The fun thing about being a good team--and this is theory from me, since I've been blogging Sox stuff since 2010 and never covered a playoff game--is that you have enough potential for impactful play up and down the roster that you can survive a disappointing performance from a reliable contributor. As bad as White Sox starting pitching has been, with shaky starts from presumed headliners Jeff Samardzija, Jose Quintana, and once more again Wednesday night, Chris Sale, is that the offense has provided no hope of picking them up.
When you start 10-14 with the worst offense in baseball, every breakthrough feels like the turning point, but Wednesday night's four-run eighth inning rally to stun the Tigers--executed entirely with two outs--was as convincing as any entry in the "this is the moment" canon. The Sox bloodied Joba Chamberlain and the annually shaky Detroit bullpen for a stunning 7-6 victory, overcoming a troubling Chris Sale start and more importantly, grabbing an important interdivisional series victory before the season slid any further into disrepair.
- There's no such thing as a good five-game Chris Sale suspension, and since his current struggles might have a lot to do with missed time, lack of routine, and general discomfort, but after he failed to get through the sixth while adding five more earned runs to his awful early-season tally, a break feels less heartbreaking than it would usually. Sale's slider was capable of getting some whiffs when he did employ it, more so than his disastrous night in Minnesota, but his control was worse. He took to grooving lower-90s fastballs for the strikes his slider couldn't grab, and got blown up on frequent mistakes with his changeup. He managed to dole out Victor Martinez's first home run (and only his second extra-base hit) of a miserable start to the season, and was left in to allow Miguel Cabrera to break the game open in what was clearly a lost night in the sixth when he split the plate with more 85 mph slop.
- Speaking of extra-base hit droughts, Melky Cabrera's game-tying three-run bomb off Chamberlain was just his third extra-base knock of the season. The Sox offense is begging for a substantive attack to put in front of Abreu. and Cabrera has been on a walk barrage to raise his OBP to .340, if he starts driving the pitches he's waiting for; then we have something.
- Speaking of looking alive, Conor Gillaspie's three extra-base hits in the last four games (makes for a hot streak around these parts), complete with a solo shot to open White Sox scoring Wednesday night, has put him on the right side of .700 OPS while Gordon Beckham has been having Gordon Beckham moments at the plate of recent, this playing time controversy looks to be going away. Avisail Garcia is still an enormous singles machine, but when it's the go-ahead single of a four-run rally, and is followed by starting a crucial outfield assist in the ninth, we look over it.
- Before the heroic six-straight hits started in the eighth, most of Sox Twitter was in arms about Robin Ventura in the bullpen. A clearly out of sorts Chris Sale was allowed to dig his own grave in the sixth, and because the Sox are trailing, the B-team of relievers came in. Jake Petricka threw 36 pitches, followed by Zach Putnam being left to struggle through his own jam in the eighth, when the game was--clearly--within reach. These guys were both the A-team last year, so downshifting their status might be a little awkward still, but Robin is famously rigid with his bullpen roles. This might make it easier for everyone to know their role, but results in closers and setup man vacillating between lethargy and overuse.
Next game is Thursday afternoon at 1:10pm CT vs the Tigers on WGN.