How many times has Miguel Cabrera devastated the White Sox with a critical home run?
The non-scientific answer is enough where it’s not a surprise if he delivers a tying, go-ahead or clinching blast when presented with the opportunity. He was presented with one of those opportunities in the fifth inning of the White Sox 5-2 win Tuesday, coming to bat as the tying run with runners on the corners and two out.
Jeff Samardzija, though, stepped on the gas. He fired a 93 mile-per-hour cutter for strike one. Cabrera fouled off a fastball for strike two. And instead of wasting a slider or splitter out of the zone on 0-2 and risking letting Cabrera back into the count, Samardzija went at him with a 94 mile-per-hour fastball up and a little off the plate. The result was a foul tip into Geovany Soto’s mitt for strike three.
“There’s not much you need to say about (Cabrera),” Samardzija said. “He’s pretty impressive. You know every time he digs in (that) box you’ve got to be at your best. I just didn’t want to give him anything he could drive, especially with that three-run lead.
“I just wanted to stay away with him, and a guy like that if you put him on so be it. He’s not going to take any bags on you, but luckily we got out of it and especially with runners on its good to get that, start the next inning clean not facing Cabrera.”
Because it was in the top of the fifth, it wasn’t an incredibly high-leverage situation. But for the White Sox, a team that lost all five games it played last week and returned home to a cacophony of criticism, that strikeout — and the way Samardzija went about it — did stand as a key moment at least for one night.
Who knows how the White Sox would’ve responded had Cabrera mashed a three-run homer to tie the game at five. The Sox haven’t scored more than five runs in nearly two weeks, a stretch dating back to April 22 and covering nine games. And too, through 23 games, the White Sox have only topped the five-run mark three times.
The White Sox may or may not have taken momentum from Samardzija’s strikeout of Cabrera — that’s a difficult thing to determine, especially when the offense didn’t score again. More important, in terms of leverage, was Samardzija absorbing Ian Kinsler’s comebacker, pouncing off the mound and throwing the Tigers second baseman out with two on to end the top of the seventh.
“If (Brent) Seabrook can stay in the game taking a puck off the face I can stay in the game with a puck off the arm,” Samardzija said.
But in the fifth, they weren’t dealt the kind of haymaker thrown at them by Baltimore and Minnesota, the kind Cabrera — who went 0-4 Tuesday — has so frequently landed over the past eight seasons. And for that, it stood out on a chilly, cloudy evening in which the White Sox snapped that five-game losing streak.
“That was a big moment for us,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Anytime Cabrera's up there with guys on, it's never a good situation. You can tell there's some swing moments in there where he can back it up and get through it. That's one of them.”