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Thriller over the Tribe

June 22, vs. Cleveland

Magglio Watch
Days left on the DL:
Number of special newspaper articles covering it:

"Magglio laughs at the Us vs. Them commercial when it is played during the game, the truthfully, doesn't quite fully understand the "Fans who say Woo" reference."

Short Take: Loaiza, Sox blow early 8-run lead over Cleveland only to walk off with a win in extra innings.

When Carlos Lee drove his 10th inning fly out to the deepest part of U.S. Cellular Field, most of the fans that had just risen in excitement nervously returned to their seat, hoping the hometown Sox had not just blown their last good chance to defeat the surging Indians. Those fans, though, breathed a collective sigh of relief (that came out more as an explosion of exuberance) when Jose Valentin one-upped Lee by driving a Jose Jimenez offering over the right field wall for a walk-off home run to give the Sox a desperately needed 11-9 win.

Esteban Loaiza went to the hill for the South Siders and looked sharp, while his Cleveland counterpart, Scott Elarton was anything but. After a quick 1-2-3 first, Loaiza gave way to the offense that immediately spotted him a 3-0 lead, thanks to wild Indian pitching. Back-to-back walks to Willie Harris and Juan Uribe put the Sox in an early, excellent scoring opportunity and they capitalized when Frank Thomas notched the lone hit of the inning, an RBI single to right. Carlos Lee grounded into what would have at least been a force at second, if not a double play, but Ronnie Belliard dropped the ball at second, loading the bases for Valentin, who hit a sac fly to score Uribe. Walks to Aaron Rowand and Joe Crede not only brought home the third run of the inning, but they also chased Elarton from the game, as Eric Wedge brought in Kazuhito Tadano, who induced a pop out by Miguel Olivo to end the threat.

The Sox, though, weren’t done with their early surge, and in the third, finally got to Tadano, after Paul Konerko grounded into a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded in the 2nd. With Joe Crede at third and Miguel Olivo at first and two down, Juan Uribe singled to right to score Crede. Frank Thomas then hooked one just inside the left field foul pole for his 18th homer of the year, keeping him at pace with Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez for the American League lead. Back-to-back doubles by Lee and Valentin added another run and the Sox looked to be sitting pretty up 8-0 after three innings.

To make matters even sweeter, Esteban Loaiza was still working on a perfect game to that point after going 9 up, 9 down the first trip through the Indian lineup. After getting two painless outs to start the inning, Travis Hafner looped an innocent-looking fly out to left field, but in vintage El Caballo form, Carlos made the play harder than hit had to be, taking a knee and then lunging at the quickly falling ball, allowing it to bounce off his mitt. Most of the crowd, silently aware of the fact that Esteban was a third of the game through perfection harassed Lee, who got nailed with the error. Still, Loaiza looked unphased and pitched through the error, getting Victor Martinez, the next batter to fly out to center.

And that’s when it all fell apart. Perhaps the error rattled Esteban. Perhaps he was just fatigued (for going 9-up, 9-down, Loaiza had pitched a lot of pitches). Or perhaps it was just an example of hitting ‘em where they ain’t. The fifth inning started innocently enough with a single by Jody Gerut, breaking up Esteban’s attempt at the first Sox no-no since Wilson Alvarez’s gem in 1991. A second single by Casey Blake and then a home run by Ronnie Belliard suddenly turned a game of cruise control into a bumpy ride. Ben Broussard singled and then made second when Willie Harris could not field the ball cleanly in center. Finally an out was made, as Coco Crisp went down swinging, but a walk to Matt Lawton and then a double by Omar Vizquel cut the Sox lead to 8-4. Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez then singled back to back for the 5th and 6th runs of the inning before Ozzie had seen enough. Undoubtedly trying to leave Esteban in to work through the fifth so he’d at least be eligible for his 4th win in a row, he finally pulled Loaiza in favor of Neal Cotts walked Gerut to load the bases before getting Casey Blake to ground into a sensational 6-4-3 double play.

Cotts, however, was not able to stop the bleeding for long, as Matt Lawton took him deep the very next inning as the Sox officially wasted an early 8-run advantage. In the 8th, things really took a turn for the bleak, as Damaso Marte, working his second inning of relief already, allowed a shallow home run to Coco Crisp that never looked like it would make it out of the Cell until the very last second’s of flight. 9-8 Cleveland.

The Sox wasted no time, however, in getting the run back as Carlos Lee led off the 8th with a double before Jose Valetin faced Chris Bartosh, a lefty from the pen specifically used against Manos. Jose beat the odds, though, doubling just over the head of first baseman Ben Broussard to score Caballo and knot the tally at 9. Paul Konerko moved Valentin to third with a ground out, but neither Aaron Rowand nor Joe Crede was able to move the potential winning run across.

Still, Ozzie moved to his closer, Shingo Takatsu to do what no one had done all night; stop the Indians from scoring. His 1-2-3 work of Vizquel, Hafner, and Martinez had historical significance, as they were the 25th, 26th, and 27th consecutive men Takatsu had retired, giving him the 62nd hidden perfect game in MLB history. He went on to get two more consecutive outs in the 10th before allowing a single to Ronnie Belliard.

Jimenez was nothing special, as he plunked Frank Thomas with a 1-2 pitch before serving up a pair of deep fly balls to Lee and Valentin. The only real difference between the drives was that Carlos Lee hit his towards the 400-foot part of the field, while Valentin tested his luck with 330-foot fence.

While the win is nice and appreciated, the perplexing outing by Loaiza is a bit concerning, but as long as the Sox continue to get clutch hits and score runs, winning shouldn’t be a real problem with this team. The Twins were blasted by the Red Sox, so the Sox not only put another game between them an the pesky Tribe, but claw to within one game of the lead in the A.L. Central.

Cliff Lee and Mark Buehrle tangle tomorrow night at the Cell in Game 3 of the 4-game set. The pair of lefties come in with a loss apiece and riding a pretty solid wave of starts. Game time is 7:05 PM Central time and the game will be televised over Fox Sports Net Plus.

Ozzieball Update:
Some pretty terrible excuses for bunts in this game, a handful of attempts were poppep up to the backstop. Maybe it's time for Bunting 102, a referesher course, Ozzie.

submitted by doublem23.

Sox Clubhouse "Pick to Click" Winner

Jose Valentin

Tied the game in the 8th with a clutch double off a lefty specialist and then won it with a 2-run walk-off in the 10th.

Play WSI's Pick to Click Contest!


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