Tuesday night's White Sox-Red Sox game was generally boring, a three-and-a-half hour frigid slog through walks, pitching changes and feeble offensive rallies. And yet the White Sox found a way to make things interesting, defeating the defending World Series champs, 2-1, in walk-off fashion in front of 13,402 fans at U.S. Cellular Field.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Alexei Ramirez served a 2-2 changeup from Red Sox reliever Burke Badenhop into left for a base hit, extending his season-long hitting streak to 14 games. Two batters later, Adam Eaton drew a four-pitch walk off lefty Chris Capuano.
That set up Marcus Semien to play the hero, though for the second straight game it was Ramirez who played that part. Semien hit a grounder fielded by shortstop Xander Bogaerts behind second base, whose low throw to first wasn't cleanly scooped by Boston's Mike Carp. Ramirez, again with his arms raised in the air, hustled home to net the White Sox the win.
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It was a fitting end to a game bereft of offense, but also was fitting for a White Sox team playing with an awful lot of energy through the season's first two weeks.
"Just to have energy and to be happy out there in the dugout, it definitely helps a lot," Ramirez said through a translator. "… It’s pretty good, we’re getting some results."
Indeed the White Sox are getting results, improving to 8-6 after Tuesday's win. That puts them tied with Detroit atop the American League Central, though mid-April is far too early for that to have any real significance.
But this is what the White Sox wanted for 2014, to have a team with the kind of energy that can create victories like the walk-off ones seen Sunday and Tuesday. Still, "energy" is a rather vague term, one that can't be measured and one that doesn't matter if it's not coming from the right guys.
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"I’ve seen a lot of energy players that couldn’t play. These guys can play," manager Robin Ventura said. "It has to be a combination and a true belief that they can get the job done and that’s what’s going on right now."
That energy can be developed in a few areas, though, as was the case Tuesday. For one, starter Erik Johnson had a career-high nine strikeouts and allowed just one run on three hits and two walks in 6 2/3 innings. The bullpen -- which has been a weak link early on -- followed with Scott Downs, Jake Petricka, Donnie Veal and Daniel Webb combining for 2 1/3 shutout innings.
At the plate, White Sox hitters continued to make opposing pitchers work, going deep into counts and getting into bullpens early. Ex-White Sox starter Jake Peavy threw 40 pitches in the second inning, and while he only gave up one run (a solo homer to Adam Dunn) it greatly contributed to him only throwing six innings.
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Dunn said the consistent quality of those at-bats helps when it comes to late-game situations. Ramirez's ninth-inning single came on the fifth pitch of his at-bat, while Semien's game-ender came on a 3-2 count.
"For the most part all year we’ve had really good at-bats," Dunn said. "… When you’re in people’s bullpens it seems like each and every game so far this year, it takes a toll on them."
And then there's that burgeoning confidence in the White Sox dugout, a never-give-up attitude that's a complete 180 from a team that was so often defeated in 2013.
"They truly believe every time we are in a position to come back and win a game, even if we are down, they feel like they can find a way to win," Ventura said. "Tonight is no different. You don’t get judged on how pretty it looks. It’s a win."