Bruce Chen and Lackluster White Sox Yield Loss
Bruce Chen acquired a sort of boogeyman status for the White Sox and their fans last year, throwing 33.1IP against them with an ERA of 1.89. The White Sox hoped to keep him on their long list of weaknesses reversed from 2011, having lit him up in their first matchup this season. Chen has managed to have a nice revival as a lefty junkballer in the latter half of his career, but he’s the type of pitcher playoff teams really should beat – especially with Peavy on the mound. However, the White Sox lineup was not at full strength, with de Aza and Youkilis both sitting this one out with minor injuries, and Alexei’s left hand was apparently very swollen from being hit by a pitch last night.
Unfortunately, Chen would pitch his usual stifling slop against the White Sox, and a string of managerial mistakes, failures in the clutch, and clumps of automatic outs were very reminiscent of 2011.
Peavy wound up walking the first two batters he faced in the first – Gordon, and Getz. There were several pitches to Getz that looked like strikes that didn’t get called as such. Fortunately, Peavy pitched around it, and things began to look up as Beckham seemed to really see the ball well out of Chen’s hand. He got ahead 3-1 without swinging at any of Chen’s fastballs, and the blasted one to deep left center to get the White Sox off to a 1-0 lead.
From there the game slowly drifted downhill and then eventually fell apart. Sure, Peavy held tough and “battled” – as people love to say about him – on a night where he didn’t have his best stuff or his best control. Peavy managed to hold the Royals scoreless until the 7th. Jeff Francoeur lead off that inning with a bunt single. Olmedo was caught playing deeper than may have been advisable. After a weak pop-up to Viciedo, Hosmer ripped a grounder just past Konerko yielding runners on the corners with only one out. At this point, Peavy had thrown over 100 pitches, and on a day where he clearly wasn’t at his best, he was starting to look very vulnerable. Right on cue, Abreu laced a 1-0 single to left. Viciedo made a beautiful quick pivot and gunned down Hosmer at third, but a run still scored.
At this point, it’s 2-2, Peavy looks gassed, and there are three lefties in a row coming up. Ventura opted for his usual slow hook with Peavy, who managed to induce a chopping ground ball to second. Unfortunately, the guy who hit it was Dyson, who can absolutely fly – and he beat the throw to first, despite a nice effort from Beckham, and he managed to (accidentally) smack Konerko in the head as he went past for good measure. That yielded another lefty in Gordon, who had seen the ball well from Peavy all day, and had already reached base twice. Ventura was nowhere to be found. Septimo was all warmed up in the pen. If he can’t be used here, when can he be used?
While Gordon would rope another single off of Peavy before Ventura finally made the move, the damage was done. Septimo retired Getz and the White Sox were behind 3-2, which was enough for the Royals to win. Konerko looked baffled against Chen all day. Rios ripped a couple of hits, including a double, and Dunn managed an RBI single up the middle with two strikes off of a lefty, but than that and Beckham against Chen, the offense looked rather helpless. The Royals bullpen would not allow a baserunner.
Arguably the biggest mistake Ventura made all day was a bunt call. As a huge caveat, as I’m still rather new here, I am predisposed to hate almost all bunts unless the situation in the game and personnel clearly demand it. That also means I’m going to hate dumb bunts even more and this was one of them. Pierzynski and Viciedo poked a couple of singles to lead off the 5th inning, bringing up Jordan Danks. Danks is obviously not a great offensive player, but he’s way better than the guy who was on deck in the form of Olmedo. Olmedo had also looked completely helpless in his first appearance against Chen, as if his entire career of being an atrocious hitter wasn’t enough for you. Regardless, Ventura called for a bunt – and Danks popped it up into a double play. Olmedo popped out to end the inning.
The White Sox squandered another opportunity to score earlier in the game, as Rios singled to lead off the 2nd inning, stole second, and then reached third on a groundout. Unfortunately, Viciedo popped out into shallow foul territory – continuing his futility at the plate, with his OBP now down in the .280s – and Danks grounded out to end the threat.
Perhaps this is all moot as Nate Jones gave up a gigantic 2-run home run to dead center courtesy of Billy Butler to push the margin of loss to 3 runs, but it was still disheartening. I was a bit puzzled by the Jones choice given how hard he worked over the weekend, and that only Reed was used last night, but I don’t want to be too harsh on Ventura either. Sometimes Billy Butler is going to smash something you throw to him. It happens. Phil Humber made his first appearance since his demotion to the bullpen, and despite a leadoff double his breaking ball looked quite sharp and he managed to escape unscathed otherwise.
The White Sox lead in the AL Central shrank to half a game over the Tigers, who beat the Yankees for a second night in a row.