Either we played a really fast game, or that 5-hour game yesterday really threw me off. Probably both. Great pitching by Danks, paired with an early homer by Jim Thome and an RBI single (?) brought the Sox a 5-1 win over the Tigers, keeping their 1 game lead over the Twins.
John Danks had himself a one-run game. He shut out the Tigers all the way into the 6th. He collected 6 K’s and only gave up one walk to add to the 4 hits given out of the 67 strikes he threw. He leads our starters as of today with a great 3.21 ERA. And you know what? Polanco, who had a ridiculous amount of hits against us yesterday and Ordonez, who has a ridiculous batting average (as in, first in the league) only got one hit off Danks today. Last year, Danks had faltered in the second half of the season, but he doesn’t seem to be slipping into dangerous territory. Today must have left Don Cooper pleased, and I hope that his performance and that of our bullpen today (and especially yesterday) are all good signs of calm returning after the storm that seemed to have wrecked out bullpen.
Nothing too note-worthy aside from pitching. Verlander, the starting pitcher for the Tigers went all the way into the eighth, holding his own against Danks, and throwing almost 130 consistent pitches. Quite a few of our guys went hitless against him and his successor, (including Swish who was in for Griffey, Hall, and Uribe) but it is notable that Konerko had a base hit today to bring his career total to 1,500, Thome hit his 22nd home run of the season to bring the score to 3-0 in the first inning with 2 outs, and Ramirez gave Jenks a 4-run cushion in the bottom of the eighth by scoring a pair with the bases loaded and 2 outs before getting caught in a run-down. Juan Uribe, 3B extraordinaire (At least until the real deal returns, fingers crossed) has been struggling quite a bit at plate. He is 0 for 11 in his last 3 games, and 3 for 24 in the last 10. He hasn’t been a great batter since, well, his first year with the Sox. However, I had really gotten my hopes up, thinking that he had made a turn-around these past few weeks. The great debate still holding strong is whether the amount of runs/hits saved and scored by Uribe would mean more for the Sox than the amount of runs/hits allowed and scored by Fields. Personally, I hope Uribe and Greg Walker find a way to stay in the game so that our fielding won’t suffer.
Joey Cora and Don Cooper deserve themselves a pat on the back for holding down the fort while Ozzie’s away. There are a few things they did that I would like to compliment them on. This goes for today and yesterday. First of all: excellent decision-making on who to bring out to pitch. They knew when it was time to take out a pitcher and exactly who the new man on the mound should be. While I thought Danks would’ve been okay to finish out the seventh, Carrasco is almost never a bad choice. As for yesterday, the ‘pen was excellent inning after inning, and Cora and Coop had a great feel for who could meet their expectations for each inning. Until the 14th, that is, but… bygones. As for stability in the field, I imagine that any changes or lack thereof in the field were choices made by Cora. His approach wasn't as good with handling Griffey, but you can't blame the guy- all Ozzie's been doing for the previous three games was working the rotation at bat and on the field around Griffey. (Give me another week, until I can safely form an opinion on him, without rushing, and then I'll address him and his fine collection of sombreros- er, just the one so far, silver, on August 5th.) With Cora, he made only one change: brought in Anderson two consecutive nights to pinch run for Konerko, and only when it seemed necessary- not ‘nice’- to have an extra offensive push. I don't blame him too much, because I think too many options lead to chaos (honestly, tell me those last two games didn't make you want to start taking notes just to figure out if you were still even watching a Sox game), and taking a stance on keeping the field and lineup consistent lets your guys know, “You don’t have someone to take over for you. It is your responsibility to win it.” There’s also the fact that he has an authoritative presence while remaining diplomatic. So… it makes you wonder? Are Cora and Cooper the brains behind the mouth known as Ozzie? Or is the team efficient enough that it can almost manage itself? We won’t have to find out, because Ozzie is set to return tomorrow.