10/04/08 12:45 AM ET
Chess Match: Lineup shuffle
Rays' bullpen continues to come through in clutch
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
The White Sox, who led the Major Leagues with 235 homers, did not hit one Friday and have two in the series compared to three by the Rays, who also lead the Sox in extra-base hits, 8-3.
The situation: The White Sox have the bases loaded with one out in the first.
The outcome: Thome lines an RBI single through the right side, snapping his 0-for-13 string against Scott Kazmir.
The analysis: Had they stayed in the shift, Thome's ball almost certainly would have been caught and perhaps converted into an inning-ending double play. Instead, the White Sox scored a pair of runs and made Kazmir throw 37 pitches before he got out of the inning.
The explanation: "We wanted to give [Kazmir] every chance to get out of it, and he did a good job holding them right there." -- Rays manager Joe Maddon
Round two to Balfour
The situation: Trailing 3-2 in the sixth, the Sox have a runner at second base with one out.
The outcome: Balfour retires Cabrera on a grounder to second, then gets Nick Swisher on a fly to left to end the threat.
The analysis: Maddon didn't hesitate to bring in Balfour, who had jawed with Cabrera during Game 1, and once again Balfour came through. Kazmir had already thrown 98 pitches.
The explanation: "That's what he does, he thrives in those situations. Our guys know what they have to do and more often than not we get it done." -- Rays reliever Dan Wheeler Howell has it against Ramirez
The situation: The White Sox have runners on first and second with none out in the seventh.
The outcome: Howell retires Thome, Alexei Ramirez and A.J. Pierzysnki
The analysis: No surprise that Maddon would bring in Howell to face the left-handed hitting Thome, but letting the lefty pitch to Chicago's hottest right-handed hitter, Ramirez, was a gamble. But Howell made it pay off big time.
The explanation: "When he has command of his fastball and sets up that changeup and the curveball, he's very, very good. Once again, he's shown why he's been so invaluable to our success this year." -- Maddon Swisher's showing
The situation: The White Sox offense struggles in the 6-4 loss in Game 1.
The decision: White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen shuffles his starting lineup, inserting Nick Swisher and Brian Anderson in left and center, respectively, in place of Dewayne Wise and Ken Griffey Jr. Guillen puts Swisher in the No. 2 spot and drops Anderson down to ninth.
The outcome: Swisher reaches base three times, with two walks and a single, and scores Chicago's second run.
The analysis: Swisher has had a disappointing year, but he does work the count (his 4.51 pitches per plate appearance led the league) and that skill came in handy against Kazmir, whose control problems were tailor-made for Swisher's strengths.
The explanation: "I put Swisher [at No. 2], because he has a chance a little bit more than Brian. Brian's not swinging the bat well every time I played him. That's why I moved him down. In the past he was OK batting second, but that's the reason we did it." -- Guillen
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.