The first win of the White Sox season–a dramatic 4-3 triumph in Texas–didn’t look remotely easy, or especially smooth. But it was a win on the road against Texas, so there’s no room to be picky. And in the wake of the 2011 season, it’s good enough for things to just be different.
Peavy pitching an April is a pretty new thing in and of itself, but Saturday night offered a glance at the new, healthy version of the Jakemeister. Healthy as he’s going to be, at least. Peavy topped out around 93 mph, but that was earlier in the outing, as he sat around 90-91 mph for latter portion of his six innings. He didn’t even seem to trust it entirely; Pitch FX classified most of his offerings as a cutter for the night. It wasn’t quite Freddy Garcia out there, but Peavy felt a need to nibble a bit more than he would in say, 2007.
Not that it went particularly well. Jake allowed 6 hits on 3 runs in his first 3 innings, was intent on making a living being a flyball pitcher in the Ballpark in Arlington, and couldn’t command his slider effectively. With the Texas offense bearing down, and the White Sox stuck on 3 hits for most of the night, disaster seemed imminent, especially after the 3rd inning combined De Aza’s diving attempt turning an Ian Kinsler single into a triple, and Peavy and Flowers communication issues resulting in a balk.
Then some sort of adjustment occurred. Jim Margalus identified it as Jake working his sliders high and off the plate, and in general he stopped leaving off-speed pitches in the thigh-high area where it could be punished for damage. He added three more strikeout to his line in the last half, and finished with 6 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. His peripherals will wind up looking a lot better than he did in actuality, and he was a few close fly balls away from disaster, but we’re really just trying to get 160 IP of a decent mid-rotation starter here. It looks like Jake discovered a more comfortable approach later in the game, and hopefully that guides him going forward.
He’s going to nibble a lot more now. Not everything about the new world is good.
My Rios, the hero
Without firing up the hit-tracker, I’m going to go ahead and postulate that the percentage of Rios’ home runs that aren’t dead-pull jobs to left field in the past two years is small. And yet, he took a high, 93 mph Joe Nathan fastball out to dead center field for a go-ahead 9th inning home run on a night where the Ballpark in Arlington was playing more like, well, a somewhat normal ballpark.
It was an impressive display of power from a guy who generally hasn’t shown much versatility beyond ripping inside pitches, and it came on a night where he flashed good defense in right, and none of the hesitance that plagued him last season when he was an unwilling general of the outfield.
Santiago, the closer
I’d be more than willing to argue that Santiago closing out the game was a result of circumstance. Ventura was dealing with a tie game against a top-flight offense, and after pulling his starter after the 6th, needed to pull out the stops to get the thing tied. If he’s really going forward playing match-ups and using his best guys for the highest-leverage situations like we think he is, then it makes sense that he called on Reed and Thornton in the 7th and 8th when absolutely could not allow a run.
Therefore, Santiago got the call in the 9th over just Crain. It’s easy to tell that they have plenty of trust in the young kid, and we should expect him in plenty of big situations until he proves himself unworthy.
Santiago is no Sergio Santos (who blew his save Saturday), and didn’t instantly overwhelm anyone, but the first two hitters were aggressive early in the count and got themselves out, and against his final hitter, the youngster did well just to get himself back in the count after falling behind 3-1.
In all, it was a 1-2-3 inning against the Rangers, and even though a fantabulous diving catch by Alexei Ramirez aided the proceedings, it went without incident or scare, which is a hell of a lot better than the first Matt Thornton save attempt in 2011 went.
Most importantly, it was different.