It wasn’t exactly a classic duel, but the White Sox put themselves another game up in the AL Central by beating the Tigers 5-4 in Monday’s makeup game.
The game’s decisive play took place in the fifth, when Dayan Viciedo hit a grounder to short with the bases loaded and one out. Jhonny Peralta decided to stay back on the ball, and by the time he made the feed to Omar Infante, Alex Rios was at second base ready to take out the defender. It led to a poor throw that Prince Fielder was unable to scoop, giving the White Sox two runs.
The game also featured Viciedo making a diving catch in left field and then having a ball go off his glove on back-to-back plays. The White Sox got their first run because of a HBP with the bases loaded. In the bottom of the eighth, DeWayne Wise, the White Sox’s best hitter on the day, took a run off the board by trying to go from second to third on a flyout. He was tagged well in front of the bag before Gordon Beckham could touch home and give the White Sox an insurance run.
Fortunately, that didn’t prove costly. White Sox manager Robin Ventura used three pitchers in the top of the ninth, getting one out apiece from Brett Myers, Matt Thornton and Addison Reed.
The winning pitcher was reliever Nate Jones, who worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of Jose Quintana. He’s now 8-0 this season. If he can avoid a defeat from here, he’d become the 15th pitcher since 1901 to win at least eight games in a season without taking a loss. The last was Arizona’s Micah Owings last year. The last to go at least 9-0 was the Yankees’ Aaron Small, who went 10-0 in 2005.
Delmon Young drove in three of the four runs for the Tigers. Something about facing the White Sox brings out the best in him. He’s hit .333 with 13 homers in 294 at-bats lifetime against the Pale Hose, compared to .264 with 75 homers against everyone else. He averages a homer every 23 at-bats versus Chicago and every 40 at-bats against the rest of the league.
The White Sox will take their three-game cushion to Kansas City as they begin a six-game road trip Tuesday. They’ll face the Angels this weekend. The Tigers just wrapped up a 10-game road trip, so they do have the easier slate from here. After facing Oakland at home the next three days, they’ll close with 13 against the Twins and Royals.
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.