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White Sox 12, Tigers 11: Slobberknocker on the South Side

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This was one of the wilder, uglier games in recent memory.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Chicago White Sox Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

This was just a mess of a game between two flawed teams. It played out like a veritable face-punching contest in some country tough man tournament. There was little technique or precision, and instead much staggering, flailing, and lurching. The air was thick with the stench of sweat, beer; bad life choices, bad player development choices, all sonically dressed with a hearty mix of cheering and jeering amidst the meaty smack of fists against domes.

Daniel Norris was decent, the offense got all the way loose, which was fun, but ugly defense and relief work all around made for a tough watch that turned toward parody as the game unfolded and the Tigers’ bullpen melted down to lose in walkoff fashion by a score of 12-11.

The game got off to an auspicious start. As discussed in our game preview, Sox starter Carlos Rodon had taken a beating from both Miguel Cabrera and Nicholas Castellanos over his career. The pair were happy to see Mr. Rodon again, and launched back-to-back solo shots in the first inning to stake Daniel Norris to an early lead.

The Tigers lefty was a bit snakebitten in the first inning. A weak Leury Garcia chopper down the third base line was misplayed by Jeimer Candelario, who thought the ball was foul. It wasn’t, and while it would’ve taken a miraculous play to get the speedy Garcia, it wasn’t a great look. A passed ball on Grayson Greiner sent Garcia to second, and Jose Abreu singled to right to cash him in. Norris got James McCann on a routine flyout and then punched out Yoan Moncada to end the inning.

The Tigers got that run right back in the second. A two-out single from Candelario, followed by a walk to Castellanos set the table for Cabrera, and the big man bounced a routine grounder back through the middle of the infield to make it 3-1, while Castellanos did a nice job advancing to third. After a mound visit, Rodon recovered to strike out Dustin Peterson, but it took him nine more pitches to get there, taking his pitch count to 55 with just two frames in the books.

Norris had his own troubles with fastball command in the bottom half of the frame, necessitating a trip to the mound by Rick Anderson. After loading the bases on a single and two walks with one out, Norris got a double play ball off the bat of Leury Garcia to escape the jam unscathed.

Grayson Greiner has been quite hot at the dish in the past two weeks. He delivered the curly fries in the third inning, drilling a Rodon breaking ball just over the outstretched glove of Eloy Jimenez at the left field fence for a two-run shot to make it 5-1 Tigers.

Rodon was escaping nothing. A walk to Candelario and a single by Castellanos set the table for Miguel Cabrera with no outs in the bottom of the fourth. Cabrera drilled a fly ball off the right field wall that was a foot short of being a home run, and even closer to being a foul ball. Candelario scored, and Rodon’s day was over. Dustin Peterson greeted reliever Carson Fulmer with a single, scoring Castellanos, and then Josh Harrison softly grounded out, allowing Cabrera to cruise home as well.

Norris got into a little trouble in the fourth. After a leadoff solo shot by Yonder Alonso, he gave up a single to Jose Abreu in the fourth with one out, got James McCann on a routine flyball, surrendered a soft double to Yoan Moncada, and then punched out Adam Engel on a fastball right at the top of the zone to escape yet another jam.

JaCoby Jones got the run right back, leading off the fifth with a solo shot, his first of the year. Unfortunately the Tigers then slopped it up in the bottom half of the frame.

Tim Anderson singled to lead off the inning. Jeimer Candelario erased him, snaring a hard grounder off the bat of Jose Abreu and taking the out at second. The next batter, McCann, then dumped a pop up into shallow right field. Castellanos and Josh Harrison were both calling for it, Castellanos hit the brakes as Harrison ran blindly at him, but the second baseman didn’t have it. Instead he overran it and didn’t even get glove on the ball. Norris moved the runners to second and third with a wild fastball to the backstop, and Moncada singled to left to score them both, with a poor throw from Dustin Peterson in left for seasoning, and cut the Tigers’ lead to 9-4.

The final line for Norris in five innings of work was four earned runs, 10 hits, two walks and five strikeouts. He threw 56 of 87 pitches for strikes. The slider was nasty, but the fastball command was still very spotty. His defense picked him up with two key double plays, but two dropped balls, a bad passed ball on Greiner, and a wild pitch all came back to bite him. I wouldn’t call it progress, but compared to most of the pitching in this game, he was downright effective.

The Tigers came right back with another run in the sixth courtesy of a leadoff double by Dustin Peterson. John Hicks singled him to third with one out, and a Josh Harrison flyout made it 10-4.

However, there was still the issue of the Tigers’ bullpen to deal with. Jose Rondon greeted reliever Zac Reininger with a solo shot to right field in the bottom half of the inning to make it 10-5. Leury Garcia and Tim Anderson spanked back-to-back doubles, and Jose Abreu then brought Anderson home with a two-run shot to center field. Just like that, it was 10-8, and after allowing a single to McCann, Reininger was mercifully removed, allowing four runs and getting just one out in the inning. In other words, he looked as bad as you remember.

Drew VerHagen came on in relief and wasn’t good either, but escaped the inning with only one more run in by inducing a double play in which first baseman John Hicks wasn’t even touching the bag. White Sox manager Rick Renteria didn’t challenge because White Sox. 10-9 Tigers.

Did I mention how ugly this game was? It was at this point that your faithful recapper felt the desperate need for an adult beverage or 10. Please no one ever use the phrase, “the Tigers Way” around me ever again, thanks. Mr. Fenech summed it up well.

Could this game get any dumber, you ask? YES, YES IT COULD.

Garrett Reed came on in the bottom of the seventh to hold a tenuous one-run lead. After getting the first out, Reed allowed a pair of singles bringing Jose Abreu to the plate. Abreu then did this, to make it 12-11 White Sox and complete the total implosion of the Tigers’ bullpen, but only for a moment.

BUT WAIT! Tim Anderson was tagging at first in case the ball didn’t clear the wall, and as he crossed first base, Abreu passed Anderson. John Hicks spotted the error, called for replay, and Abreu was ruled out. The home run reduced to a two-run single, out at second base, in the official scoring. Yes, this actually happened, and it would loom large in the top of the eighth, when Ronny Rodriguez launched a solo shot to tie the game at 11 apiece. LOL.

Mercifully, Daniel Stumpf and Joe Jimenez were able to restore some semblance of major league pitching by recording the first 1-2-3 inning of the night by either side in the top of the bottom of the eighth. Jimenez came back in the ninth and promptly punched out the first two hitters. However, he was just pumping fastball after fastball, and with two outs, Sox’ shortstop Tim Anderson mashed a walkoff shot to finally end this debacle.

Alternate video recap of tonight’s contest.

Notes

For as ugly as it was, there were some positives.

-Daniel Norris wasn’t bad. He wasn’t good either, and the fastball command has to come around or better offenses are going to feast on it, but in this contest at least, he looked like the best pitcher on the mound by a large margin.

-Nick Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera had big nights. Cabrera hit his first homer, and put together his first four-hit game in a year, while Castellanos homered for the second time in as many games.

-Grayson Greiner lost an eight-game hitting streak on Thursday, but he stayed hot anyway. His two-run shot in the second inning was his third long ball in four games. His work behind the plate is drawing notice, and it’s nice to see some power production from the unheralded Tigers’ backstop.

-The bullpen is in trouble, if you hadn’t already noticed. Zac Reininger is not the answer, Drew VerHagen has turned back into a pumpkin, Joe Jimenez is struggling, and there doesn’t appear much help on the way.

Stat of the game