The White Sox and A’s squared off in Chicago on Monday night, a battle of pitchers who have notched perfect games into their histories. Mark Buehrle took the hill for the White Sox in search of his 150th career win. Dallas Braden toed the rubber for the A’s.
It was a classic Buehrle-type performance. No, I’m not suggesting that Buehrle dominates with regularity, but he’s a man with a no-hitter and a perfect game in his past. And, he works fast. Buehrle is known for getting the ball and dealing. Braden matched his pace, and you were looking at a two-hour affair until things slowed in the ninth inning.
By then, Buehrle had departed with a 1-0 lead, the beneficiary of a fifth-inning home run from an unlikely source, Brent Lillibridge. Buehrle allowed two hits and a walk with one strikeout, inducing 12 groundball outs.
Braden pitched six innings of one-run ball, striking out seven batters against two walks while scattering five hits. He gave way to Tyson Ross, who pitched three fantastic innings (one hit and one walk against four strikeouts).
Equipped with a 1-0 lead, White Sox closer Matt Thornton took the hill in the ninth inning to try and earn his first save. He’d blown his previous two opportunities (the last was not his issue). Thornton grooved a slider to Andy LaRoche, who ripped a lead-off double. Coco Crisp lined out to Paul Konerko, and pinch-runner Cliff Pennington did well to stay close to second base so as to not get doubled up.
Daric Barton then lifted a ball up into the swirling winds in left field. Juan Pierre drifted and drifted and drifted toward the warning track … and flat-out missed the ball. Pennington scored, and there was Thornton’s third blown save. This one wasn’t his fault entirely, but he did leave the ball out over the plate. Jesse Crain relived Thornton and got the final two outs of the inning.
The White Sox failed to score in the ninth, though they made it interesting with a one-out single (Konerko extended his hitting streak to 10 games) followed by a walk. Ross made the pitches needed to get out of the inning and force extra innings.
Crain remained on the hill and struck out the first two batters of the inning before surrendering a home run to Kurt Suzuki, his first of the season. He then allowed a double to Kevin Kouzmanoff before retiring Pennington.
Brian Fuentes came on and closed things out with a 1-2-3 inning while striking out two. It was his fourth save of the year.
There’s already talk of a committee situation developing in Chicago, with either Chris Sale or Sergio Santos potentially snagging save opportunities from Thornton. Again, Thornton’s last two blown saves can be hung on his defense to some degree, but he’s been hanging balls over the plate. The Sox and A’s get it on again on Tuesday.