- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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The White Sox score any way they can, and in the third they strung together two singles, a stolen base, three walks, a passed ball and a wild pitch for a 3-1 lead. In the seventh, shortly after the DO WE BLOW THE BOARD? message, they added another run when Ivan Calderon singled, Pasqua walked and Fisk blooped a single into right. Fisk took second on the throw to the plate, sliding thunderously and safely into the bag. Not many catchers run that well, much less 42-year-old catchers.
So there the Sox were, in the top of the eighth, sitting on a 4-1 lead with Hibbard breezing along and their fans silently calculating that with this victory, Chicago would move five percentage points ahead of Oakland in the race. Then Mike Gallego and Walt Weiss both singled off Hibbard to start the inning. Uh oh. In from the bullpen came Jones, 7-0 for the year. Rickey Henderson singled to load the bases. And Dave Henderson doubled into the hands of a fan in the rightfield corner to drive in two runs. Oh no. Then Lansford struck out. Whew. McGwire was walked intentionally—good move, especially with Terry Steinbach, batting .215, coming up. Steinbach, though, singled in between Guillen and Ventura, and the A's took a 5-4 lead. Jerome Holtzman, the eminent baseball writer for the Tribune, was so distraught that he started cheering for the White Sox in the press box. And Holtzman is the man who wrote the book No Cheering in the Press Box.
With two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth, La Russa brought in Eckersley to face Calderon and get his 21st save. Calderon, seeing the infield playing way back, dropped a beautiful bunt down the third base line, setting up a similar situation—winning run at the plate in the person of a lefthanded power hitter—to the one Eckersley faced in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. Coming to the plate instead of Kirk Gibson, though, was Pasqua. He took a mighty swing and...flied out to center.
The loss made the third game of the series, Fireworks Night, something less of an occasion for the second straight sellout crowd. Throwing out the first ball Saturday night was Ken Olin, one of the stars of thirtysomething and an odd choice, considering White Sox fans' feelings about yuppie scum. Thirtysomething was pretty close to the number of batters the A's sent to the plate in the first inning. The Sox had given up 11 first-inning runs all year, but their ostensible ace, Melido Perez, gave up seven in the first this time. Fans were still arriving when the game was effectively over, and those who were in their seats booed Perez and cheered Torborg when the manager came to take him out after only two thirds of an inning.
What had been a sublime series—two exciting one-run games—turned ridiculous. A two-run homer by Steinbach in the fifth and a solo shot by Rickey Henderson in the sixth stretched the lead to 10-0, and when the eighth inning rolled around, Torborg had utilityman Steve Lyons on the mound. Actually, Lyons, whose nickname is Psycho, acquitted himself quite nicely after walking in a run in the eighth.
Torborg kept his equanimity after the loss. "Maybe the A's are tired. You know, doing all that swinging and running." In the background one could hear the bombs from Fireworks Night bursting in air. Or that might have been the sound of the bubbles bursting for Chicago.
Actually, this was a five-game series, counting the Equitable Old-Timers Game between the White Sox and the Athletics prior to Sunday's contest. And wouldn't you know it? The A's beat the Sox 11-2. The regular game was considerably closer. In fact, after seven innings the White Sox led 2-1, with the A's lone run coming on a homer by—you guessed it-Dave Henderson. In the eighth, McGwire hit a windblown solo home run to left and the A's hit back-to-back-to-back singles off three different White Sox relievers to take a 3-2 lead. In the bottom of the eighth, Chicago had a man on second with two outs when La Russa brought in Eckersley. Torborg countered with pinch hitter Fisk, for three years a battery mate of the Eck in Boston. It had all the makings of a classic confrontation, but Fisk popped out to the catcher on the fourth pitch. Oakland added two more insult-to-injury runs in the ninth.
Said La Russa, "It's not that we are trying to show the White Sox that we are world champions. What we want to show them is that we're trying to be world champions again this year."
As for Chicago, well, as Guillen says, "We have been showing people that we are a big league team." The Athletics, however, are a bigger league team.