1. I had become concerned that some sort of moratorium had been placed on throwing Avisail Garcia hanging breaking balls, but it was simply a matter of waiting until the 13th inning where he could loop a hanging curve into a preposterously wide open left-center gap and score Jose Abreu from first for walk-off, sweep-clinching winner. Abreu's sprint home was the sort where you wouldn't be surprised if he took the day off Thursday if the Sox didn't already have it off anyway. His face as he rounded third was a mixture of excitement, exertion, pain, and possibly lactic acid.
It was Garcia's first hit of the night, as he got unwelcome challenges on the inner half of the plate with increased regularity, but it was third time on base, as he continues to rebound back to league-average
The win also sealed a three-game sweep over the Angels, improbably putting them in playoff peril (they're clinging to the last playoff spot by 1.5 games) brought on by a hilariously terrible 1-32 showing with runners in scoring position for the series. If you don't like the Angels or Mike Scioscia, this week was an absolute festival.
2. Like any marathon game, the Sox were propped up by heavy lifting from the bullpen. They pitched 5.2 innings of one-run ball (the one run caused by a goof-up) , punctuated by standout showing from Nate Jones--who buzzed through Mike Trout in a crucial eighth inning showdown, and Matt Albers, who picked up a deserved victory for two innings of shutout ball where he carved through the heart of the Angels order and lived to tell the tale. Two sinkers that made Albert Pujols look foolish with Mike Trout already on base representing the go-ahead run was a highlight of the 12th, and he pitched over his own throwing error in the 13th.
Albers doesn't challenge for late-inning work, but you could do a lot worse as far as dependable sixth or seventh guys go.
Zach Duke on the other hand came on and was bad.
3. Garcia's hit also saved a victory for Ventura, who mostly did well for himself throughout the night. He got everything he could out of John Danks before smartly pulling him before his fourth appearance against Trout, he made an unpopular but cagey switch from Trayce Thompson to Adam LaRoche in a pinch-hit situation against a hard-throwing righty, and got rewarded with a good at-bat. Despite relying on Jones and Jake Petricka for less than an inning as he toggled matchups, he got through the 13th with still another reliever available and having not left anyone out to dry all night, and his game-winning rally came from an offensive core he held off on breaking up for pinch-running and other small-time plays.
He only caught blame for trying to run a suicide squeeze with two outs in the 12th against a very prepared defense (possibly a missed sign), and for just, being the guy in charge for a team that made another prominent screwup that extended the game by two hours.
4. An exciting and crisp 2-1 sweep-sealing victory was denied by an embarrassing Jose Abreu mental error in the ninth. With runners on the corners and one out, Old Friend Conor Gillaspie sent a grounder right to the big man, but instead of turning a 3-6-3 game-ending double play, he stepped on first immediately allowing Johnny Giavotella to drag the infield into a rundown that gave time for the the tying run to score.
So chaotic was this sudden rundown that Alexei Ramirez got called for blocking the baseline, and David Robertson had to pitch over a runner in scoring position just keep the game tied. It was a massive tactical error by a lynchpin of the franchise. There's no nice thing to say about it, since responding to the mistake by playing LaRoche at first more isn't exactly a winner. This can't happen again. At least Abreu paid his penance with windsprints in the 13th.
5. John Danks had a fifth's starter's masterpiece Wednesday night, spinning 7.1 innings of one-run ball with only two strikeouts, one of which was acing his last batter of the day--Kole Calhoun--with a beautiful changeup. He now has a 2.50 ERA in six starts since the All-Star Break, in his perennial quest to make it awkward and impossible to remove him from the rotation.
Now that's he not pitching in 700-degree weather anymore, he's back to topping out at 90 mph, so dreams of a magical recovery three years removed from surgery or any significant rise in his ceiling will need to be abandoned for the umpteenth time.
6. Trayce Thompson got another start against a left-handed starter and flourished some more, ringing two hard singles off Andrew Heaney and raising his batting average to a cool .500 in the meaningful sample of 12 at-bats. Exposure to right-handed reliever Fernando Salas gave Trayce his second MLB strikeout and showed where some of this '20-grade hit tool' talk comes from, but the initial impression is that Trayce can drive the ball off MLB pitching.
Adam LaRoche came into pinch-hit for Trayce against a live-armed righty reliever (and really put a charge into one!), which hints at the platoon work he may continued to be limited to. If Trayce just keeps hitting .500, though, he should find some PAs.
7. If nothing else this game gave two heapin' helpings of Mike Scioscia's mad face; a cherished talisman of former moments of White Sox glory. An early argument with the home plate umpire about a changed call was just the appetizer for him being on the total flip side of potential dropped third strike to lead off the ninth. Erick Aybar swung and missed on strike three to lead off the inning, and after an awkward pause, Tyler Flowers half-hearted effort to tag him missed, and his effort to throw him out as Aybar lazily jogged to first was aborted when the umpire called it an out as he was loading up.
Scioscia, in a turning of the tables from 10 years prior, came out to argue that Aybar was neither tagged out nor thrown out, and threw enough of a fit to earn a review, which was...denied, as all Scioscia umpire complaints in Chicago are. The World Series reunion never ends. What an enjoyment for all!
Well, not all.
8. Obviously, it's a shame this team isn't better for a number of reasons, but a part that sticks out to me ever since they stopped being the most miserable offense on Earth, is that this is a very fun group, and it's a bummer their quirks and rituals will not get the extended life that a memorably successful season often buys.
When the lights go out for the last time for 2015 at U.S. Cellular Field, will our memories of Jose Abreu, Dugout Catcher die with them?
9. Baseball America gave out some 'Best Tools' awards for Double-A, and some Birmingham Barons got mentioned. The honors weren't exactly revelatory. Tim Anderson won for Best Baserunning (he leads the Southern League in stolen bases), Frankie Montas got Best Fastball (he throws 100 mph) and Danny Hayes got Best 1st Base Defense (that's cool, I guess).
At some point I will get tired of the White Sox having actual prospects who pick up real run-of-the-mill awards and honors, but we're not there yet.
10. So Friday's game is appointment viewing:
This is reminiscent of Mark Primiano's idea that every franchise honoring the player that first integrated their team, but it sadly comes in response to both their passings. There are people who will be nitpicking about wearing 1959 uniforms and honoring Minnie Minoso simultaneously. These people are not fun.