Thursday, Aug. 5, 2010
Updated: 6:35 PM
By Brett Ballantini
DETROIT The game didnt begin as the biggest endorsement of Ozzieball. It turned on another setback for Chicago White Sox closer Bobby Jenks. And it ended with hitting heroics from the unlikeliest of sources, Mark Kotsay.
Kotsays 11th-inning triple drove in two to pace a 6-4 win, heroics that validated his managers faith on a day where a new name (idle free agent Carlos Delgado) was being rumored to replace him.
Before the game, I said we needed more production out of Kotsay and Andruw Jones at DH and they did it today, Ozzie Guillen said. You have to go out there and make things happen. For most of the year, Kotsay has been hitting the ball very well, but with no luck. This game is about results, and today he came up big. We needed that.
Kotsays eventual game-winning triple in the 11th was preceded by what appeared to be an insurance two-run homer in the ninth.
Today felt great because there were some results in the at-bats as opposed to having a good at bat but making outs, he said. It felt good to have a couple of balls fall in.
Kotsays heroics were made necessary when the Detroit Tigers tied the game on a bottom-of-the-ninth, two-out, three-run homer by Ryan Raburn off Jenks, who has now blown three games since the All-Star break, two of them on the heels of quality starts from Freddy Garcia.
As Jenks left the field in the ninth with four decisive expletives, the speculation on who would replace him as closer immediately began. Fortunately for Jenks, the White Sox pulling out the win in both the game and the four-game series takes some of the onus off him.
You know what, ask Bobby what he wants to do, I dont know, Guillen said, with more bewilderment than anger. I wont say weve lost confidence, but if youre the closer, you can give up one run. But now were talking about the last three of four times you blow the game, giving up three or four runs. With Bobby as our closer, our bullpen is better, but right now Im not sure what were going to do for the next couple of days.
Jenks was remorseful after the game, not so much about his home-run pitch to Raburn but the 1-2 curveball that broke in and down, drawing a piece of Ramon Santiago (hitting .262 from the left side) to put a second baserunner on and set up Raburns dramatics.
Natch, the closer wants to keep his job: Changing things, thats not up to me. Being strong is a key with anybody thats in this role. If youre not, youre not going to last very long.
While many have doubted Guillens aggressive offensive philosophy, which can be summarized as a constant, multifaceted, old-school assault by bunt, steal or hit. And with runners thrice caught stealing and the teams bunting on the fritz early, it looked like this could be the most egregious example of erroneous offensive strategy yet.
But true to form, in a season where everything wrong turned right again, a game the club was determined to run itself out of took a twist in the fifth inning, when Chicago rallied for two runs, providing what looked to be more than enough support for the Detroit Tiger killer, Garcia.
Guillen opted not to send shaky basestealer Alexei Ramirez to second with a steal attempt after he led off the inning with a walk, and was rewarded with runners on second and third with none out after Ramon Castros double down the left-field line. From there, Chicagos speed and aggressiveness paid dividends. Detroit starter Max Scherzer struck out Gordon Beckham, but not before the distraction of Ramirezs active legs at third drew a run-scoring wild pitch out of the sequence. Then, with Castro at third and Chisox third-base coach Jeff Cox rain-dancing possible squeeze signs down to Juan Pierre in the batters box, Scherzer was thrown enough to offer up an easy, run-scoring single up the middle to Savior Pierre.
Garcia was his extraordinary self, allowing just four hits over six innings before Don Kelly clocked a home run to lead off the seventh to break up the shutout. Garcia then punished Gerald Laird and Austin Jackson for Kellys sins, striking both out on 16-inch softball tosses that corkscrewed the clubbers. Matt Thornton then came on to extinguish pinch-hitter Raburn on a groundout. Though Raburns home run erased Garcias winning effort, hes 8-0 with a 2.64 ERA in his last nine road starts at Comerica Park.
It happens, Garcia said. Its bad luck, but things happen. Im going out and doing everything I can to help the team win. A no-decision is better than a loss, right?
Thornton made things exciting in the eighth, walking both Johnny Damon and Miguel Cabrera to lead off the inning. But the lefty fireballer dialed his fastball up to 97 to obliterate Brennan Boesch on a three-pitch strikeout before giving way to J.J. Putz. The setup ace induced a shotgun blast of a grounder to short, which felled Ramirez but not enough to prevent a 6-4-3 double play to extinguish the threat.
Way back in the first, Pierre stole his 500th career base, prompting a standing ovation from Beckham on the bench and Castro motioning for Pierre to pull the base out of the ground as a keepsake. But the speedster otherwise had some mixed results on the gametwice caught stealing and a failed sacrifice bunt on the negative end, an RBI single and a spectacular, one-handed, double-bobble catch on the run in left to rob Boesch in the sixth to his credit.
Fortunately, given the team effort and heroics from Kotsay and Sergio Santos, who pitched a strong two innings of relief after Jenks and earned his first major-league win, the team was in high spirits as it motored away from the Motor City.
Itll be a better mood, Santos said of the comeback win to end the series. The plane ride to Baltimore will be a lot of fun.
Even Jenks found a way to uptalk one of his toughest games of the season: Today was what it is. Ill be ready to go out there tomorrow. I know its clich, but the important thing is we did get that win today. In the big picture, that ninth inning means nothing as long as we won the game.
And while Guillen seemed genuinely confused over the role hed assign his ace closer for the time being, the skipper was proud of the way the team rallied around Jenks and never lost grip of the game.
The team played very well after the ninth, Guillen said. Those types of games can get you down right away. A lot of teams can sit back and feel sorry for themselves, but we keep fighting. The bullpen kept us in the game, and the guys continued to swing the bat.
Losing this game, it would have made for a long flight, and a lot of long faces. But the guys didnt give up.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.