April 26, 2011
The White Sox were a desperate lot entering Monday's game at New York — on a 1-10 skid — and their pitching came through. Starter Phil Humber(notes) was outstanding (7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K) and we'll discuss him more in Closing Time proper, but for the moment let's focus on how Chicago finished out the game.
Santos recorded the final four outs (2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K) and provided a tidy summary of who he is, a work-in-progress. He struggled with command and only half of his 16 pitches were in the strike zone, but you saw his nasty stuff on display during the game-ending strikeout of Alex Rodriguez(notes). Santos also induced a key double-play grounder from Mark Teixeira(notes) in the ninth, erasing Curtis Granderson(notes), who had singled.
A handshake is a handshake, and we have to assume that Santos will likely get the next Chicago save opportunity. A plus fastball and slider and a strikeout rate over 12/9 grab your attention pretty quickly. We also should note that the White Sox had no one up in the bullpen while Santos worked the ninth; this was his inning to finish, for better or worse. Santos is long gone in the most competitive of save-chasing leagues, but he's only owned in 23 percent of Yahoo! groups overall — there's still time for many of you to take a chance on him.
That established, all of a sudden everyone in the Chicago bullpen has some momentum. Chris Sale(notes) worked before Santos in the eighth and did the job, getting an infield grounder and a strikeout. Jesse Crain(notes) and Matt Thornton(notes) were both used Sunday at Detroit and worked perfect innings; Thornton also had two strikeouts. "Our bullpen's been better over the last five or six days," Ozzie Guillen told the Associated Press.
Place your save-chasing bets. If I had only one ticket to punch, it's going to Santos — not that he's necessarily the best reliever here, but he still hasn't allowed a run all year and he's got the momentum of the last conversion (often that's very important, especially when good bullpens run bad for a while).
AM Update: Here's another Guillen quote from Monday's post-game, talking about Santos and the closing gig going forward. "We are going to see how [Santos] is [Tuesday]," Guillen told MLB.com. "And if the opportunity comes again, we'll see how he handles it." While it isn't a bell-ringing, lights-flashing endorsement, it's good enough for me. While Sale and Thornton might sneak into the mix when significant lefty hitters come up in the ninth, it looks like Santos is going to get his chance at the head of the committee.
Image courtesy US Presswire