Last night's game was really, really ugly until the bottom of the 9th. But the fact that the Indians couldn't come out in victory formation and kneel out the clock is one of the many reasons why baseball is the best.
In sum, Trevor Bauer shut down the White Sox completely, throwing seven shut out innings. My increasingly blind rage over the fact that the White Sox could not swing early or often enough against a guy who had walked 9 batters in 12 innings generally blinded me to the fact that John Danks had managed to muddle through to a Quality Start. Instead of learning from last week's game against Bauer - where Adam LaRoche's three walks were the only real offense - it felt as though the team had dragged LaRoche down with them, as they hacked at pitches out of the zone, and flailed early in the count.
The only real threat against Bauer came with a leadoff single from Micah Johnson followed by a walk from Adam Eaton - one of two for him on the night! - which brought Melky to the plate. He worked a full count, and then chased a ball up and out of the zone to ground into a double play. I understand with two strikes you go into defensive mode, and I understand that Bauer's stuff is deceptive with lots of movement. But the risk of making really weak contact is very high, as is the likelihood of him walking you there. Abreu is on deck, there are no outs, you're down 3 runs...I don't know.
Oh, well, I suppose there was the first inning too, where Eaton lead off with a walk which was followed by an Abreu single, but then LaRoche struck out and Avisail grounded out on a first pitch cutter that was low and away. That wasn't fun.
I understand you can't just concede, "I can't hit this guy, I will just hope he messes up." - but there are situations where I think you have to realize where the pitcher is in trouble, not you, and to force him to execute.
Fortunately Cody Allen showed up and continued his early season run of control problems, allowing a slew of hits, and a walk, which lead to Melky redeeming himself via a walkoff hit as the White Sox scored 4 in the ninth.
- John Danks went 6 innings only allowing 3. For a long time this somehow added to my frustration, as the rare winnable Danks outing looked like it was going to be squandered. He actually managed 4Ks against only 2BBs in the six innings. His fastball was sitting 90, according to GameDay anyway, which seems more viable than the 87-88 he featured in his first two outings. While the White Sox probably have a very clear plan for what they're doing and they definitely have way more information than I do, I am not entirely sure how to handicap the Musical Chairs of Noesi, Danks, and Rodon at this point.
- No errors!
- The bullpen continues to be a strength, as Jennings, Putnam, and Robertson combined for three shutout innings, allowing only one baserunner. Jennings was left in to get 5 outs. If he's capable of getting out hitters on both sides of the plate he may have been a bigger acquisition than I gave him credit for. Remember, this was a lineup skewed to hit lefties as Danks started the game.
- Seriously, David Robertson has started out really, really strong so far.
- Avisail, Eaton, and Gillaspie wound up with good days at the plate - although Avisail had that rough at bat in the first.
- The White Sox are now undefeated since they called up Carlos Rodon.
People on Twitter were mocking me after the game for having been so negative in what would eventually be a White Sox victory. While I'm glad that they won, and I'm glad that to an extent I was "wrong", all is not well. Some things will change - Adam Eaton has already started drawing more walks in the past few games, for example - but the offense has been atrocious. If the 9th inning didn't happen, the White Sox would have scored 1 or 0 runs in 7 or their first 12 games. Indeed, key hits in the rally came from pinch hitters - early season hot streak guys, Tyler Flowers and Gordon Beckham.
The team is currently 25th in BB% while swinging at the 4th most pitches out of the strike zone. This despite facing mostly weaker pitchers so far this year - while guys like Volquez, Milone, Greene, and Bauer are all off to hot starts, they are hardly top end starters and arguably owe much of their hot start to the fact that they got to face the White Sox.
Ending on a positive note: The Indians - whom many people picked to win the division, or considered Favorite 1A after the Tigers - have gotten off to just as frustrating a start as the White Sox, and after last night possibly an even worse one. Jason Kipnis is doing his best Gordon Beckham career trajectory impression, Bourne and Swisher look like complete albatross contracts, Yan Gomes is hurt, Michael Brantley has missed more games than he has played, and Cody Allen has already blown two saves in gruesome fashion to division rivals.
5-7 is better than 4-8, and for all of my complaining about some aspects of how they've played, the fact that they've come through a stretch where they're playing below their talent level at 5-7 can be taken as a positive sign. Although it's frustrating to watch a team with what I perceive to be a very flawed approach make the same mistakes over and over, Alexei, Eaton, Melky, and Abreu will all hit better than they have.
Hopefully last night is a game the team rallies around. They have gone 5-3 since their 0-4 start.
Follow the Catbird Seat on Twitter @TheCatbird_Seat and Nick @Nick_TCS.