The best way for a starting pitcher to weather the storm and limit the damage?
Be Mark Buehrle.
The White Sox ace was so effective throughout his career because he was a master of his style. He filled up the strike zone, he let hitters hit his pitches, he relied on his defense and he got a lot of outs very quickly.
On May 13, 2005, Buehrle faced the minimum through the first three innings and retired 10 of the first 11 hitters he faced. Then came some uncustomary control issues for the fill-up-the-zone left-hander. Given his pitching style and how successful he was at sticking to it, three-ball counts were a rarity. Well, in the fourth inning against the Orioles, he went to three-ball counts on three different hitters. They all reached base, on a single, a walk and a double, and the O’s scored three runs in the inning.
Buehrle putting his team in a three-run hole because he kept missing his mark? It didn’t happen often.
But even in that rarest of times, Buehrle was able to weather that storm because, well, he was Buehrle. He got back to work doing what made him great. And after the Orioles scored three in the fourth, he threw four consecutive 1-2-3 innings, retiring the final 13 hitters he faced — with not a three-ball count to be had.
That allowed his offense to do its damage in the come-from-behind 5-3 win, clawing back on a couple RBI hits before the critical stretch of base runners in the seventh led to a go-ahead single by Paul Konerko. It wouldn’t have been possible had Buehrle not locked things up after giving up that crooked number in the fourth.
Buehrle’s eight-run performance on May 13 was already his fourth outing to last at least that long in 2005. He finished the regular season with 10 such starts and added one more in the ALCS.
Not only does effective starting pitching allow the offense to lurk and do its damage late. It also saves the bullpen, making the relief corps that much more effective.
Starting pitching was the key for those 2005 White Sox, and Buehrle was the best of the bunch.
— The White Sox made a habit of capitalizing on other teams’ mistakes, and this game was no exception. After Scott Podsednik led off the bottom of the seventh with a ground-rule double, Tadahito Iguchi reached when his bouncer bounced right off Rafael Palmeiro’s chest. Baltimore reliever Todd Williams walked the next hitter, setting up Konerko for a bases-loaded, go-ahead, two-run single that ended up being the game’s defining play. Even with Konerko in a prolonged early season slump, the Orioles dug themselves into a hole by loading the bases with nobody out. And the White Sox took advantage.
— Willie Harris, not a heavy hitter by any stretch, seemed an odd choice to get the start at DH in this one. But he came through, picking up one of the eight RBIs he had in 2005 with a sixth-inning base hit that brought the White Sox within a run. Like Pablo Ozuna, Timo Perez, Chris Widger and even Pedro Lopez, he was one of the White Sox bench players that kept coming through when called upon, a hallmark of this championship squad.
— Hawk’s back! It’s been a little bit since we got to hear from the Hawkeroo on #SoxRewind, as he was away from the booth for a stretch after having corrective eye surgery. He was obviously still in recovery mode on May 13.
— Vinnie Duber (@VinnieDuber) April 8, 2020
— “And that is why you don’t want pitchers involved in pickle plays.” Podsednik picked up one of his three hits on this night via a bunt in the third inning, but he was caught leaning by Rodrigo Lopez and nearly got picked off. Pods got himself in a rundown and escaped the out when Lopez entered the pickle, dropping a throw from an infielder and allowing Podsednik to get back to first base safely. Harrelson pointed out maybe Lopez should’ve sat that one out and allowed his teammates to cycle through the play.
Since you been gone
While #SoxRewind is extensive, it doesn’t include all 162 regular-season contests, meaning we’re going to be skipping over some games. So what’d we miss since last time?
May 12, 2005: Jon Garland was awesome again, allowing just two runs over eight innings of work against the O’s. A.J. Pierzynski and Juan Uribe both homered off classic White Sox nemesis Bruce “Cy” Chen. White Sox win, 3-2, improve to 26-9.
#SoxRewind rolls on Thursday, when you can catch the May 17, 2005, game against the Rangers, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. Jon Garland turns in another terrific effort, and Pierzynski goes deep.