I know. That's a silly question. If you're a White Sox fan, of course you remember Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez coming into a bases-loaded, no-outs jam with Sox clinging to a one-run lead in Game 3 of the 2005 ALDS.
Hernandez retired Jason Varitek, Tony Graffanino and Johnny Damon in succession without giving up the lead, and the Sox went on to win and complete the sweep of the then-defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox. Given what was at stake, Hernandez's performance that day became legendary, and is often cited by fans as being among the greatest moments during the 2005 championship run.
On Monday night, current Sox reliever Zach Duke found himself in a similar predicament. He was summoned from the bullpen in the bottom of the ninth inning in a tie game. The Red Sox had the bases loaded, and there was nobody out.
OK, OK, let's not get carried away. This is June, not the ALDS, and there wasn't nearly as much on the line Monday night as there was that night in October 2005. But the venue was the same (Fenway Park in Boston), and Duke is English for "Duque," so we can draw some parallels there.
In any case, with the bags full, Duke retired Dustin Pedroia, Christian Vazquez and Ryan LaMarre in succession without giving up a single run, forcing the game to extra innings. Duke's teammates rewarded him with a win, as Jose Abreu's two-out, two-run double off Boston closer Craig Kimbrel lifted the South Siders to a 3-1 victory.
Back to the bottom of the ninth: Sox right-hander Zach Putnam walked three consecutive hitters to start the inning. Obviously, something wasn't right with Putnam, who was placed on the DL on Tuesday with an elbow injury.
Manager Robin Ventura summoned Duke into an almost impossible situation. According to FanGraphs, the Red Sox had a 93.8 percent chance of winning when Duke took the mound. Then, the Red Sox sent Dustin Pedroia to the plate as a pinch hitter. The All-Star second baseman was getting a rare day off, and came to bat with a robust .302 batting average. For his career, Pedroia has only struck out about once every 10 plate appearances, so the odds of him putting a ball in play that would win the game were high, to say the least.
But Duke did a masterful job of setting Pedroia up. He threw Pedroia a steady diet of breaking balls inside. They were far enough inside, in fact, that Pedroia could do nothing but hit them foul. On three occasions, Duke came inside with offspeed pitches. On three occasions, Pedroia hit foul balls down the left-field side.
Ahead in the count 1-2, Duke had Pedroia looking for offspeed pitches, so he wisely went with the fastball. His 1-2 heater missed, but his 2-2 heater had the plate. Pedroia, still with the thought of the inside breaking ball in his mind, swung late and swung through it. Strike three.
In retrospect, Pedroia was the biggest out of the inning.
The Red Sox's win expectancy still was at 83.6 percent as Vazquez came to the plate. But Duke used the overanxious 25-year-old's aggression against him. Duke threw five pitches in the at-bat, none of them for strikes. Vazquez swung at three of them, the last of which he chopped weakly toward the center of the diamond.
Tyler Saladino, serving as the Sox's fifth infielder, fielded it but made a lousy, one-hop throw to the plate. Catcher Alex Avila made the scoop and kept his foot on the plate to record the force at home. Two outs.
Boston's win expectancy dropped 66 percent as LaMarre came to the plate. The 27-year-old outfielder had just been recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket. It was his first at-bat in a Red Sox uniform. He was just 2 for 26 in his previous major league at-bats with Cincinnati last year, and he was overmatched by Duke.
The Sox lefty got ahead with a fastball, which LaMarre fouled off. Duke then fired three straight breaking balls down and in. None of the three were strikes. The overanxious LaMarre waved at two of them. No contact. A second strikeout for Duke, and miraculously, the Sox were out of the inning.
Abreu came through in the top of the 10th, connecting for the two-run double on a 99 mph heater from Kimbrel. Avisail Garcia and Adam Eaton scored on the hit, and the Sox broke their three-game losing streak.
Will clutch performances by Duke and Abreu finally spark the Sox out of their six-week-long malaise? I don't know, but it was a big win -- an unexpected win -- Monday night. That said, it doesn't mean much if the Sox can't back it up with another win Tuesday.
Putnam to DL; Beck recalled from Charlotte
As I indicated a few paragraphs up, Putnam is headed to the DL with ulnar neuritis in his pitching elbow.
The Sox have recalled Chris Beck from Triple-A Charlotte. The right-hander is 4-3 with a 4.47 ERA in 15 appearances (7 starts) with the Knights this season. I would not expect too much from Beck. The 25-year-old is a fringe prospect at best, and he'll probably join Matt Purke as a low-leverage pitcher out of the Sox bullpen.
The Sox saw their starting pitcher (James Shields) get knocked out in the second inning Saturday night. They played a 10-inning game Sunday. They played a 10-inning game Monday. It's fair to say the Sox relief corps is perilously thin going into Tuesday's game against the Red Sox.