Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Missed opportunity

With the White Sox up 2-1 on the Rays at the opening of the 8th inning last night, I was hoping the Sox were ready for an extra inning game. The Great and Powerful Oz had trotted Clayton Richard out to pitch the 8th, though he was already at the 106-pitch mark. Even if Richard didn't blow it, I figured, Bobby Jenks, who barely escaped a bases-loaded jam for the Sox' 4-3 win Monday, surely would blow it.

Richard turned out to be impressive in his final inning, giving up a single, but using only 10 pitches, which made me wonder for a moment if we might see him in the 9th, conventional pitcher management philosophies cast aside. Instead, we saw Jenks load the bases again, this time before he recorded a single out, on the way to a 3-2 Sox loss.

Black Jack sees it as another example of a team handing off a game to a closer without a thought, because that's the foolish way of modern baseball. There are times when I would agree with that perspective, and last night might be one of them. Richard did indeed look great, though it was already his longest outing ever. I thought the key move was leaving him in after the 8th inning single. I thought that was an inidcation Ozzie was determined to stay with him for th 9th as well.

Yet, two excellent right-handed hitters (Jason Bartlett and Evan Longoria) were due up in the 9th, which would have made sticking with Richard a very high risk situation. The problem was that the only other apparent answer was Jenks, who in July before last night had pitched 5 inning and given up 5 runs (4 ER). Ugly choices, and maybe a great spot to do something really unconventional, but the fact was that even though Jenks has not been greatly lately, he had not actually blown a save since June 11.

Ozzie may have felt his hands were tied in trying to save his bullpen for tonight, when the Sox will start minor-leaguer Carlos Torres in place of John Danks, who has a blister, but what the Sox end up with is a missed opportunity to go 2 games up in a four-game series, while also losing a game in the standings to 1st place Detroit.

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