Time to Win Again, He’s Had His Phil of Losing

I’d prefer to ignore the details of last night’s disappointing 5-0 shutout loss to the Royals and move on…the good news is that the Indians and Tigers both also lost and the White Sox remain just 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Tribe.

Since the Sox dropped to 16-18 on the season, today won’t get us to .500 or beyond. That’s what happens when you’re flirting with .500–a loss makes it harder to catch up.

Aside from getting back on the road to .500 and winning the rubber game of the series with K.C., today’s game is important as it relates to Philip Humber. Since his perfect game, he’s spiraled downward. With Jake Peavy pitching as well as anyone in baseball, Gavin Floyd performing as well as he ever has, John Danks rebounding in his last outing and Chris Sale with a whole bunch of promise in his initial starts, a resurgent Humber would round out a pretty potent staff. What we don’t need is a weak link.

So keep an eye on Humber and let’s hope the bats come alive for our 17th win.

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A Parade of Heroes

As the White Sox inched closer to the .500 mark (16-17) with their impressive 5-0 victory over the Royals last night, they did it with a solid team effort, a dynamic we would love to continue.

Here are the main candidates for Player of the Game:

* Gavin Floyd, who recorded his third victory with 7 2/3 of shutout baseball. He allowed just five hits and two walks while striking out five as he lowered his ERA to 2.53.

* Adam Dunn, who gave the Sox an early 1-0 first innning lead with a towering homer, also doubled and walked twice as he ended his major league record of most consecutive games with a strikeout at 36. Dunn now has the same number of home runs he had ALL of last season (11), 26 RBIs and with a .257 batting average is hitting about 100 points higher than his final 2011 figure. Add a .401 on base percentage and a 1.030 OPS and can you say Comeback Player of the Year?

* Alex Rios, now batting .284, drove in the fourth and fifth Sox runs with his third triple of the season. While the Sox ultimately didn’t need the runs, the fact they were on the board made things much more relaxed when the Royals loaded the bases with one out in the eighth.

And a few Honorable Mentions

Alejandro De Aza continued his hot streak with a pair of hits, an RBI and a run scored…Gordon Beckham, making his own comeback, also had a couple of hits, an RBI and a run scored…Matt Thornton struck out K.C. phenom Eric Hosmer with the bases loaded in the eighth…Hector Santiago pitched a perfect ninth with a strikeout to end the game.

Sox Note of Note:  After a clean MRI, Chris Sale is back in the rotation. The new closer? Maybe Addison Reed, maybe a committee in the short term.

6 Random Thoughts on the Off-Day

This and that from SoxWorld following an impressive 8-1 victory over the Indians to split the four-game series after dropping the first two…

1. Alejandro De Aza is a terrific story. Signed by the Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 2001 and later drafted by the Marlins in the 2004 Rule 5 draft, it wasn’t until 2007 that he finally made his big league debut with Florida. He was selected off waivers by the White Sox after the 2008 season and 10 years after signing with L.A., De Aza became a regular last year, hitting .329 with a .400 on base percentage in 54 games from the leadoff spot. Based on his 2011 performance, the Sox felt he was ready to take over permanently–evidently they were right. So far this season he has been outstanding, As a result of his red-hot series in Cleveland his batting average has risen to .285 with a .369 on base percentage.

2. Adam Dunn continues his quest for “Comeback of the Year.” He connected with home run No. 10 last night, giving him 25 RBIs. Add that to an OPS of .970, all indications point to the fact that he is indeed “back.”

3. Paul Konerko keeps rolling along. He’s been so good and so consistent in his first 31 games that there’s a tendency to take him for granted. That, of course, would be a mistake. He’s got six homers and 18 RBIs along with a .345 batting average and a terrific 1.010 OPS.

4. Dayan Viciedo is due to break out anytime now–and, boy, would it be welcomed. If Viciedo can overcome his slow start (3 homers. 5 RBIs, .204 BA), it would mean so much to the offense. Let’s hope he snaps out of it soon.

5. Brent Morel has been struggling, to say the least. He has yet to hit a home run, has only four RBIs and is hitting a paltry .172. The skipper has shown his support for his starting third baseman, but if Morel doesn’t turn it around it’s inevitable a change will be made. There doesn’t seem to be a great alternative on the current roster (platoon of Escobar and Lillbridge?) and the likely choice at AAA Charlotte, Dallas McPherson, has been injured.

6. Jake Peavy‘s performance this season has been amazing. Don’t be surprised if he’s an All-Star and a candidate for his second Cy Young.

Appreciate the Game (and the Sox)

In yesterday’s post I quoted White Sox skipper Robin Ventura as saying, “It gets frustrating, but I think the way it’s going, the way the guys are grinding, you can’t fault them for anything.” Those comments came after the doubleheader loss to the Indians, which saw the South Siders fall to 13-17 and five games behind the first place Tribe.

Ventura’s observation couldn’t have been made clearer in last night’s 10-inning triumph at Progressive Field. After coasting to a 3-0 lead behind John Danks‘ best performance of the season, the South Siders suddenly found themselves locked up in a 3-3 tie after eight innings. With that momentum switch and being on the road, the Sox could have laid down and died–but, to their manager’s point, they didn’t.

The Sox failed to score in the ninth and Hector Santiago survived the bottom half of the inning despite putting the potential winning run in scoring position. Then, in the top of the 10th, the Pale Hose came to life.

Facing closer Chris Perez, Paul Konerko led off the inning with a single. After A.J. Pierzynski popped out, Alex Rios tripled and scored Brent Lillibridge who was sent in to run for Konerko. Rios then scored the all-important insurance run to give the Sox a 5-3 lead heading into the bottom of the 10th.

I still was not totally confident of the “W” because of the way both the red-hot Tribe has been playing and the recent fortunes of the Sox. But Addison Reed, confident and composed beyond his age and experience, rose to the occasion by setting down the heart of the Indian lineup in order: striking out Asdrubal Cabrera, retiring Carlos Santana on the flyout and fanning pinch-hitter Travis Hafner.

A 14-17 record is not something to brag about. But despite the record and losing a lot of close games (the club is 4-11 in games decided by two runs or less), the Sox are indeed grinding it out. And that’s something we should appreciate.

Come to think it, the Sox slogan, “Appreciate the Game,” kind of fits, doesn’t it?

Sox Notes of Note:  Rios got a bit of revenge on Perez with his clutch triple. The last time Rios faced the Indians’ closer  (last week in Chicago)  he was retired to end the game and Alex took exception to what he thought was Perez’s excessive exuberance. Nothing like a game-winning triple to get payback…I’m usually not good at lip-reading, but I did pick up something interesting in last night’s game. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Cleveland’s Jack Hannahan coasted into second base on a Johnny Damon single. He then leaned over and asked Gordon Beckham, “Who’s your closer?” I found the comment intriguing since it was somewhat confusing to all of us with Sale being called upon in eighth and Santiago in the ninth.

Is it Just a Matter of Time?

“It gets frustrating, but I think the way it’s going, the way the guys are grinding, you can’t fault them for anything.”

–Sox skipper Robin Ventura, after last night’s doubleheader loss to the Tribe

Yesterday was certainly a day to forget as the Sox dropped Game 1 to the Tribe, 8-6, largely on the imperfect outing of Philip Humber, and lost Game 2, 3-2, despite a solid performance by Eric Stults.

Humber, who now has had three bad outings since his perfecto against the Mariners, coughed up eight runs, nine hits and two walks in 2 1/3 innings. The silver lining, and yes there was one, was the terrific job Jose Quintana did in relief of Humber. Brought to the big club just for the doubleheader, Quintana’s major league debut was sterling as he gave up just one hit and two walks in 5 2/3 innings.

In the nightcap, Stults (who also was promoted yesterday) went six innings, allowing only two runs, four hits and four walks. If only he hadn’t walked No. 9 hitter Lou Marson with two outs in the fifth that ultimately gave the Tribe a 2-1 lead.

Ventura’s frustration noted above seems to be referring to all the close games the Sox are dropping. His refusal to place blame seems to refer to the fact that the club is putting forth the proper effort. Case in point is that in both games yesterday the Sox rallied in the late innings, only to come up short.

Robin’s hope is the same as ours. That it’s only a matter of time before the Sox begin winning the close ones.

A Run and Five Hits Not Enough in Rubber Match Against the Tigers

After Adam Dunn‘s first inning homer, I thought the Sox had a great chance to take the rubber game against the Tigers and head into Cleveland with some momentum. But it was not to be.

Dunn’s blast proved to be the only run the Sox could muster on just five hits. Still, they had their chances where a base hit could have tied the game or even put them ahead, but it didn’t  happen in the 3-1 loss. Give credit to Tiger starter Rick Porcello and relievers Octavio Dotel, Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit and closer Jose Valverde.

Sox sub starter Dylan Axelrod wasn’t horrible, but didn’t last long was tagged by two long balls. In 4 1/3 innings he gave up two runs–solo homers to Austin Jackson and Prince Fielder. Axelrod and relievers Will Ohman, Zach Stewart and Hector Santiago did a credible job in the clutch as 12 Detroit runners were left on base. A credible job in the clutch with one exception. Santiago’s penchant to give up homers came back to bite him in the ninth as Andy Dirks‘ solo shot provided the Tigers with a key insurance run that proved key as the Sox had the tying runs on base in the final frame.

Chris Sale, welcome to the closer role.

What We’ve All Been Waiting For

Just when it appeared all was lost this afternoon in Detroit and our White Sox were about to continue their slide with a fourth straight defeat, a monstrous, one-out, ninth-inning two-run home run by slugger Adam Dunn dramatically turned the tide in a much-needed 3-2 Sox victory.

Today’s result was appropriate payback from last night’s disaster which saw Matt Thornton cough up a two-run, ninth inning walk-off homer to Jhonny Peralta in the Tigers’comeback win.

The “payback” wasn’t without its tense moments. Hector Santiago, perhaps closing his last game before the arrival of Chris Sale as the full-time closer on Monday, continued to have his struggles. He gave up a walk and a double in the bottom of the ninth, giving way to fellow rookie reliever Addison Reed, who struck out Austin Jackson with the tying and winning runs on second and third for his first major league save.

Despite the fact it’s only the first week of May, this was a pivotal win for the South Siders. Another loss would have prolonged their losing streak and sent them down to defeat in consecutive demoralizing losses against the team to beat in the A.L. Central. Also, the Sox are now only a game under .500, instead of three if not for the Dunn and Reed heroics.

Sox Notes of Note:

Gavin Floyd pitched seven impressive innings, allowing only two runs and seven hits along with six strikeouts…In addition to Reed picking up his first save, rookie reliever Nate Jones was credited with his first major league victory…Sizzling Paul Konerko got the Sox on the board in the seventh with his sixth homer. He’s also driven in 17 runs  and is among the league leaders with a .351 batting average…Both Dunn and Alejandro De DeAza, who was on base for Adam’s homer, collected two hits apiece.