So, despite all the fascination with the MLB trade deadline, there were actual baseball games being played today. Baseball games that even counted in the standings! Today's game was the finale of the Red Sox at White Sox, and needless to say, the Sox won, with a final score of 5-3.
Huh, what's that? You want to know which Sox won? What are you expecting from me? I was following the trade deadline!
Okay, not exactly. The Red Sox managed to win today's game, and pick up another series win. It's especially encouraging to see them pick up the win against the White Sox, a team against whom they've struggled in recent years. So, definitely a good sign.
So, about those three runs by the White Sox. I don't really have an explanation for it other than the fact that Andrew Miller had a rabbit's foot lodged where the sun don't shine, or made a Faustian bargain in an attempt to remain in the starting rotation. (Erik Bedard will have reason to say otherwise, I imagine.) Miller's performance could hardly be described as sharp: he only had one inning—the fifth—without a hit, and even then couldn't avoid a baserunner courtesy of an error by Marco Scutaro. However, through some miracle, he was able to keep the hits from becoming bunched up, greatly limiting the damage. Tyler Flowers would single then be doubled in by Brent Morel in the second inning. The double would be Miller's only extra-base hit of the day, which definitely saved his bacon. Miller would surrender three singles in each of the third and fourth innings, leading to a single run in each.
On the plus side, however, Miller threw plenty of strikes—over two-thirds of his pitches were called strikes, although that may have been the result of bad umpiring. The "lots of strikes" philosophy also led to eight punchouts on the day, leading to the continuation of Miller's frustrating variability. Not exactly a quality start—he was yanked after 5.2 innings instead of six—but he avoided stinking up the joint. However, he left with the White Sox in the lead, so no win for Miller.
As for the Sox bats, first blood in the game was struck by the unlikely duo of Darnell McDonald and Jason Varitek. (Anybody expecting these two to feature prominently in a game at the trade deadline, raise your hands.) McDonald walked after outs by David Ortiz and Carl Crawford. Varitek then took a 1-0 offering way, way back to make the score 2-0. After that display, for a while the Red Sox's bats could not keep up with the White Sox's. Mark Buehrle was quite effective in his six innings of work, giving up just the two runs on the homer.
However, as we've come to expect from this year's edition of the Red Sox, they terrorize opposing bullpens, ruthlessly exposing and exploiting their soft underbelly in exceedingly exuberant explosions of offense. Jesse Crain was the first victim, giving up successive singles to Marco Scutaro and Jacoby Ellsbury, and, of course, none other than the Elf himself, Dustin Pedroia. Crain managed to notch but a single out, and picked up the loss for his efforts. The Sox would have an additional scoring opportunity when an intentionally walked Youkilis stole second base (!), providing David Ortiz with a prime opportunity to seal the game with a base hit with runners on second and third. However, continuing the missed opportunities theme that also appears to be a trademark of the Sox, Ortiz struck out swinging. The Red Sox would put up one more run in the ninth on the combination of an Ellsbury single, a Pedroia walk, and a double by Adrian Gonzalez.
As much as Miller struggled, the Red Sox's bullpen did not. Alfredo Aceves pitched the last out of the sixth and the first two outs of the seventh, picking up the win. Daniel Bard entered a game for the twenty-fifth consecutive time without giving up a run, giving up a single hit in 1.1 innings. To give you an idea of how dominant Bard has been: during the streak, batters facing Bard have an OPS of 0.312. (0.312!) Papelbon worked a perfect ninth, getting swinging K's from Carlos Quentin, Adam Dunn, and Alex Rios to end the game.
One unfortunate event during the game, though, occurred in the fourth inning, when Paul Konerko was hit by a pitch, and left the game. Brent Lillibridge would take over for Konerko, but in the late innings was pinch-hit for by AJ Pierzynski. Because the White Sox were out of position players, Adam Dunn took over first base, thereby sacrificing the DH position. Had Alex Rios not ended the game, we would have seen an AL rarity, at least in a regulation nine-inning game: a pitcher hitting out of the seventh spot in the lineup.
With the win, the Red Sox improve to 20-6 in July, an all-time franchise record for July. The Sox's August calendar begins with a homestand against the Cleveland Indians and a three-game series against the Yankees.