Aggressive, but clean. Fundamental and timely. This is the kind of slide any baseball fan should love:
Any fan, that is, except for one that roots for the Detroit Tigers, who again got hurt by unreliable defense.
A takeout slide by Alex Rios helped to cause an errant throw by Omar Infante that allowed two runs to score for the White Sox, who beat the Tigers 5-4 on Monday afternoon in a pivotal AL Central game. The White Sox bullpen allowed one baserunner over five scoreless innings to finish off Detroit, which trails first-place Chicago by three games. Both teams have 16 to play in the regular season, but after making up a rainout from last week, none against each other.
Rios' slide, and Detroit's inability to handle it, was the turning point.
The Tigers blew a three-run lead but were up 4-3 in the fifth when Chicago loaded the bases with one out. Dayan Viciedo hit a grounder to short against reliever Al Alburquerque that looked like a sure double play. But Rios had gotten a great jump from first base and slid hard into Infante, who stayed on the bag in order to pivot. Rios made body contact just as Infante let go of the ball and upended him, causing the throw to bounce in the dirt. Prince Fielder couldn't pick it and the ball went into a camera well for a two-base error.
The White Sox managed to turn a similar-looking double play earlier when Gordon Beckham ran across the bag, instead of staying on second, to double-up Jhonny Peralta.
The Tigers came into play fourth in the AL in ERA at 3.85, but have allowed 68 unearned runs this season, third worst in the league after Cleveland and Houston. The White Sox have a team ERA 22 points higher but, conversely, have allowed a league-low 26 unearned runs. That differential is probably why they lead the Central, despite having lost the season series to Detroit 12-6.
But it's not like the White Sox just waited around for the Tigers to implode on defense. They had to take it to them.
At 31 years old, Rios has put together one of the best seasons of his career, which has gone everywhere from All-Star level (twice), to overpaid disappointment — someone let go on waivers by the Blue Jays — to even a bust. But White Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson called him the team's MVP and, if not for left-hander Chris Sale, Hawk probably would be right.
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