Morrissey: Alex Rios puts on a great slide show for White Sox
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org September 17, 2012 10:30PM
Omar Infante, Alex Rios
Updated: October 19, 2012 6:19AM
There was some talk that the White Sox had done “the little things’’ to beat the Tigers in an extremely important game Monday. It couldn’t have been more wrong.
There are no little things when two teams are fighting for a division title in mid-September. There are only big things.
Everything gets magnified in a pennant race, and something as simple as a hard slide can look like a tidal wave.
That was Alex Rios slamming into Tigers second baseman Omar Infante in the fifth inning, and although there was no loss of life or property in it, there certainly was a loss of a ballgame in that one, simple, aggressive move.
Infante fell like a Douglas-fir, and his throw on what looked like a sure double play skidded past first baseman Prince Fielder. Two runs scored, giving the Sox a 5-4 lead, which would end up being the final score.
“I just told him that might be the play of the year so far,’’ Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham said.
“A huge play in the game,’’ catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “Great slide, clean slide. That’s why you go hard into second base.’’
Little things? There are no such things on the South Side of Chicago these days — not slides, not pitches and certainly not plans. Daniel Burnham would be happy to hear that. The Sox are three games up on Detroit with 16 games to play, and their plan is to win the American League Central. They took a big step toward doing that with a victory in a makeup game at the Cell that felt as significant as any game they’ve played this season.
You play like there’s no tomorrow because sometime soon there won’t be. Dirty uniforms can always be washed. Bandages are on standby.
“I’m trying to slide hard into the base,’’ Rios said. “If he stays in the baseline, I’m going to get him. I thought it was a clean slide. Every middle infielder knows if they stay in the baseline, something like that’s going to happen.’’
It wasn’t just Rios’ hustle that had the Tigers reeling. The Sox’ bullpen was magnificent in relief of Jose Quintana. Nate Jones, Donnie Veal, Brett Myers, Matt Thornton and Addison Reed held Detroit scoreless for the last five innings. Jones, who raised his record to 8-0, gave up the only hit in that span. Give manager Robin Ventura credit for his pitching moves. He gets plenty of the blame whenever things don’t go well for the bullpen.
“They’re having fun,’’ he said of his relievers. “They’re coming in, they’re excited to pitch and they’re getting the job done.’’
For a team that has fed off the long ball this season, the Sox went subtle, and that description is being overly kind. They left 10 men on base. They were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Every time you turned around, it felt as if they had the bases loaded. Kevin Youkilis struck out with the bases loaded in the third. So did Adam Dunn. Talk about going quietly.
When Beckham got hit by a pitch in the fourth, it was the only pitch that hit something for the Sox with the bags loaded.
The little things (read: big things) almost cost the Sox. In the eighth, Dunn hit a fly ball to left field that would have scored Beckham from third, but Dewayne Wise tried to go to third on the play. Plate umpire Joe West ruled that Wise was tagged out before Beckham scored. Instead of a 6-4 lead, the Sox were out of the inning with a double play. Bad baserunning by Wise.
But it didn’t matter, thanks to the bullpen. And here are the Sox, ready to put this thing away, though you won’t hear them say it. Just because they’re done with the Tigers for the season (provided there’s no playoff to get into the playoffs) doesn’t mean it will be easy.
“There will be no pushovers,’’ designated hitter Paul Konerko said. “We’ve got to earn it. I’ve been to the playoffs three times, and it’s tough the whole way through. You can’t expect anybody to give you anything.’’
You have to take what you want, exactly like Rios did on that slide. Infante felt the business end of Rios’ spikes.
“How many times do you see a guy slide or pull up and this or that?’’ Dunn said. “Alex went in hard and essentially won us a game.’’
Not essentially, Adam. Absolutely.