This week, sandwiched in between two dominant pitching performances by Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd, was a brutal five game losing streak that saw the Sox dragged back to the rest of the AL Central (we get to say that!) and get shutout twice.
Those shutouts also featured dominant pitching performances from Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd. Gavin threw 7.1 innings of one-run ball in Oakland on Monday, and Jake one-upped him by hurling a one-run complete game against a tougher Boston offense on Saturday.
The streak also featured horrible starts from Philip Humber following up his perfect game, and John Danks following up his other three crappy starts. But the centerpiece was the 14-inning marathon series finale in Oakland, where a two-run top half of the final inning was cast asunder by Hector Santiago looking particularly ineffective in blowing his second save.
It picks at the question of what loss is most unforgivable? Blowup starts are awful–especially from Danks–but inevitably will occur.
Losing 1-0, or blowing superb pitching performances has the larger stigma, but the White Sox offense is such that off nights are going to happen. They dropped down to 10th in the American League this week in runs scored, and hopefully that’s floor, but they’re not going to be waging many successful shootouts this year.
In either case, there isn’t the depth necessary shuffle the cards in the lineup or the rotation anyway. They can at least rotate the roles in the bullpen, and right now a reliever with such a sterling strike0ut-to-walk ratio has earned better results than the circumstances of a few 9th innings have yielded.
Of course, it’s not as if Wednesday’s disaster is particularly indicative of the problem of having the struggling Santiago in the de-facto closer role. Ventura used his best relievers to hold down the A’s for five innings, and only brought at Santiago when the margin for error was at it’s largest. It didn’t work out, but it hardly skewered the strategy.
Matt Thornton–an absolute house of fire this year (11 IP, 0.82 ER, 10 K/0 BB)–came on to pitch to lefty Ryan Sweeney with two outs in the 8th on Sunday. The Red Sox panicked, and pinch hit with Darnell McDonald, who struck out anyway. The next frame, now sitting with a three run lead, Ventura decided to not bother removing Thornton to give Santiago an ego-boosting save. Naturally, this sent off alarms that Robin needed to defuse.
“It’s nothing against Hector; he’ll still be in there in the ninth,” Ventura said. “But you’re looking at a guy with a body of work against those three (Boston hitters). I felt confident with Matt in there.”
It’s an unenviable tightrope for Ventura to walk. He has to simultaneously manage players’ preference for roles and for them to exist on a meritocracy, maintain the confidence of a young player, avoid blowing the precious few leads his offense can earn while also craving the flexibility with Reed, Crain, and Thornton that leaving the 9th to Santiago offers him, even though he’s less flexible in that regard because Crain is out for at least the next week. Managing is hard.
Bottom third of the order
Dayan Viciedo went 6 for 25 for the week, hit a home run, and hasn’t walked since April 9th. There’s an argument to be made that he’s been improving somewhat of recent, as there’s been more of him pulling the ball to left and less of him looping under it and fouling it back, but the fruit of his progress is still pretty unworkable. Dayan’s curious lack of concern is the only solace:
“As of right now, for the first month of the season, I already have three home runs, so I feel good about that especially with so many more games left. I just have to work on some other things with kind of getting my swing going.”
Morel went 6 for 22 with a double and a walk over that same time, which is enough for a .273/.304/.318 line, reflective of the same problematic approach from last year. However it still offered more hope than Beckham, who went 2 for 16 and was plunked once.
If it feels like there’s an undue focus on the negative here, I would first remind that this is the recap of a week that contained a five game losing streak, but also that these are the few problems that need fixing as the rest of the team is fine. The starting rotation is at the top of the league even with Danks’ struggles, and Adam Dunn and Alex Rios–deep breath–look like they belong in the middle of an order.
After a deserved off day on Monday, division-leading Cleveland comes to town for a three-game set. The luck of the rotational draw is not with the Sox, who will see Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Tomlin, and Justin Masterson. It’s not hard to find recent instances of the Sox getting to all three of these, but it’s a challenge nonetheless. RF Shin-Soo Choo–still struggling–could miss multiple games in the series due to a hamstring injury, but he might be replaced by the newly arrived Johnny Damon.
There is some luck to be had in Detroit over the weekend, as the Sox will miss Justin Verlander yet again, as well as Rick Porcello. Max Scherzer will be sandwiched between starts by Drew Smyly and Duane Below. It’s not clear yet whether OF Delmon Young will be back in time for the weekend from being on the restricted list for getting drunk, fighting someone, and shouting ethnic slurs at them, but he could be!
Tags: Adam Dunn, addison reed, AL Central, Alex Rios, baseball, boston red sox, Brent Morel, Chris Sale, Cleveland Indians, darnell mcdonald, Dayan Viciedo, drew smyly, duane below, Gavin Floyd, Gordon Beckham, hector santiago, Jake Peavy, jesse crain, John Danks, josh tomlin, Justin Masterson, Justin Verlander, Matt Thornton, Max Scherzer, Oakland A's, philip humber, Rick Porcello, Robin Ventura, ryan sweeney, ubaldo jimenez, White Sox