David Ortiz' slump ended in unassuming fashion, with a sharp ground ball that just barely got into right field for a base hit. And yet, even though it put Boston up by four runs at the time, it would prove the difference between the Red and White Sox after nine innings.
Heading into this game, there were reasons to be pessimistic about this particular matchup. For one thing, Ryan Dempster was returning, and so far this year his presence on the mound has been a pretty good indication that the team is going to give up runs before the night is over. For another thing, Hector Santiago and the White Sox had been on quite the roll of late, with the lefty having allowed more than two earned runs just once in his last six outings, and the Pale Hose managing ten wins in twelve games. Put it all together, and the picture isn't hugely pretty.
There are, however, a couple of things unaccounted for in that summation:
1) The White Sox lineup is unfathomably bad.
2) Hector Santiago apparently suffers from a disease which temporarily causes him to completely forget where the strike zone is.
Let's start with that lineup, because wow. I present to you tonight's starting lineup, from one-to-nine, and each player's OPS:
- Alejandro De Aza, CF -- .746
- Gordon Beckham, 2B -- .740
- Alexei Ramirez, SS -- .688
- Adam Dunn, DH -- .793
- Paul Konerko, 1B -- .666
- Avisail Garcia, RF -- .741
- Jeff Keppinger, 3B -- .590
- Dayan Viciedo, LF -- .715
- Josh Phegley, C -- .561
Just look at that! Alexei Ramirez, hitting .287/.312/.377, is hitting third. And sure enough, he played the part of rally killer to a tee in the very first inning. Ryan Dempster came out looking incredibly shaky, walking De Aza and Beckham on thirteen pitches, and then Ramirez went chasing the very first one offered to him, grounding into a double play.
Dempster, to his credit, took full advantage of just how bad they were for the next 10 outs, getting through the end of the fourth with a no-hitter intact. He kind of fell off from there, allowing a pair of leadoff hits in the fifth and giving up a run despite Paul Konerko getting himself thrown out making a terrible attempt to score from third on a ground ball to Stephen Drew, and then surrendering a homer and single before being lifted with one out in the seventh, but on the whole it was about as good a night as we can hope for from Dempster.
All that would mean nothing if Hector Santiago had been having one of his good days. But he was not. Santiago would escape the first inning unscathed despite walking two batters, but it would just set a trend for the night. To be fair to Santiago, the zone was tight, but he was often not even close to it.
Those control issues would really come to a head for Santiago in the third, when with one man on he walked David Ortiz on five pitches, then hit Jonny Gomes with his next offering. Mike Napoli came to the plate with the bases loaded and, wisely enough, let Santiago do the work for him. Five pitches later, and Napoli was walking to first, the opening salvo having been "fired" by way of a bases loaded base on balls.
Unfortunately, Jarrod Saltalamacchia was not in the mood to follow suit, swinging at a 2-0 pitch that almost certainly would have been called ball three based on the night's zone before popping out to end the inning. Had the Red Sox lost, it's the sort of at bat we'd have to dwell on. Thankfully, they did not.
While Santiago had escaped that frame with minimal damage, the White Sox would try to go back to him for the fourth, and the results were predictably awful. Will MIddlebrooks drew the fifth walk of the night, stole second, eaded to third on a ground out, and then scored the second Boston run on Shane Victorino's line drive up the middle. Dustin Pedroia followed up with a rocket off the Monster, and after a lengthy battle, David Ortiz finally got off the schneid, squeezing that ground ball through the right side to give the Red Sox their big lead.
It was not an easy, relaxing win. Junichi Tazawa let the runner he inherited from Dempster score before escaping the seventh--we learned last year he's really best with a clean inning; he's only reinforced that so far in 2013--bringing the White Sox within one. But John Farrell played the platoon splits well, bringing in Franklin Morales for the big out against Adam Dunn before calling on Koji Uehara for four outs. He, of course, delivered, securing the win in the most questionable game of the series for the Red Sox.
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- Breaking down Red Sox prospect Xander Bogaerts
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