1) Knowingly reading too much into it
To draw any broad conclusions from one game is folly, of course, but last night's game was one of those where you think to yourself that it would be horrific to lose and character-building (character-revealing?) to win. In a game in which the Tribe fell behind three separate times, including a seemingly devastating 3-run bomb by Jermaine Dye in the 7th, the Indians continued to battle, get on base, and hit for extra bases as they finally closed the Sox out.
I'd like to think that Belliard's nine-pitch home run (including six foul-offs) could be a watershed moment for the Tribe ... but that's probably overstating it a bit. Still, I hate the White Sox, so it's all good.
2) Dr. Jekyll, meet Mr. Hyde
In wondering whether we'd see Good Paul or Bad Paul on the mound last night, the answer was, "Both."
In innings 1-3, Paul Byrd threw 32 strikes and 25 balls (including 23 of each up through Dye's first home run) for a crappy 56% percentage. Not surprisingly, he also gave up five runs (on three hits!) and looked, shall we say, "stinky."
In innings 4-6, Paul Byrd threw 27 strikes and 12 balls, a 69.2% clip that is just barely below the Good Paul threshold: not surprisingly, he gave up zero runs in three perfect innings. (Well, the "perfect" part was a little surprising.)
I have to give Byrd credit for "settling down" or "cowboying up" or "getting a head transplant," but the fact is, the man walked four guys in three innings and three of them scored. In his previous 20+ innings, he had walked zero. Sometimes analysis is less analytical than being a keen observer of the obvious.
3) A sign of trouble
When Bad Paul is your MOST accurate pitcher, it seems safe to say that something is ... "suboptimal." Here, "suboptimal" is a euphemism for "execrable." Scott Sauerbeck, in his first appearance since trying to prove that a Sauerbeck in a bush is worth none on the mound, started off well, inducing Ross Gload into ... well, Ross Gloading, and striking out Scott Podsednik, who could simply not believe that Scott Sauerbeck was throwing a strike. Or he was stoned. Did Scott Podsednik bring a bat to the game? The man walked three times and struck out twice. Anyway, Sauerbeck himself couldn't believe it, so he stopped, walking Iguchi after a battle and Thome after an abject surrender reminiscent of the French. Ferd Cabrera got off to a "slow start," throwing 2 strikes in his first six pitches, and one of the strikes was arguably ... "suboptimal." Even the normally-frugal Bob Wickman needed 21 pitches to get through the ninth, fewer than half of which were strikes.
By the way, between Byrd and Sauerbeck, five walked batters scored. In fact, only one of the Sox' eight runs were the result of driving home a baserunner who had reached on a hit. They scored eight runs on FIVE HITS, fer crine out loud. Throw some bloody strikes!
4) Chicks dig the longish ball
The Indians banged out six extra-base hits including three things I did not think remotely likely:
a) Jason Michaels hit a homer to DEAD center.
b) Ben Broussard hit a home run off a lefty (Neal Cotts, no less)
c) Aaron Boone hit a triple
With Belliard's aforementioned homer, Casey Blake hit a pair of doubles off an equally-inaccurate Jose Contreras. On the flip side, four of the White Sox' five hits were for extra bases, so it was not exactly Singles Night at the Jake.
5) They call it "foreshadowing"
Belliard's homer of Brandon McCarthy was an impressive battle, but it wasn't altogether unexpected, given that he fouled off four pitches in the second before singling and once more in the sixth before singling again. Not a bad night for The Tongue, who ended up 3-for-5 with 4 RBI.
6) Everybody scores!
Well, except Jhonny Peralta. Hard to score when you go hitless in five AB and strike out three times. Everyone else scored, though.
I know Peralta's approach has been praised (by both me and Actual Important People), but isn't it time to at least consider moving the .243 hitter out of the 3 hole? I understand the value of consistency and having defined roles and keeping up confidence and sending a message and streakiness and trading krone for zloties, but the next-worst hitter in the lineup is nine-hole Aaron Boone, at .278. I'm not advocating moving Boone up, but I AM pointing out that if you moved the WORST hitter up, you'd gain 35 points of batting average. OBP is all well and good, but doesn't your 3 hitter have to actually ... well, hit?
7) The magic of lineup construction
White Sox 1-4 hitters: 4-for-13 with 6 walks, 2 doubles, two homers, 8 runs scored (2 each), 8 RBI, and 2 SB. That's a brisk .308/.500/.923 line.
White Sox 5-9 hitters: 1-for-18 with 2 walks and nothing else remotely valuable, including a CS. That's a brisk .056/.100/.056 line. Or, as we statheads term it, "shitty."
Not that I'm complaining.
8) Blue Moon Special
Victor Martinez threw out a basestealer!
9) Box Score Follies
The odds of Scott Podsednik and Travis Hafner posting identical box score lines is pretty damned low, but consider:
2 AB, 2 R, 0 H, 0 RBI, 3 BB, 2 K, 0 LOB
That's a pretty weird line for anyone, and they each posted it.
10) Things it's nice to find out
Matt Thornton is human after all, giving up Michaels' bomb.
Ferd Cabrera can shake off a homer, although his pitching motion mimics that of Mitch Williams. (For the young'uns out there, that's not good.)
Grady Sizemore can steal eight straight.
Jeff Nelson is still alive.