Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Sergio Santos had been sailing right along since nailing down the job of closer for the south side team. With 11 Saves in 12 opportunities and a sparkling ERA of 1.24 through 29 innings of work, he was pretty much a sure thing when it came down to getting the hand shake to end a ball game.
That was until June 8th when the converted shortstop came in to preserve a tie game against Seattle this past week in order to give the White Sox a chance to win in their bottom half of the inning.
Santos came into the 4-4 tie with the Mariners in the top of the 9th inning, only giving up a single and intentional walk, mission accomplished for the one-inning wonder. Not quite.
Manager Ozzie Guillen sent the righty back out for the tenth and just like that Santos gave up 3 earned runs and ended up the loser without having retired a batter in the 10th inning. Fast-forward to Friday the 10th – Santos gives up 4 earned on 2 hits and 3 free passes to take his second consecutive loss. Sunday the 12th versus Oakland was not as messy, but certainly not pre-June 8th Santos. On this day Santos managed to pick up the save, but he needed a questionable call at first to get the final out, and that was after the A’s had already touched home plate once and were sitting with base runners on the corners. It goes down as a 1 inning of work – 2 hits, 1 walk and 1 earned run, save earned.
Pitchers who are designated as “closers” by their team have a set frame of mind and that is this: go in, pitch one inning of heat and filth, and get out of there. Time and time again we see closers come in for a second inning of work, something that mentally they simply are not considering while warming up before entering to close out a game. One and done. That’s it.
Allow me to ramble while drawing a weight training analogy if you will – many people have set programs at the gym that indicate they are to do 3 sets of 10 repetitions at a specified weight. So they go and do exactly that, 3 sets of 10 repetitions of a particular exercise, even if they may been capable of pushing out 14 reps the first set, 12 the second and 10 the third, most will do 3 sets of 10. Why? Because that is what they have set themselves up for, mentally, and it translates physically.
My point is this, baseball closers are among the most finicky bunch there is and they operate with a one-inning mentality. They should be handled accordingly. If you had the White Sox -140 at home like I did on Friday against the A’s, I am sure you will agree.