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Looking back, Sox loss nearly impossible

9/4/2011

DETROIT -- Don’t read this, Chicago White Sox fans.

If Saturday evening’s ninth-inning meltdown nearly provoked you to throw a golf ball through your television, like it did to one Twitter follower, then you’re not going want to take in the next few paragraphs.

The ESPN Stats & Information department has put together some numbers that show how truly unlikely Ryan Raburn's game-tying home run for the Tigers was Saturday, and it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with how hard it is to hit a home run, or how Raburn was an improbable co-hero for his team.

Of course, we all know by now that White Sox reliever Sergio Santos had not given up a run in 25 prior road outings this year (30 going back to last season) before Raburn’s home run. The 25-game streak is the longest to open a season in baseball history, as Santos passed Mariano Rivera's record.

But even that isn’t what made the Raburn home run so improbable.

It was noted here in early July that Santos’ slider was the top out pitch in the major leagues. When Santos threw a two-strike slider, he was pretty much invincible.

Well, Raburn’s game-tying blast Saturday came on a two-strike slider from Santos. It preceded a game-winning home run from Miguel Cabrera on a first-pitch slider that Santos hoped to use to get ahead in the count.

Before Raburn’s home run, right-handed hitters were 0-for-48 against Santos’ slider with two outs. Of those 48 outs, 43 were by strikeouts. Santos had allowed one walk on a 3-2 slider.

Opponents had swung at 58 two-strike sliders against Santos, missing completely on 39 of them. They had hit 14 foul balls off the pitch. Only five balls had been put into play by right-handed hitters on a two-strike slider from Santos and all of them were turned into outs.

Sure all good things come to an end, but this wasn’t just your garden-variety hit off a pitch that had been previously unhittable. This was a home run that tied a game. And it was a game that the White Sox desperately needed as they made a last-ditch effort to close in on their division rivals in the standings.

Of all the unexpected things that have happened to the White Sox, from Adam Dunn's struggles, to Alex Rios' uninspiring play, to Jake Peavy's rocky road back from injury, to Gordon Beckham's own offensive issues, the Raburn homer off Santos might have been the most unpredictable.

Maybe this was always the White Sox’s destiny, or call it the Tigers’ fate. Whatever it is, if you made it this far, now you know.