April 18, 2005
White Sox 5, Twins 4
The next person who says the White Sox are winning because of "small ball" or "smart ball" or any similar nonsense deserves to have their baseball-watching privileges revoked immediately. Chicago came into last night's game tied for third in the American League in home runs with 14, thanks in large part to Paul Konerko's league-leading six long balls. Carl Everett homered twice off Kyle Lohse last night, accounting for three of Chicago's five runs, with the other two runs coming on a Joe Crede homer. In other words, same old White Sox.
Ozzie Guillen and delusional sportswriters from Chicago can talk about "doing the little things" all they want, but the White Sox won last night because Jose Contreras somehow avoided completely melting down, the bullpen came in and shut the Twins down, and the lineup smacked the hell out of the ball. It's not a new formula for success or something that has a catchy nickname, but it works better than any strategy that has bunting prominently involved. I dream of the day the White Sox have to actually try to beat the Twins by running and bunting.
After loading the bases against an extremely shaky Contreras with one out in the top of the first inning, Torii Hunter let him off the hook. Not only did Hunter hack at the first two pitches he saw despite the fact that Contreras had used 33 pitches to get one out, Hunter then grounded into an inning-ending double play. A hit in that spot and the game might very well have been busted wide open, because Contreras looked like a fighter who was clinging to the ropes so he wouldn't fall face first into the canvas.
Later, with Contreras long gone, the Twins again loaded the bases with just one out in the top of the sixth inning. This time Joe Mauer was at the plate, but he was uncharacteristically just as impatient as Hunter, swinging at the first pitch he saw and grounding it weakly to second base for another inning-ending double play. In all, the Twins grounded into three double plays -- two with the bases loaded -- and also lost a key runner on a stolen base attempt. If any of those things don't happen, the Twins aren't in second place this morning.
Pierzynski had a rough night, bouncing a couple throws to second base, including one that rolled into center field on Hunter's stolen base in the fifth inning. Hunter advanced to third base on the play and then scored one pitch later when Contreras uncorked a wild pitch that bounced past Pierzynski to the backstop. Of course, Pierzynski got a little revenge in the sixth inning when he nailed Michael Cuddyer trying to steal second.
The Cuddyer steal attempt was a weird one, because it came on a pitch that Luis Rivas nearly bunted. Instead, Rivas pulled his bat back, the pitch was called a ball, and Cuddyer was cut down at second. It ended up costing the Twins, because Shannon Stewart's single two batters later may have scored Cuddyer from second if a) he had stolen the base, or b) Rivas had gotten the bunt down. Rather than that happening, the Twins loaded the bases with a couple walks and then failed to score when Mauer hit into the double play.
Today's Picks (15-8, +$785):
Chicago (Prior) -145 over Cincinnati (Claussen)
Atlanta (Thomson) -110 over Houston (Backe)