Offense explodes against a familiar adversary, while the pitching bends...but doesn't break.
A leadoff home run does not a victory make, but it never hurts. Denard Span drop-kicked Mark Buehrle, taking him deep to kick off the scoring for the Twins in the bottom of the first inning. It just kept on coming. Everything the White Sox starter threw seemed to be hit hard, if not over the fence, and that makes it one helluva lot easier to win a ballgame.
Brendan Harris followed on the heels of Span with his first extra-base hit of the night, doubling to left. He'd double again in the second inning, pushing Span across to score again. To top off his XBH parade, Harris hit a shot deep to left field in the fourth inning. It scored Span for the third time, was Harris' fifth homer of the season, and was the knock-out blow for Buehrle the All-Star.
Roughed up for eight runs over just three-and-a-third makes for an ugly line, but even after that one of Minnesota's longest arch enemies departed with a 3.66 ERA. Sure, it seems to be a dying stat in the blogosphere, but it does go to show how strong Buehrle has been this year.
Just when it looked like the Sox were about to make a run of their own, returning fire and closing the gap to 8-5, 22-year old Gordon Beckham showed his age. Nerves, lack of experience, whatever you want to call it, the guy embarassed himself at the hot corner on Sunday afternoon. To be fair, the rookie has been in the league less than two months and with the line he has still would have been better than most of Minnesota's third basemen over the last five years. And I'm not about to pretend that there won't come a moment in time when I'll curse his name as he takes one of our boys deep; the man has a .322/.375/.519 minor league line. Still, today he sucked. Let's take advantage of that and point out how rough his day really was.
- In the bottom of the sixth, currently trailing the Twins 8-4, Beckham makes his first official boot of the night, allowing Harris to reach base for the 27th time in the game. Span, who was on first, advances to second.
- In the bottom of the seventh, now trailing 8-5 with Justin Morneau on second (double) and Michael Cuddyer on first (hit in the elbow, or at least a very fine acting job), Beckham takes a routine grounder from Joe Crede and manages to screw it up. Did he have a chance at Morneau at third? Maybe, but I don't think so and really, he didn't even look like he thought about it. He pumped once, then threw to first base, bouncing the ball in the dirt and allowing Crede to beat it out by a step and a half. Instead of second and third with one out (or first and second, or first and third, however you want to play it), the bases were juiced with no outs recorded.
- Now trailing 11-5, still in the bottom of the seventh, Beckham offends again. With two out, Carlos Gomez on third and Nick Punto on second, Harris kicks Beckham yet another routine ground ball. If touching the ball with your glove counts as an out, Beckham would have been fine. But it doesn't, you actually have to A) field the ball and then B) tag someone, get the force out or throw to the right base. Beckham did none, and Gomez scored. Not a good inning.
Scott Baker looked good for the first five-and-two-thirds. Then a walk, a single, and naturally Jim Thome made him pay for it with a three-run blast. Baker's quality start disappeared, but did cut off the damage at that point. Four runs through six.
Except he came out for the seventh. With a bullpen that had been used heavily over the last few days, it's really no wonder that Gardy wanted to stretch his starter as long as possible. A fly-out and a pair of singles into the seventh and Baker was finally pulled, but was charged with one additional run eventually off of a Scott Podsednik sac fly.
What made this game fun was that the middle of the order (you know who they are) weren't the guys bringing home the bacon. The aforementioned Span and Harris were major contributors, but Gomez played a big role as well. He drove in a career-high five RBI, dropping a three-run homer in the second to break things open off Buerhle, a double (also off of Buehrle) and a two-run single in the seventh that played a big role in stemming the rising tide of the Chicago offense.
This was a great way to finish the first half of the year. A series victory keeps us hot on the heels of the second place White Sox, leaves us with more wins than losses and, hopefully, the guys can take a break on a positive note.
Stars of the Game
Honorary Mention: Gordon Beckham
#3: Denard Span (2-for-3, 2 BB, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, 2 SB, E, .142 WPA)
#2: Brendan Harris (3-for-5, 2 2B, HR, R, 3 RBI, .127 WPA)
#1: Carlos Gomez (3-for-4, 2B, HR, 3 R, 5 RBI, .187 WPA)