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Blaming Jenks, Praising Putz

by Mike DePilla
Sunday, July 18, 2010
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It's not often you can actually say this and have it be accurate:

Today's loss was entirely the fault one man, Bobby Jenks.

You can't blame the manager. Ozzie did everything fine, or the least didn't make any grievous errors. That includes waiting until four batters in the 9th inning before pulling Jenks, the right move at the appropriate time.

You can't blame the offense. While they did leave a few runs out on the bases (Juan Pierre's failed squeeze is frustrating), so did the Twins (12 left on base), and the Sox still put up six runs (on an impressive 16 hits), enough to go into the 9th with a three-run cushion.

You can't blame the starter. Freddy Garcia had a quality start, albeit a shaky one ( 6 IP, 3 R, 11 H). Not a sterling line, but he still left with a comfortable lead.

You can't blame the rest of the bullpen. Matt Thornton and JJ Putz put up nothing but goose eggs, and Sergio Santos, inheriting an awful mess, was thrust unexpectedly into a situation with which he has little to no experience.

You can't blame the defense. Outside of Alex Rios' WTF throw to end the game, the D basically did everything they could. There weren't any misplays that led to baserunners in the 9th inning.

So this one was entirely, 100% on Bobby Jenks, who flat out didn't have it today. Usually it's a knee jerk over-reaction to blame one guy. Baseball is rarely that cut and dry, but today, unfortunately, it was.

Jenks will always have detractors, since he makes everything look like a high wire act. However, he came into today with a sub-4 ERA, and only one blown save on the season, which, while not telling the whole story, still means that he has been effective. Bad days happen- there's no reason to rush out and declare a closer controversy based on one day. But Jenks does have to work on his discipline and focus with a three-run lead (or in a tie game). It's not OK to mail it in when he's handed anything but a narrow lead in the 9th inning.

This was by far the hardest loss of the season for the Sox, who hadn't won lost three games in a row since mid-April. (I do, however, hope that this dispels the myth that all of the Sox struggles and strange occurrences in Minnesota were due to the Baggiedome.)

But it's not all doom and gloom. The obvious bright spot of the game was Gordon Beckham, who went 4-for-4 and looks like he might be turning the corner- he's hitting .421 in the month of July and hanging ropes all over the field. JJ Putz is in the midst of an incredible 24 straight scoreless appearances. (The last run Putz allowed was on May 7!)

And, hey the Tigers were just swept by the Indians. So while this was a tough one to swallow, the still-in-first-place Sox still have a lot to be optimistic about. Take two out of three or sweep in Seattle and all will be, more or less, forgotten.

*****

By the way, Carlos Quentin is every bit as fragile as Scotty Pods or Chris Getz ever were. After he bruised his right hand diving into third base, it's to the point where anytime Quentin has to do anything remotely athletic you worry about some kind of injury. Outside of that unbelievable catch against the Angels, his defense is pretty lousy in right field too. Jermaine Dye's D was pretty lousy by the end of his tenure, but he was 35 years old. Quentin is 27. It would be best to DH him if possible.

*****

That was definitely not the way I envisioned this series going down- winning the first one and then losing the next three. But, going back to the first game for a moment, the Sox were very resourceful at the plate: they scored three runs on sacrifice flies, one on a ground out and one on a balk.

However, there's something eternally unnerving about seeing Jim Thome standing at home plate representing the winning run in the bottom of the 9th inning.

*****
Don't forget, MLB Network's reality series about the Sox, "The Club", premieres tonight at 8:00 pm!

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