Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Posted 7:50 p.m. Updated 10:19 p.m.
By Chuck Garfien
What just happened? What is going on here?
Frankly, I have no idea.
One of the strangest days in White Sox memory began with the stunning news that Adam Dunn needed an emergency appendectomy after the game in Kansas City on Tuesday night. About six or seven percent of Americans will need their appendix taken out in their lifetime, so maybe thats not so strange. But the fact that Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday needed his removed last Friday after a game, also in the state of Missouri, things were starting to get weird.
The White Sox payroll in 2010 is 127 million, fifth highest in the majors. The Twins are at 112 million, the Tigers are 105 million. But when Wednesday began, who was in first place in the American League Central? The team with the absolute lowest payroll in all of baseball, the Kansas City Royals at 36 million. For perspective: Jake Peavy, Mark Buehrle, and Alex Rios will make 42 million combined.
And yet, there were the Royals, sitting pretty in the penthouse at 4-1. How did they do it?
I still have no idea.
The Royals first four wins, all in a row, came thanks to runs in their final at-bat. In over 110 years of baseball, how many teams have done this to start a season? Three. The 1901 Tigers, 1989 Royals, and these pesky 2011 Royals.
"These first five games have been the funnest five games I ever played in my life, said Royals DH Billy Butler.
Get used to it. Thats the character of this team, added first baseman Kila Ka'aihue.
And thats another thing. Weve entered this 2011 season realizing that we will have to learn how to pronounce Kila Ka'aihue. Hes not going away, and for the record, his name is pronounced Keela Kya-whooay. I have it written on a piece of paper at my desk so I wont forget. Dont even ask Bill Melton to say it, hes having enough trouble saying Shin-Soo Choo.
Fortunately for the White Sox, the Royals improbable streak mercifully ended on Wednesday. How?
Again, no idea.
The Sox trailed 5-0 after six innings. They have the offense to come back from that, even without Dunn. So no surprise there. But in the ninth inning, they were down 6-3 with two outs, nobody on, and facing Royals closer Joakim Soria - a White Sox killer, with 15 saves, 29 strikeouts and a 1.86 ERA in 27 career games.
The chances of the Sox tying the game? Right up there with Melton going on the air with a goatee. Okay, bad comparison.
But then it happened. Absolute random magic. Juan Pierre singled, Gordon Beckham walked, Rios singled, Paul Konerko singled, all capped off by a Carlos Quentin double that gave the Sox a 7-6 lead.
How this comeback occurred is so improbable and inconceivable, it should be studied by some of the greatest minds at Harvard and M.I.T.
Let's start with Quentin's double. He hit it on an 0-2 count. In his six-year career, Quentin is batting .167 on 0-2 counts with 54 strikeouts in 120 at-bats.
But that's only the start of it.
In Soria's career on 0-2 counts, hitters are batting just .058 against him with 71 strikeouts in 121 at-bats.
But wait. There's more.
The White Sox scored four runs off Soria in the 9th inning. Last year, Soria didnt give up more than three runs in a single MONTH.
"I never thought this was going to happen ever, Soria give up that many runs with two out," Guillen said.
"You've got to look at it as the beauty of baseball," Quentin said. "Sometimes that happens. Guys will lock in. Pitches are made and swings are put on pitches that are proper swings. We're well aware of what Soria has done in his career. He's a quality pitcher and today we were fortunate enough to come back."
The Sox then scored three runs in the 12th, with the game-winning hit coming from Brent Morel, thought to be the weakest hitter on the team.
The Sox won the game despite committing four errors, not counting the fly ball Lastings Milledge misplayed in the first inning, which was called a hit, and led to two first-inning runs off Buehrle. Mark Teahen also dropped a routine fly ball, right around the same spot.
Other oddities: Alexei Ramirez laid down a perfect bunt in the 12th, Chris Sale stopped a hot grounder from going into the outfield in the 12th by knocking it down with his rear end, which is about two inches in diameter.
"Crazy game. Very crazy game," Guillen said. "Both sides. But thank God we win."
All this to split a series with the Royals. What does it all mean?
All I can say is, thats baseball. Get ready for a lot more of it.
Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox sluggers Frank Thomas and Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.