Smile Politely

The AL Central Report #13

It’s been almost two months since I kept a running diary of the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox’ opening day tilt, so it’s about time to check back in with the clubs and see where they’re at. On Memorial Day, Paul Byrd squared off against Javier Vazquez, and Smile Politely was there (in front of the TV, with finger poised over the mute button as CSN‘s coverage began).

Top 1st – Paul Byrd is probably the chubbiest baseball player accused of using performance enhancers since Juan Rincon of the Minnesota Twins was suspended a couple of years ago. He looks like he could manage a Pizza Hut if things ever got tight. I don’t remember if “ducksnort” was Hawk’s creation or Wimpy’s, but Hawk doesn’t seem to use it any more. So I’ll help: Orlando Cabrera gets the game’s first hit with a ducksnort to center. Byrd has to be just what the doctor ordered for slumping hitters. A.J. Pierzynski was one for twenty before he lined a single. Carlos Quentin joins the party with a single himself, and we’re loaded with nobody out. Jermaine Dye watches a wide pitch get called strike three, and Jim Thome continues his season-long slump with a groundout to first. Mike Aubrey was playing back, though, so it drove in a run. Paul Konerko lets Byrd off the hook with minimal damage by jamming himself and flying out. Sox 1, Indians coming up

Bottom 1st – Vazquez is 5–3 on the year and 120–116 for his career. He always seems like he has better stuff than results, and I can’t put my finger on why that is. When he was with the Expos, you could blame run support, but that hasn’t been the case since he’s been back in the States. David Dellucci is DH’ing instead of Travis Hafner against a right-handed pitcher, which is about as strong of an indictment as I can think of for Hafner’s season. Dellucci quickly reasserts embattled manager Eric Wedge’s genius by yanking a belt-high fastball into the right field seats. It sure seems like Cleveland had a pretty formidable lineup as recently as last season, but tonight they’re batting rookie Ben Francisco in the three-hole, and cleanup batter Victor Martinez has yet to homer this season. Martinez stroked a one-hop laser off the right field wall for a two-out double, but Aubrey strands him with a fly ball that hung up long enough for Nick Swisher to track it down. Indians 1, Sox 1

Top 2nd – The Sox hit three balls hard, but only Joe Crede got a hit, and he was erased on Alexei Ramirez’ double play grounder. Ramirez could sure use a sandwich, from all appearances. Indians 1, Sox 1

Bottom 2nd – Franklin Gutierrez drew a one-out walk, but Casey Blake couldn’t reach a low and outside slider on the hit-and-run, and Gutierrez was thrown out at second. Asdrubal Cabrera got his weekly base hit afterward, but Grady Sizemore wasted that rarity by flying out. Indians 1, Sox 1

Top 3rd – Here’s a call that’s right in Hawk’s wheelhouse: Byrd misses a comebacker, and Jhonny Peralta got a little overly aggressive and tried to barehand it from his shortstop spot, missing badly. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that 30 years ago Nellie Fox or whoever would have gloved that ball. No damage was done, though, as A.J. serves up a double play ball. Quentin continues to hit rockets, singling before Dye pops out to end the inning. Indians 1, Sox 1

Bottom 3rd – One of my favorite plays in baseball: Dellucci led off and took a 70 mph curveball off his front elbow by obviously turning in to the pitch. Vazquez is livid, but the home plate ump chooses not to acknowledge the obvious and call Dellucci back. Francisco and Martinez single and Dellucci scores, but Francisco got hung up between home and third on Aubrey’s roller. I’ve watched enough bad hitting teams to anticipate what happens next: strikeout by Peralta and grounder by Gutierrez, and Vazquez gets out of the jam with only one run allowed. Indians 2, Sox 1

4th and 5th – This is the part of the game where the starters shake off their rocky starts and settle in for some rapid outs – except for one hanging curve from Vazquez that Peralta crushed for a solo homer. Indians 3, Sox 1

Top 6th – Thome looks like the good ol’ Thome for one at bat at least – smoking an outside fastball from Byrd into the seats in left-center. Indians 3, Sox 2

Bottom 6th – Casey Blake is from Iowa, which I feel you need to know. He’s about the same age as me, and we both have scraggly, unflattering beards. I have no point, but he blooped a leadoff single that didn’t lead to anything here.

Top 7th – Byrd has an old-fashioned windup where he brings his hands apart and behind him to start with. He likes to do a double windup once in a while where he’ll restart and bring his hands back a second time. Orlando Cabrera called time when he tried the double windup, and the umpire granted it; a good bit of counter-gamesmanship by Cabrera there. Two pitches later, he doubled to the gap in left center, and that’s it for Byrd. Rafael Perez relieved him, and A.J. blooped an RBI single to tie things up. Indians 3, Sox 3

7th – 11th inning – No scoring here at all, not even many threats, so I’ll spare you a few innings of snarkiness. Indians 3, Sox 3

Top 12th – Scott Elarton is a gutsy pitcher, having come back from multiple shoulder surgeries to forge a respectable career. That said, he wasn’t very successful today. The Sox erupted for three runs on four hits and a walk to take the lead. Sox 6, Indians 3

Bottom 12th – Bobby Jenks made it interesting, as Martinez and Jamey Carroll singled to bring the tying run to the plate with nobody out, but Peralta hit into a timely double play, and Gutierrez struck out to end it.

Final Score: Chicago White Sox 6, Cleveland Indians 3

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