  This was exactly the hole the Sox didn't want to face, but they're in it, and at least have their best man set to go.

Of course, rain could easily make it not happen, but that'll just push the same demon (Verlander) down the road.

Team Record: 76-66, 1 game up

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