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.

Mike Trout has been really good at baseball lately

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“Water wet,” “Sky blue,” “Dog bites man” and “Mike Trout good” are not exactly newsworthy sentiments, but once in a while you have to state the obvious just so you can look back later and make sure you were, in the moment, aware of the obvious.

And to be fair, “Mike Trout good” is underselling the Angels outfielder lately. He’s on the greatest tear of his great career lately, and dang it, that’s worthy of a few words on this blog.

Last night Trout went a mere 1-for-1, but that’s because the Diamondbacks were smart enough not to pitch to him too much, walking him twice. There was no one on base the first time he came up and he got a free pass. There was a guy on first but two outs the second time, so he was once again not given much to hit and took his base again. Arizona was not so lucky the third time. The bases were loaded and there was nowhere to put Trout. He smacked the first pitch he saw for a two-run single. They probably shoulda just walked him anyway, limiting the damage to one. The last time up he reached on catcher’s interference. Maybe Arizona figured that literally grabbing the bat from him with a catcher’s mitt was the best bet?

If so you can’t blame them, really. Not with the month he’s had. In June, Trout is hitting .448/.554/.776 with five homers. He currently leads the league in the following categories: home runs (23), runs (60), walks (64), on-base percentage (.469), OPS (1.158) OPS+ (219), total bases (179) and intentional walks (9). He currently has a bWAR of 6.5. WAR, in case you did not know, is a cumulative stat. When he won the 2014 MVP Award, he “only” had 7.6 for the entire year.

Sadly, one man does not a team make, so the Angels are only 9-8 in the month of June and have fallen far back of the red-hot Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners in the division race. For this reason I suspect a lot of people are going to do what they’ve long done and overlook Mike Trout’s sheer dominance or, even more ridiculously, claim he is overrated or something (believe me, I’ve seen it even this month).

Feel free to ignore those people and concentrate instead on the greatest baseball player in the game today, who has somehow managed to up his game in recent weeks.