The five best pitching duels of 2011 for the Sox

The five best pitching duels of 2011 for the Sox
January 20, 2012, 8:58 pm
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Bill James put together his list of the top 100 pitching duels of 2011, using four general criteria: "low-scoring game, quality pitchers on the mound, pitchers pitch well, and something is at stake." The White Sox made the list just once, with Philip Humber's July 2 duel with Matt Garza coming in at No. 55.

Of course, because the White Sox scuffled through 2011, most of their games didn't have something at stake. There's one game I think James missed, being Jake Peavy's 1-0 showdown against Justin Masterson May 18 in his first home start since July of 2010.

But with the lack of Sox games on the list in mind, here are the best pitching duels involving the Sox from 2011, using James' general criteria minus the "something at stake" stipulation.

1. May 18, White Sox vs. Indians: Jake Peavy vs. Justin Masterson (1-0)

The Sox struck early against Masterson, as Adam Dunn hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Juan Pierre in the first inning. That lone run proved to be enough for Peavy, who allowed just three hits and no walks with eight strikeouts in a complete game effort. Masterson settled down -- with the aid of two strike-him-out-throw-him-out double plays -- and went the distance, allowing five hits and two walks with eight strikeouts. That Peavy threw a complete game was a little worrisome at the time, as 111 pitches in sub-50-degree weather didn't seem like a good idea for a pitcher coming off a unique injury. But, in the short-term, Peavy wasn't worse off for it.

2. July 2, White Sox @ Cubs: Philip Humber vs. Matt Garza (1-0)

Garza retired 14 White Sox in a row between walking Brent Morel in the first and Gordon Beckham in the sixth, but Humber matched him by keeping the Cubs off the board thanks to inducing three double plays. But that sixth-inning walk to Beckham led to the lone run of the game scoring, as Beckham advanced to second on a bunt by Humber, third on a wild pitch by Garza and scored on a Juan Pierre single. Humber staved off a Cubs rally in the sixth and finished the seventh before giving way to Matt Thornton for a six-out save.

3. May 3, White Sox vs. Twins: Edwin Jackson vs. Fransico Liriano (1-0)

Yeah, this is the no-hitter game. Liriano actually pitched pretty poorly in it, walking six with only two strikeouts. But it gets placed on the No. 3 spot because of the effort given by Jackson, who threw eight innings, allowing one run on six hits with two strikeouts and one walk. The lone run came on a Jason Kubel (who else) homer. Jackson deserves a lot of credit for battling to keep the hapless Sox in the game, even if Minnesota trotted out a poor lineup that day.

4. July 20, White Sox @ Royals: John Danks vs. Bruce Chen (2-1, 11)

Few White Sox pitchers were able to match the pitching dynamo that was Bruce Chen last season, but in this game, Danks did. Chen threw eight innings of run-run ball, while Danks tossed seven shutout innings before being pulled in favor of Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain in the eighth, who combined to let in the game-tying run. But the real battle was taken into extra innings by Chris Sale, who threw two scoreless innings against Joakim Soria and Aaron Crow before running out of gas in the 11th and turning the ball over to Sergio Santos, who let in the game-winning run (which was charged to Sale).

5. June 16, White Sox @ Twins: Mark Buehrle vs. Nick Blackburn (1-0)

Like many of these games, this was one in which Buehrle made one mistake -- a second-inning homer to Michael Cuddyer -- while the Sox offense flailed away at a pitcher of questionable talent. Nick Blackburn allowed seven hits and one walk with one strikeout, but the Sox couldn't push a run home despite having a few opportunities with runners in scoring position.

Afterthought: In quite a few instances, the White Sox offense just didn't show up (or was stuck in Charlotte), so trying to rank these games wasn't too easy. Leave any qualms or suggestions in the comments.