Jason Vargas is bad, Sox win

Still kicking...and hitting occasionally

The White Sox starting pitching situation is rough. Monday night, they sent out 29-year-old rookie Scott Carroll to get mollywhopped for the third time in a row, and after a defensive breakdown opened up the floodgates for a five-run first, they counted themselves lucky when he got through three more innings with only one more run. It was an improvement over John Danks' outing on Sunday, after all.

Even with this hellish setup, which will likely doom a promising offense to a sub-.500 season, there is time to be thankful to have not dropped four years, $32 million on Jason Vargas. The lefty change-up artist and parabola enthusiast's struggles surpassed all others in a 7-6 White Sox comeback victory that like many things in life, was sweeter for all it overcame. Even if what it overcame were a slate of screw-ups that would have been the source of many diatribes if the end-result flip-flopped.

Three booming home runs--all on bad changeups--from the bats of Alexei Ramirez, Dayan Viciedo and Paul Konerko accounted for six of the seven Sox tallies off Vargas, who coughed up that 5-0 first inning lead, and took the loss when the Royals bats couldn't muster anything off five innings of the Sox bullpen, even when a head start was handed to them.

Matt Lindstrom, still the closer because it seems like the issue just hasn't been appropriately reviewed, started the ninth by allowin a leadoff single to Norichika Aoki, then hurt himself on an awkward plant while racing out to field a bunt from Alcides Escobar. Needing an emergency replacement with the tying and go-ahead runs on base and the heart of the order coming up, Robin Ventura--apparently not lacking in sardonic humor--brought in Scott Downs. Downs promptly mowed down a hacking Eric Hosmer, and gave way to an equally quirky choice for high-leverage work: Jake Petricka, who had pitched twice in the last 11 days. 

After falling behind Billy Butler, Petricka suddenly wheeled and noticed the alarming and humorous sight of pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson (pinch-running for Aoki, who has stolen over 50 bases since coming to the MLB in 2012) wandering off second. Since nothing all night was well-executed, Dyson was chased all the way back to second, and only tagged out because Escobar had already advanced. Butler chopped a groundout to second to give Petricka his first save, but the threat of the Royals as a fearsome enterprise died with Dyson.

Kansas City had looked poised to cruise to easy victory after the first 40 minutes of play. Gordon Beckham whiffed on double play ball from Escobar in the first, and removed the margin of error for a starter who needed no help in that regard. After Beckham took two quick outs away from him, he couldn't retire any of the next three batters he faced, and a two-run single from Lorenzo Cain took him out of quality start territory before he had recorded his second out. 

Carroll "stabilized" a bit later, in that the Sox were not completely blown out of the game under his watch. He issued two walks in the second inning, plunked a batter in the third, and gave up three hits and an RBI single to Hosmer in the fourth before giving way to Zach Putnam and Ronald Belisario, who each worked two innings apiece. Carroll was credited for six earned (because the Kaufman Stadium home scorer gave Escobar a hit for chopping a ball between Beckham's legs) over four innings, allowed nine hits and three walks over two strikeouts. Yeeesh.

After a seven-pitch first inning, Vargas, owner of a career 93 ERA+ coming into the night, started racking up the hard contact in a way that went unnoticed due to fireworks surround Carroll. He pitched over two singles in the second, including a hot shot from Adam Dunn that essentially went through Johnny Giavotella. Ramirez struck the first meaningful blow in the third by lifting a three-run bomb out nearly 400 feet to left on a high changeup, and Viciedo followed suit in the fourth with a solo shot by diving low for an outside changeup that also dropped into the left field bullpen.

While the decisive three-run fifth was the moment of triumph for the Sox, it could have gone much worse for Vargas, who possesses a career 1.14 HR/9 despite working exclusively in pitcher-friendly home stadiums. Beckham followed up Adam Eaton's leadoff single with his own shot into the left-center gap, but was thrown out by a mile on a curious attempt to stretch what only might have been a double if Alejandro De Aza was the center fielder. Eaton scored on an RBI groundout from Ramirez, but that only became a groundout when Ramirez head-first slid into first when he had beaten Vargas to the bag. Not only did Ramirez slow himself down, but his slide missed the bag entirely. So while he beat Vargas, he was tagged out for being off the base. Otherwise, solid game for him.

Even with two outs gifted, Vargas, who is earning the same salary as Jose Abreu this year, still walked Dunn despite having the platoon advantage, and threw another flat changeup that Konerko clubbed over the reportedly unreachable center field wall of Kaufman Stadium to give the Sox a 7-6 advantage that held up. His ERA is now 3.76. I will bet on him finishing higher than that, which is obvious, given that I spent all this time on a recap making fun of him.


Box Score

Team Record: 22-24

Next Game: Tomorrow night at 7:10pm CT in Kansas City on CSN Chicago


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