Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tigers vs. White Sox game blog June 12


You know, I’ve never liked the White Sox. I don’t know what it is, but there’s just something about them that can instantly post a look of disgust on my 20-year-old face.

I don’t know if it’s the annoying “You can put it on the board!” and “He gone!” lines that Sox announcer Ken “Hawk” Harrelson has coined as his trademark, or the fact that half of the team sports more punky-looking facial hair and arrogance than can seemingly fit into a lineup.

Whatever it is, it probably stems from walking down a long flight of stairs in the upper deck at U.S. Cellular Park a few years back while a Joe Crede walk-off home run traveled high and far over the left field fence, pouring salt into the wounds after taking a verbal beating from South Side fans all game long.

So needless to say, a Tigers sweep today at Comerica Park would be more than gratifying, halting Chicago’s former seven-game win streak with three losses – all of them desperately needed as the Tigers attempt to claw back into the race.

Today’s pitching matchup is a duel of lefty soft-tossers, Kenny Rogers for the Tigers and Mark Buehrle for the Sox. Rogers has been pitching well as of late, compiling a 1.29 ERA in his past three starts despite not factoring into a decision. Both pitchers in the top 10 of winning percentage for active lefthanded pitchers in the majors.

Watch out for Magglio Ordonez today. He enters with a .600 batting average against Buehrle, tops among all active players with a minimum of 25 plate appearances, and Mags simply mashes against his old team. He’s hitting .322 with six home runs and 31 RBI.

Top first

First pitch is at 1:07, a breaking ball that nabs the outside corner at 81 MPH. It’s 76 degrees at Comerica Park, an absolutely gorgeous day for baseball. There’s a slight breeze moving left to right as Placido Polanco makes an over-the-shoulder basket catch look easy on an Orlando Cabrera bloop into shallow right field for the first out of the ballgame.

Rogers sits the Sox down in order in the top half of the first in economical fashion, exiting the mound at ten pitches.

Bottom first

Mark Buehrle matches Rogers economical effort, allowing a single to Polanco but follwing up with a tailor-made 5-4-3 double play off the bat of Carlos Guillen to end the inning. Buehrle escapes the inning only throwing nine pitches.

Top second

Paul Konerko leads off with a double into the right center field gap, settling just under the far right of the out-of-town scoreboard. Right fielder Ryan Raburn misplays the ball not once, but twice, allowing Konerko – who was pulling up into second base – to advance to third on the error.

Jermaine Dye follows with a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Konerko from third and the game’s first run.

And for today’s first Joe-Crede-is-going-to-appear-in-my-sleep moment: a single to left field.

With Crede on first, Nick Swisher grounds one back to Rogers, who knocks the ball down, picks it up and shuffles it to second, starting a potential double play. Swisher beats the relay – which looks like a missed call by first base umpire Chris Tiller to the naked eye – and drops a few expletives at first base. The replay confirms Swisher beat the ball to the bag.

Bottom second

Buehrle turns in another quick, stress-free inning, with help from Dye in right field, who makes a diving catch on an Ordonez blooper. Two strikeouts later – Miguel Cabrera looking and Marcus Thames swinging, both on breaking balls – and the well-compensated lefty ends the second with Chicago up a run.

Top third

With one out, Rogers walks Cabrera and keeps a close eye on him at first. Kenny is the all-time pickoff leader, with 92. His second attempt nearly nails Cabrera going into first base standing up. Oh, and for the record, I’m convinced crowd reaction can translate into calls being made on the field in terms of pickoffs.

Rogers strands Cabrera with two consecutive fly outs to end the inning, the second one being an awkward-looking catch by Marcus Thames in left field, who appeared to misjudge the ball, needing to jump to grab the ball.

Cabrera’s walk notwithstanding, Rogers has been jumping ahead of Chicago hitters, playing off of their aggressiveness early in the count, much like Justin Verlander did last night in his complete game performance.

Bottom third

Pudge connects on a hanging curveball, sending it into left field for a single. One pitch earlier, he took a glance back at home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi after a strike call. Tigers hitters seem to be at odds with Cuzzi and his strike zone early. Last inning, Cabrera had words with Cuzzi after his strikeout looking – which clearly hit the inside corner and had him fooled.

Brent Clevlen strikes out, “The only thing keeping him from being a big league regular,” as Rod Allen seems to mention every broadcast, followed by a beautiful base hit bunt for Ryan Raburn. The bunt trickles down the third base line and Crede can’t get a throw off.

With runners on first and second, Edgar Renteria takes an ill-advised swing at Buehrle’s first offering and bounces one to Crede. Crede takes the safe play at first instead of forcing the double play and runners are on second and third with two outs.

Buehrle yet again stakes claim to the inside corner, freezing Polanco on a slider, much to the ire of Polanco and the Comerica faithful, who let out a groan. Polanco doesn’t like it, but sometimes you don’t like the truth: Cuzzi was right. Again. 1-0 Sox after three innings.

Top fourth

Nothing doing for the Sox in the top of the fourth, retired on three straight balls in the air: Konerko flies out to right, Dye pops out to third base – where Guillen does that goofy thing where he swirls his mitt after he catches the ball – and Crede flies out to right.

It was a boring half of the inning, the most entertainment value coming from a couple of Chicago writers above me, who have been cracking me up since the first pitch. They’re talking about everything from Josh Reed’s crazy pictures online to fantasy football and Ronnie Brown to the Real World and Facebook. I just keep laughing, hoping they’ll see me laugh and think I’m cool. Probably not going to happen though. Tigers bat in the fourth …

Bottom fourth

Guillen leads off the inning with a single, but that goes for naught quickly as Ordonez grounds into his 4,972nd double play of the year. I made that number up, but it doesn’t really seem too far from actuality. Buehrle retires Cabrera with a ground out to third, and what do you know, the Tigers offense is looking stagnant again. “Quit being so pessimistic,” the voice inside of my head tells me as we head to the halfway point of the contest.

Top fifth

Swisher and Alexei Ramirez start the Sox fifth with a pair of groundouts to Guillen at third. Ramirez nearly beats the second one because Guillen sailed his throw, causing Cabrera to leave his feet. Upon further review on FSN’s X-Mo replay, he probably should have been called safe. It looked like a dead tie with any kind of edge looking to go to Ramirez and we all know the tie goes to the runner – although technically you have to beat the throw to be safe, but whatever.

Toby Hall and Cabrera string together a pair of singles, putting two on, only to trot back to the dugout a batter later when Brian Anderson grounds out to Renteria, who flips to Polanco for a force out at second. The play at second was too close for comfort, somewhat resembling last night’s ninth inning blown call that drew a dumbfounded Ozzie Guillen out of the dugout to say, “How did you miss that one?” But that was a real bad call last night.

Bottom fifth

With one out, Pudge rips a one-hopper into the hole between short and third, only to be robbed by the cool-looking, shade-sporting Orlando Cabrera. Cabrera sprawls to his left and nabs the ball, but the most impressive part of the play was the laser he shot in Swisher’s glove at first. Always known for his good defense, this one made me raise the eyebrows and say “Wow.” It was that good of a throw.

Clevlen strikes out for the second time this game, and I have somehow adapted the supernatural ability to hear through walls. Two rooms down, Rod is saying “That Clevlen, all he needs to do is cut down on his strikeouts and he’ll be a big league regular in no time.” But he’s not the only one repeating himself, is he?

Top sixth

Rogers plunks Quentin on the left shoulder in a 2-2 count, and one batter later, Rogers gets his, as Konerko smashes a liner right back at his glove. Like earlier, Kenny knocks the ball down and starts a potential double play, this time executed with the aid of Konerko’s slow foot speed. Jim Leyland and trainer Kevin Rand head out to the mound to check on the veteran, but he’s fine.

On his 76th pitch of the day, Rogers retires Dye and the Sox with a pop out to short.

Bottom sixth

Renteria and Polanco slap nearly identical singles into left field with one out to start a nice little Tigers rally in the sixth. Ahead in the count, 3-1, and with Buehrle facing Ordonez with the bases loaded if he walks him, Guillen fishes at an off-speed offering and whiffs. Two pitches later, after the runners were put in motion during the first full-count pitch, the runners go again, and this time Guillen lines one up the middle, just out of the reach of an outstretched Ramirez. Renteria scores from second and ties the game.

Ordonez – the owner of Chicago White Sox pitching and Mark Buehrle, well-documented earlier in the blog with diligent investigative journalism to the extent of today’s readily-available game notes in the press box – steps in with runners at the corners, needing only a fly ball to give his team the lead.

Ordonez pops out to short, and following a promising, beautiful looking and sounding line drive off Cabrera’s bat that drifted a few rows deep foul down the first base line, Cabrera grounds out softly to shortstop to end the rally. Detroit gets one, but probably should have pushed two across that inning.

Top seventh

Crede pops one up the elevator shaft, followed by Swisher grounding out for the third time, followed by another Ramirez shattered bat. Last at bat, he swung one into four splinters on the field and this time the top of the bat just kind of … came off? The cheap wood they use on bats these days. Two pitches later, Kenny has him flailing at a curveball to sit down the side in order in the seventh. Through seven innings, Rogers is sporting a very efficient 88 pitches. Look to see him the next inning, with nobody warming in the Tigers bullpen as Buehrle takes the mound in the seventh.

Bottom seventh

After a rousing rendition of Take Me Out to The Ballgame – aren’t they all – the Tigers can’t get any offense going in the seventh. Pudge walks – no, really – but he’s stranded after the young guys Clevlen and Raburn fly to center. Heading into the eighth, we are knotted at one at Comerica.

Top eighth

Kenny Rogers leaves the field to a standing ovation, sitting the South Siders down in order in the eighth on a groundout and two harmless fly outs. Rogers day is done, with double-barreled action in the Tigers bullpen, and has pitched a whale of a game, retiring the last eight batters he faced. His final line: 8 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HB.

Here’s to hoping a Tiger can make a trip around the bases so Kenny’s fourth consecutive good start is recognized in the box score …

Bottom eighth

Renteria is rung up by Cuzzi on a full-count slider that – you guessed it – nailed the inside corner, much to the dismay of the crowd. Buehrle has been camping inside there all game long and Tigers hitters have failed to turn loose on one.

Quentin makes a sliding catch in right center on a Polanco fly that died in the wind, preceding a near-disaster in left center, when Anderson nearly collided with Dye en route to Guillen’s fly ball. Anderson makes the catch and trips afterwards, drawing laughs from inside the press box.

Tigers don’t score in the eighth and Kenny Rogers 96 pitches on this beautiful, mid-June day will be forever remembered – or not remembered – as a no-decision.

Top ninth

Todd Jones enters the game for Rogers in the ninth, and promptly gives up a leadoff single to Quentin down the left field line. Quentin is busting it around first, rounding the base very generously, nearly drawing a throw from Polanco when the ball is collected back into the infield.

Jones induces a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Konerko – grounding into the second double play of the day – and retires the side when Dye flies out to right. Eye of the Tiger is keyed up at the ballpark, the fans revving up for a walk-off win and sweep. The heart of the order is up for Detroit: Ordonez, Cabrera and Granderson, who subbed in the eighth inning.

Bottom ninth

Sox reliever Octavio Dotel enters the game for Buehrle, who pitched a gem of a game himself. Both southpaw starters did more than their part to win the series finale for their clubs. Buehrle allowed one run on seven hits and struck out seven.

While filling in Buehrle’s line on my scorecard, I hear a voluminous roar from the crowd and look up, nearly missing a Mags walk-off home run, that died at the warning track.

Well, that was cool and I wasn’t fidgeting with my scorecard this time!!!!! Cabrera shows off his power, walking-off opposite field and the Tigers sweep! He took a belt-high Dotel fastball and disposed of it a handful of rows deep beyond the right-field fence! You can put that on the board! After connecting, Cabrera takes a few steps out of the box to admire his work and start the celebratory home-run trot.

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