Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Desperately Crucial Game 4

Momentum, Earl Weaver said, is only as good as tomorrow's starting pitcher. Today, the Sox send Freddy Garcia to the mound against the Angels' Ervin Santana. Santana, as noted before, brushed aside the Sox in a 4-0 shutout in just his second career start. The Sox scratched out only 5 hits against Santana; 2 by Iguchi, 2 by Konerko, and 1 by the sabremetric antichrist, Timo Perez. Jermain Dye reached by walk. AJ Pierzynski was nice enough to erase one of Konerko's hits with a double play. I posted about the game, mostly because it was the end of Jon Garland's 8-game winning streak to start the season. I blamed Joe Crede's shoddy defense. How kind of me.

Ervin Santana is the kind of pitcher that has given the White Sox fits in my recorded memory. If he's throwing strikes, his fastball will give the Sox heaps of trouble - like it did in the shutout. It is critical that the Sox be patient with Santana, much more so than the Yankees were in Game 5 of the ALDS, where they squandered the fact that Santana walked the first two hitters. Santana succeeded in that game by throwing first pitch strikes. Watch how he starts batters - it may be the key to tonight's game.

On the other hand, Freddy Garcia has a long track record against the Angels, given his long term as a starter for Seattle. Familiarity often breeds success when it comes to batters vs. hitters, I fear, and the Angels will know what to expect from Freddy, who was lackluster in his last outing. Here are some of the Angels who have hit him well:

Bengie Molina.286 (8-28) 2 HR
Jose Molina.438 (7-15)
Kennedy.294 (15-51)

Anderson, DaVanon, Erstad and Bengie Molina have all taken Garcia deep.

The folks who set the betting lines rate the Angels as a +160 favorite in this game, implicitly giving the Angels a 63% chance to win the game. That strikes me as a bit high, I'd have set something like a +130 line, but I think the Angels are a clear favorite to win this game.

I think the key will be, again, for the Sox to score early to remove some of the jitters and to put the pressure on Santana. We'll likely see the Sox bullpen tonight, and probably what I'd like to see most is for the Sox to score late inning runs. Last night's 8th inning fizzle was a real downer, and the Sox need some killer instinct in putting the game away.

This game means quite a bit in the series. If the Sox lose this one, they've lost the momentum going into Game 5, where they have to face Paul Byrd, who stymied them in Game 1. And despite Contreras' solid performance in Game 1, giving the Angels a second chance to see him in the series may be problematic - he's not a guy who relies on deception like Byrd, but on hitters not being able to recognize, time, and handle his pitches. Winning this game puts the Sox closer to the World Series than they've ever been since 1959, and gives them the ability to close out the series with either Contreras or Buehrle. I'm nervous as all hell.

Comments-[ comments.]
Interesting, but if Contreras is a guy who relies on "hitters not being able to recognize, time, and handle his pitches," then he is, by definition, working with deception.

I'm nitpicking, and I think you're right--Jose Contreras is not a power pitcher, and if you're familiar with him and play him right he can't beat you. Lay off the split finger in the dirt, wait for the pitch he hangs, and get on base. That's how you beat Contreras. Still, he's better than Byrd.
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