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White Sox Sweep; Next Up: A’s and Bartolo Colon

The impressive Robin Ventura White Sox brought out the broom today, completing a three-game sweep of the home-standing Mariners.

The Sox overcame another so-so John Danks effort and some shoddy defensive to defeat the Mariners, 7-4. The heroes? The resurgent Alex Rios, who went 3 for 4 with three RBIs including a triple that tied the score at four; Kosuke Fukudome, who drive in his first two runs in a Sox uniform; and the bullpen in the persons of Addison Reed (7th inning), Matt Thornton (8th) and Hector Santiago (9th), who shut down Seattle with each pitching a scoreless inning.

The South Siders head to Oakland with Rios (.333), Paul Konerko (.362) and A.J. Pierzynski (.348) sporting pretty gaudy batting averages. Add Adam Dunn‘s long balls and 14 RBIs and it’s suddenly quite a middle of the lineup.

Even though red-hot Jake Peavy is on the mound tomorrow night against the A’s, the Sox are going to need all that offense and more with the ageless Bartolo Colon on the mound. The former Good Guy has been out of this world thus far this season and last week even hurled 38 straight strikes.

Don’t look now, but the team that most dismissed in their spring predictions is 9-6 and only a half-game behind those “unbeatable” Tigers.

Is Humber’s Gem Just the Start of Something Big?

As we all know, our White Sox are a team that entered 2012 way, way under the radar, even picked by many to finish in the cellar of the A.L. Central.

In the first 14 games of the season, the Sox have mostly impressed with a respectable 8-6 record.  Paul Konerko, Jake Peavy, Chris Sale, Alejandro De Aza and even 2011 disappointments Adam Dunn and Alex Rios have led the way.

Now, Philip Humber, a terrific example of talent, humility and persistence, has pitched the 21st perfect game in major league baseball history in yesterday’s 4-0 victory over the Mariners. By itself, it was the ultimate accomplishment for a pitcher and an historic feat by every measure. But I’m hoping for more.

I know that they say momentum is nothing more than the next day’s starting pitcher, but I’d like to think Humber’s gem can put the Sox in a whole different mindset–a renewed sense of confidence that will fool the experts and create a genuine threat to the Tigers. Am I asking for too much? Maybe, but it can’t hurt to think about it.

It will be a while before we can judge if this remarkable event on April 21 was a positive turning point in a season that started with much pessimism in most places outside of the Sox clubhouse. But wouldn’t it be something if that celebration pictured above of Humber’s teammates toasting his perfecto becomes just one of a series of South Side victory parties.

A New Hitting Coach and a Medicine Ball Rejuvenate a Beleaguered Dunn

Poor Adam Dunn.

It now comes to light that he may not have had to endure his historically-awful 2011 season if Jeff Manto was the hitting coach.

You see, Dunn spoke yesterday of Manto’s unconventional method of having the slugger swinging a bat with a medicine ball–yes, a medicine ball–between his legs to help keep him from lunging which preserves his overall balance.

So far, at least, the results are clear. Dunn’s been a different hitter as of late, coming up with clutch hits and going the other way to boot. Last night, he drove in five runs in the 7-3 Sox victory over the Mariners with an opposite field, run-scoring double and a pair of homers, one a towering three-run shot.

After the first 13 games of the season he’s now got three homers, 12 RBIs, a .265 batting average (more than 100 points higher than he finished last year), a .368 on-base percentage and .940 OPS.

The strikeouts (22) are still there and, let’s face it, they always wil be for a hitter of this ilk. But I think that you’ll agree that we can live with that, if we get those home runs and run-scoring doubles.

Up and Down Sox are .500 After First Dozen Games

As the White Sox head out to Seattle and Oakland for three games each with the Mariners and A’s, we’re a .500 team. Not so horrible, I guess, but losing three of four at home to the Orioles makes it feel much worse. Especially since we were in every game and raised everyone’s expectations by  taking two of three from the Tigers to open the homestand.

There were certainly positive signs in the Baltimore series as Adam Dunn and Alex Rios both had clutch hits (something rare a year ago), Paulie is Paulie and Jake Peavy is heading into 2007 territory when he won the Cy Young with the Padres. That said, Gavin Floyd (above) left a lot to be desired on the mound, the offense is striking out way too much and either not getting on base enough or leaving too many aboard. In yesterday’s game, the South Siders struck out 16 times and left the bases loaded three times. Certainly not something to build on.

The good news is that we’re only 12 games into the season. The next 150 will determine whether or not we’re more than a .500 team.

Two to Forget

I couldn’t bear to post my blog yesterday after the Sox meltdown Monday night against the Orioles. A 4-2 lead in the ninth should be enough, but we all know that there are always going to be a bunch of these heartbreakers during the course of the season. We just don’t want to admit it–and I couldn’t face writing about it, especially the 10-4 final score.

I had good feelings about the South Siders bouncing back last night with John Danks on the mound, but very few teams are going to win games with two, maybe three hitters, doing what they’re supposed to do. The result? a 3-2 loss.

To state the obvious, we are struggling offensively. Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham are among the culprits along with Brent Morel. And the few who are on their game,  like Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski, haven’t provided enough firepower to overcome the slackers.

The new skipper is still showing confidence in the non-producers. It’ll be interesting to see how long he waits before a makes an adjustment or two.

Pessimistic About Your White Sox? Listen to None Other Than Tigers Manager Jim Leyland

By Fred Mitchell of The Chicago Tribune:

Tigers manager Jim Leyland can get pretty riled up, even after his team has won a game.

Following Sunday’s 5-2 victory over the White Sox that prevented a series sweep, Leyland adamantly dismissed the many preseason predictions that the Tigers would run away with the American League Central, and that the White Sox would struggle mightily.

“People who made those picks, they know nothing about baseball,” Leyland said.“Trust me. If they think the Chicago White Sox are not going to be in the thick of this, they’re crazy. They don’t know anything about baseball, people who make picks like that … they know nothing about baseball. Nothing!”

Sports Illustrated predicted the White Sox would lose 95 games this season.

“Since 2006 when I got here, this has been one of the best teams in the league every year. And they will be right there,” Leyland said. “They picked us fourth last year and we won 95 games. So don’t pay attention to those people. They pick and they talk, but they don’t know what they’re talking about.”

The White Sox are off to an early 5-3 record, a half-game behind the Tigers (6-3).

“Look at their pitching staff. Look at the arms they throw out there,” Leyland said of the Sox. “Look at some of the arms they bring out of the bullpen. You know, Paul Konerko is one of the best hitters in baseball. You know Adam Dunn is going to do a lot better than he did last year. He got a couple of (doubles) today. I mean, this is a good team. (Alexei) Ramirez is one of the best shortstops in the league. This is a real good team. (A.J.) Pierzynski is one of the best catchers, gets a lot of big hits. I don’t know why anybody would not pick these guys as a solid, solid contender.”

The Tigers are the defending AL Central champs and have added free-agent slugger Prince Fielder to their lineup.

“I mean, we have a good team. Don’t get me wrong. So do they. They’re proving that. The people who make those picks…I don’t pay any attention to that,” Leyland said.