(Above: Omar Vizquel leaves those little yellow diamonds right where they were.)
Yesterday, it could be said that without a .620-plus showing in June putting the team to 4 behind in the AL Central, the Chicago White Sox are done. But after last night’s home loss against Texas, my calculator says to make that a .650 showing from here on in.
.650 from the dead-last batting team in baseball? Did that mean last night was a must-win on June 1st? Pretty much, yes.
Sadly, nobody told Ozzie, whose mishandling of the base-loaded 9th inning against Texas reliever Neftali Feliz will go down as an especially violent cramp in a legendarily dyspeptic season.
The wheels fell off in the sixth inning. After blowing a 4-0 lead on the latest bad outing by Mark Buehrle (L, 3-6, 5.1 IP, 12H 6ER, 3K), pen phenom Sergio Santos chose the evening to regress, giving up one more run, followed by Randy Williams and the ever-reliable Scott Linebrink combining for two ERs.
Feliz, whose average against right-handed batters is at .308 yet is .106 against left-handed batters helpfully pitched himself into a serious jam, loading the bases with no outs and the score 9-6. The last thing in the world Feliz needed to see was a power-hitting righty step up to pinch hit. Like say, Andruw Jones, who had no plans for the evening.
Luckily for Feliz, Ozzie rolled over and put this troubled linup on auto-pilot. Mark Kotsay left his fourth, fifth and sixth runners of the evening unadvanced, then Alexei Ramirez hacked the first pitch into a popup, leaving Kenny Williams baseball card collection prize Omar Vizquel to settle matters.
With the game – and at this point the season – so exquisitely on the line, even the most libertarian among us looks to the manager for something other than a torrent of sunflower seed shells. Something, oh, you know, manager-y. Forethought-ish. Competent.
None of the above. Not only did Ozzie fail to pinch hit Jones for the HOF infielder, the switch-hitting Vizquel marched right into the lefty batter’s box, despite the splits on Feliz saying he was cutting his chances by 2/3rds. The weak fly to center was a foregone conclusion.
When 2010 is over, 2005 will be too.