If not for his 4.00-plus ERA, Jon Garland would definitely be among the top American League Cy Young contenders.
Cy Young votes or not, Garland could crack the 4.00-ERA plateau by season’s end judging by his pitching the last three months.
Garland has been Chicago’s best pitcher since June and showed why Saturday. Backed by an offense that scored 10 runs in the first five innings, Garland improved to 17-4 on the season in the White Sox 10-8 victory over Cleveland. His 17 wins put in a tie with New York’s Chien-Ming Wang and Minnesota’s Johan Santana for the most in the majors.
Garland allowed one earned run on five hits and struck out six in six innings of work. He improved to 13-1 in his last 16 starts and is one win away from watching last year’s career-high 18 wins. His last loss was August 9 against New York when he allowed six runs on 10 hits in six innings. Since then, Garland has lowered his ERA from 5.16 to 4.28.
Paul Konerko smashed two home runs and drove in five. Konerko has 32 home runs and 103 RBI this season to go with a .314 batting average. Konerko’s three-run shot in the first put the White Sox up 3-0. His two-run dinger in the fifth gave the White Sox a 10-1 lead.
A good deal of the AL Most Valuable Player talk is pointed not at Konerko but teammate Jermaine Dye.
Dye continued to make his MVP statement by going 3 for 5 with two RBI. Dye, who scored twice, was a single shy of the cycle. Dye is the only American League player to be in the top five in batting average (.328, 5th), total bases (312, 2nd), slugging percentage (.651, 2nd), home runs (41, 3rd) and RBI (112, 4th). Dye will likely move up into 2nd and 3rd in the home and RBI category as Cleveland’s Travis Hafner will miss the rest of the season (see story below).
Dye might be the only player this season to homer off two of the American League’s top closers, Boston’s Jonathan Papelbon and Minnesota’s Joe Nathan.
Dye gave the White Sox faithful a scare in the sixth when he made a home-run saving catch at the wall. On the play, Dye crashed full speed into the fence and stayed on the ground for a couple minutes. He got back up but then went down to the ground again. Minutes later, he got up under his own power and stayed in the game amid the chants of “MVP, MVP.” In the bottom of the inning, Dye smashed a solo home run to left.
Chicago is 3 ½ back of Detroit in the AL Central and ½ game back of Minnesota in the Wild Card.
Offensively, the White Sox might be the last team anyone wants to face in the playoffs. Chicago’s 212 home runs are far and away the tops in baseball. The New York Yankees are a distant second with 176. The White Sox and Yankees have the majors’ best team batting average at .285. Chicago could also have the rare distinction of having four 30-home run and 100-RBI guys this season. Dye and Konerko have already broken that mark. Jim Thome has 39 home runs and 97 RBIs. Joe Crede, who has sat out for the third straight game Saturday with lower back pain, has 29 home runs and 91 RBI.
To say that Saturday was a bad day for the Cleveland Indians would be an understatement.
Prior to their game, the Indians announced that MVP candidate Travis Hafner would miss the rest of the season with a broken bone below the ring finger on his right hand.
Hafner’s numbers were definitely worthy of MVP votes. His .659 slugging percentage and .439 on-base percentage were tops in the American League. Hafner’s 42 home runs are second in the junior circuit and his 117 RBIs were good enough for third. Hafner also added a .308 average, 31 doubles, scored 100 runs (tied for third in the AL), collected 299 total bases (fifth) and amassed 74 extra-base hits (third).
Hafner was hit by a pitch on September 1 against Texas with the bases loaded, something worth noting because Hafner had tied Don Mattingly’s record with six grand slams in a season.
The Indians fell into a 10-1 hole against the White Sox. Starter Fausto Carmona wasn’t effective at all giving up five earned runs on seven hits in three innings of work in his fifth start of the year. All of Carmona’s runs came with two outs.
Cleveland’s night wasn’t a total wash. The Indians put together a seven-run seventh inning highlighted by Kevin Kouzmanoff’s three-run home run to close within 10-8. The Indians, though, would not get any closer as the score stood for the remainder of the game.
Cleveland skipper Eric Wedge wasn’t around to see the game’s final out as he was ejected earlier in the ninth inning by home-plate umpire Hunter Wendlestedt, who warned both sides in the third inning when Carmona brushed back Alex Cintron. Although, the pitch didn’t seem like an intentional brush back in nature as Carmona had little consistency with his pitches. In the ninth, Chicago reliever Mike MacDougal seemed to have done the exact same thing as Carmona but was not ejected. Wedge quickly argued the lack of an ejection and was tossed.
Carmona returned to the Indians after being sent down to Triple A Buffalo following a shaky role as the Indians closer.
Grady Sizemore went 0 for 3 with three strikeouts before being replaced after Chicago built a 10-1 lead. Defensively, Sizemore made a nice diving catch in deep center in the fifth to rob Brian Anderson of extra bases.
Friday, Sizemore added some nice milestones to his outstanding yet under-recognized 2006 resume. He became only the second player in major league history to do the following: hit 50 doubles and 10 triples, steal 20 bases, score 100 runs and his 20 home runs. Chuck Klein was the first to do it for the 1932 Philadelphia Phillies.