As I watched Wednesday's game between the White Sox and the Detroit Tigers, I started to feel like I was watching a game of Cub Scout baseball -- Every kid gets a chance to pitch no matter how bad he is.
When September rolls around, rosters in Major League Baseball expand from 25 players up to as many as 40 guys. It's nice to have a few extra pitchers around, but that doesn't mean you necessarily have to use them. In fact, you shouldn't use them in critical situations -- a memo that apparently didn't reach White Sox rookie skipper Robin Ventura.
South Side fans watched in horror Wednesday as Brian Omogrosso, Leyson Septimo and Dylan Axelrod -- three hurlers who have spent the majority of the season in Triple-A Charlotte -- imploded and turned a manageable 3-1 deficit into an 8-1 Tigers' lead over a period of two innings.
The Tigers have taken two of the first three games in this four-game series are now within one game of the Sox in the AL Central race with 20 games remaining. You can't help but wonder if the outcome Wednesday would have been different if Ventura had used major-league caliber relievers in the seventh and eighth innings -- when the Tigers combined to score five runs.
You knew Sox starter Gavin Floyd (9-10) wasn't likely to get deep into this game. He was making his first start since Aug. 26. Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said they were hoping to get five quality innings out of Floyd. They got four. The right-hander struck out seven and allowed but two hits over those first four innings. He ran out of gas in the fifth when Detroit scored three runs to go ahead 3-1.
Hector Santiago relieved and held the game close into the late innings. The lefty departed with the score still 3-1, a man at first base with two outs in the top of the seventh inning and Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera at the plate. It made sense to bring in a righty to face Cabrera, but why Omogrosso? Is Nate Jones dead? Brett Myers anyone? Jesse Crain worked two innings Tuesday night, but would he be able to face one hitter?
Naturally, Cabrera singled to bring up Prince Fielder. Time to bring in a left-hander.
As we noted in Monday's blog (two entries below), left-handed batters are hitless against Donnie Veal since his recall from Charlotte. He has already retired Fielder twice in key situations in this series. So, naturally, Ventura summoned Septimo -- who craps his jammies 100 percent of the time in high-leverage spots. Fielder went yard. 6-1 Tigers.
Ventura, apparently waving the white flag, brought Axelrod in to pitch the eighth inning. The mediocre-at-best right-hander surrendered two more runs to make it 8-1. Little did we know those two tallies would be the difference in the game.
The Sox roughed up Villarreal and Benoit in the eighth inning for four runs. Hysterically, Kevin Youkilis hit a 3-run homer off Benoit, a pitcher he was foolishly asked to sacrifice bunt against in the eighth inning of Tuesday's game (see blog entry below). Too bad Ventura didn't let Youk swing away last night, huh?
Veal and Myers combined to work the ninth for the Sox. Being major-league relievers, they managed to get the game to the bottom of the ninth with the score at 8-5.
The Sox scored one run off Valverde and had the tying run at the plate when Orlando Hudson struck out looking to end the game.
Oh, what could have been.
One game left in the series, and the Sox need this one to maintain their division lead. It will be a matchup of aces. Chris Sale (16-6, 2.88 ERA) goes for Chicago. Justin Verlander (13-8, 2.91 ERA) is pitching for Detroit.