Game 19 // Seventh Inning, Toronto // Sox Shock Again

TOP OF THE SEVENTH:  WHITE SOX 6 1 – 5 BLUE JAYS

 

So in case you haven’t heard, there’s something special going on in Chicago, and not the more expected sight of a Blackhawks team clawing its way back into yet another Stanley Cup Finals (pour one out…)

It’s that…and I didn’t think I’d be saying this in 2016… the White Sox… are best in the American League. And it appears that’s no fluke. Yeah, the White Sox—the over-looked, under-paid south-siders, who’ve lacked a winning season for four years, the team that’s been buried in recent national news with the wild rise of the north-side Cubs… this team is best in the American League?

As a Cubs fan, well, it’s looking like July 25th will be the best day for summer Chicago sports in a long, long while: Chicago vs. Chicago, first-place vs. first-place, Chance the Rapper vs. Bill Murray, opposite ends of the CTA red-line duking it out for far more than city bragging rights—the first time in many years that it’ll actually matter.

Only problem I see for these guys, besides it still being April and early-season predictions meaning almost nothing (including the optimism in this here post), is the way-way-north siders, the above-the-border northerners, the defending AL East champs and the odds-on favorites for their first World Series since 1993: The Toronto Blue Jays.

They’re good. Really good. Probably even set to get better. And they’re up against this White Sox team with a 5-1 lead at home, and a chance to correct the record on an early-season slump. It’s theirs to win, right?

In the 7th inning, the Sox send up Melky Cabrera first against Marcus Stroman, the Jays’ young star, who at 5’8” (listed) is the Manny Pacquiao of MLB, the “pound for pound” champ, making even Tim Lincecum look like a giant. He works fast, looks angry, throws hard, and now delivers a fastball to Cabrera that gets slapped between first and second for a lead-off single.

Comeback brewing here? Brett Lawrie comes up and grounds out to short, Melky’s forced out at second. Not so fast.

Avisail Garcia comes up now, who’s definitely the most intimidating batter in the league (See Inning #6), up there with Mike Trout for the superlative of most likely to become an off-season NFL linebacker.

2-0 count from Stroman, with ex-Jay Dioner Navarro looming in the on-deck circle, as Garcia smacks a base-hit line drive… and the Big is now slowly creeping into the Inning.

Out of the dugout comes manager John Gibbons, who’s got a stern, serious, midwestern air to him—the words “old school guy” and “no nonsense” practically tattooed on his forehead.

Navarro hits a high chopper right to Stroman, who goes for the behind-the-back snatch as it flies up dangerously off his elbow, over the mound, and into the glove of Ryan Goins, who throws to first for the second out.

The Big is now creeping back shyly away from the Inning. 5-1 lead still, and Stroman says I’m o.k., sort of shaking his arms loose, and he spins the ball around in his blue glove and delivers now to Austin Jackson.

Another 2-0 count. Then 3-0. We sure this guy’s elbow is okay?

Also, as a sidenote, can we start some sort of petition for Marcus Stroman to be traded to the Astros? Just one little letter away from being Marcus Astroman…  His song, though it barely needs to be said, would have to be David Bowie’s “Starman”, playing from the loudspeakers after every strikeout. If anybody has the numbers of either (or both) GMs for Toronto or Houston, make it happen.

Anyway—Stroman stays in for one more batter, then walks the next guy and gets pulled, with a standing ovation from the Toronto faithful. If only they knew what was coming….

Adam Eaton comes up now for the Sox, the first to face reliever Brett Cecil, and probably their last chance to sneak back into this game. Cecil, by the way, is the latest part of a long, under-rated legacy of Cecils in the major leagues, joining Cecil Fielder, Cecil Cooper and Cecil Travis as the fourth Cecil-who-has-been-an-all-star in MLB history.

As I search Baseball Reference for more information on this guy, I notice a strange trend: a slew of Cecils named-by-birth going by other names: Randy Hundley (Cecil Randolph Hundley), Tex Hughson (Cecil Hughson), Red Causey (Cecil Causey), Turkey Tyson, Cal Broughton, Larry Duff, Cy Neighbors, and last by most definitely not least: Squiz Pillion, a.k.a. Cecil Randolph Pillion—who played just two games, for the 1915 Philadelphia Athletics, a team with a 43-109 record that apparently could still find no use for our man Squiz and his 6.75 ERA.

So with the Cecil at hand, the Cecil we deserve, Mr. Brett Cecil gathers himself on the mound and delivers to Adam Eaton, the fans whooping up cheers for what they think will be the soon end of a good inning.

Eaton hits a slow ground ball up the middle, just out of Goins’ reach, and two runs score.

Marcus Stroman slaps the dugout bench harder than I’ve ever seen that done, as if he’s Drago from Rocky IV demonstrating his record-breaking punching power (“As you can see, Drago Stroman averages eighteen-hundred and fifty pounds of pressure per square inch…”). 

Now Jimmy Rollins up, the score 5-3, who we all know has a wily hit up his sleeve. The home crowd quiets down, seemingly aware of some can of worms now being opened with Stroman out of the game.

1-2 count, maybe the Blue Jays have found their way out of this one? Nope!—J-Roll rips a big single into left, a rope that would’ve been two bases if in the gap, and Jackson is waved home for the big score, 5-4 now, as Stroman’s dugout meltdown intensifies, and he FOUR-LETTER WORD, FOUR-LETTER WORD, FOUR-LETTER WORDS his way into the clubhouse where, as they say, cooler heads may prevail.

Jose Abreu comes up now for the Sox, really not the guy you’d want to face in this kind of situation, with the game suddenly on the ropes.

Gibbons, meanwhile, keeps up the arms-crossed look, chin tilted up, gum chewed sternly as he peers out from the dugout. No meltdowns on the horizon from a guy like that.

With two strikes, Cecil throws a near-wild pitch, but no runners advance. The fans get back into it now: Come onn…. one more strike!! Come onnnn!!!

Another pitch in the dirt.

Todd Frazier’s on deck, another don’t-make-me-face-this-guy reaction on Cecil’s face upon seeing him there. Ball four to Abreu, on another off-kilter curveball.

Gibbons now, finally, strolls out sort of haggardly from the dugout and takes the ball from Cecil, with probably the least amount of affection—if that’s even the right word—I’ve seen from a manager. No eye contact whatsoever. No love. No nothing.

Ex-White-Sock Gavin Floyd comes in for the Jays, to face Frazier, and it’s not pretty.

Frazier drills one to left field, by far the hardest hit ball of the inning—off the wall, just missed a home run, and two more runs come home to score. 6-5 Sox.

The fans are all stunned into silence, a collective bumming out of spirits as they all turn hopes toward basketball, and the promising play of playoff Raptors.

The lineup has come all the way around at this point, back to Melky Cabrera, as the Sox go to round two on Wheel of Baseball Fortune, drawing a walk—but Lawrie strikes out swinging an instant later. Three outs. But the Sox come up big, a 6-5 lead, and a burst of confidence that assures them, if not already assured, that: This. Team. Is. For. Real.

 

Previously:

7th Inning: TEX vs. BAL

4th Inning: BOS vs. TBR

3rd Inning: WSH vs. ATL

7th Inning: BAL vs. BOS

8th Inning: CHC vs. CIN

8th Inning: SFG vs. LAD

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