White Sox clip Tigers to open up three-game lead

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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 2017 Yankees are, somehow, plucky underdogs

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There’s a lot that has happened in the past year that I never, ever would’ve thought would or even could happen in America. Many of them are serious, some are not, some make me kinda happy and some make me terribly sad. I’m sure a lot of people have felt that way in this oddest of years.

There’s one thing in baseball, however, that still has me searching my feelings in a desperate effort to know what to feel: The New York Yankees are the postseason’s plucky underdogs.

This is not about them being lovable or likable — we touched on that last week — it’s more about the role they play in the grand postseason drama. A postseason they weren’t even supposed to be in.

None of the three writers of this website thought the Yankees would win the AL East or a Wild Card. ESPN had 35 “experts” make predictions back in March, and only one of them — Steve Wulf — thought the Yankees would make the postseason (he thought they’d win the division). I’m sure if you go over the plethora of professional prognosticator’s predictions a few would have the Yankees squeaking in to the postseason on the Wild Card, but that was nothing approaching a consensus view. Their 2017 regular season was a surprise to almost everyone, with the expectation of a solid, if unspectacular rebuilding year being greatly exceeded. To use a sports cliche, nobody believed in them.

Then came the playoffs. Most people figured the Yankees would beat the Twins in the Wild Card game and they did, but most figured they’d be cannon fodder for the Indians. And yep, they fell down early, losing the first two games of the series and shooting themselves in the foot in spectacular fashion in the process. Yet they came back, beating arguably the best team in baseball and certainly the best team in the American League in three straight games despite the fact that . . . nobody believed in them.

Now we’re in the ALCS. The Astros — the other choice for best team in the American League if you didn’t think the Indians were — jumped out to a 2-0 lead, quieting the Yankees’ powerful bats. While a lot of teams have come back from 0-2 holes in seven game series, the feel of this thing as late as Monday morning was that, even if the Yankees take a game at home, Houston was going to cruise into the World Series. Once again . . . nobody believed in them.

Yet, here we are on this late Wednesday morning, with the Yankees having tied things up 2-2. As I wrote this morning, you still have to like the Astros’ chances given that their aces, Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, are set to go in Games 5 and 6. I’m sure a lot of people feel still like the Astros’ chances for that reason. So that leads us to this . . .

It’s one thing for no one to have, objectively, believed in the Yankees chances. It’s another thing, though, for the New York Yankees — the 27-time World Champions, the 40-time American League pennant winners, the richest team in the game, the house-at-the-casino, U.S. Steel and the Evil Empire all wrapped into one — to officially play the “nobody believed in us” card on their own account. That’s the stuff of underdogs. Of Davids facing Goliaths. Of The Little Guy, demanding respect that no one ever considered affording them. If you’re not one of those underdogs and you’re playing that card, you’re almost always doing it out of some weird self-motivational technique and no one else will ever take you seriously. And now you’re telling me the NEW YORK FRIGGIN’ YANKEES are playing that card?

Thing is: they’re right. They’ve totally earned the right to play it because, really, no one believed in them. Even tied 2-2, I presume most people still don’t, actually.

I don’t know how to process this. Nothing in my 40 years of baseball fandom has prepared me for the Yankees to be the David to someone else’s Goliath and to claim righteous entitlement to the whole “nobody believed in us” thing.

Which, as I said at the beginning, is nothing new in the year 2017. I just never thought it’d happen in baseball.