Despite it being contained in a single day, and having been preceded by a three-game win streak on the road against a first-place team, and the July 2 signings reminding that more 2014 losses just mean more bonus pool money, Tuesday's doubleheader contained so much misery and butt-kicking at the hands of the Angels that the Sox just needed the feel of a win again. And that need went beyond questions of how that win came about, if the right players showed progress, and why the hell is Leury Garcia being used as a pinch-hitter?
But Garcia was in, likely for the platoon advantage but also to draw in an infield fearful of a squeeze bunt with runners on the corners with one out, and slapped a decently-struck liner off Angels reliever Mike Morin where Erick Aybar would have been normally to walk the Sox off as 3-2 winners.
The game only went to the bottom of the ninth after a dominant John Danks night didn't get the happy ending it deserved. The best and nastiest changeup he's had all year was buried in a rainy, unseasonably cold and naturally poorly attended night in July. He struck out 10 batters of an unstoppable freight train of an Angels offense, held Mike Trout to an 0-4, 3K night, yet had his night end unceremoniously as his 120th pitch of the night sailed over the right field for an eighth inning equalizer off the bat of Josh Hamilton, long after his changeups had started drifting up.
Just the fourth 10-strikeout game of Danks' career--as much as we talk about him needing to miss more bats, this would be out of character with the old dude--provided plenty of faith for a manager looking to avoid burdening a bullpen that's light on morale, but a fly ball to the warning track from Albert Pujols earlier in the inning should have acted as a warning shot. Instead, we'll have to settle for 10,000 gallons of fuel for the 'Danks is BACK!" bandwagon. He finished with seven hits allowed over 7.2 innings, with the only runs coming on two solo shots, and just one walk.
Danks' counterpart Tyler Skaggs wasn't as showstopping, but was far superior in terms of brutal efficiency. He cruised through 7.2 innings on just 87 pitches, 70 for strikes, and Sox hitters slapped away like they'd feel more comfortable in the clubhouse.
Skaggs didn't allow a hit until Adam Eaton led off with a swinging bunt in the fourth, then suddenly found himself in a jam after Gordon Beckham boomed a double to center and he pitched around Jose Abreu to load the bases with no one out. After a Dayan Viciedo jamshot lineout, Ramirez plated the Sox only two runs for--a good while--by slapping a chopper up the middle.
I can't think of any good reason Danks should have come out for the eighth, or any sane reason to keep him in to face Josh Hamilton, other than Ventura is trying to take pressure off a terrible bullpen that's in a constant state of wilting. But swiftly more important than any of it is the idea that Danks can be capable of this kind of performance at all. I would have taken the odds against Danks posting a double-digit strikeout game this season. I don't know what this performance means, but am excited to find out, and haven't said that about Danks in a while.
Team Record: 40-46
Next Game: Friday at 6:10pm vs. Seattle on CSN
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