The winning streaks, the losing streaks, the come-from-behind wins, the thrills and the heartbreaks all have led to this–White Sox Game 162.
Tomorrow afternoon it’ll be Edwin Jackson trying to end the Sox season on a high note, Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski, Freddy Garcia and Bobby Jenks–four of the five holdovers from the 2005 champions–all will be facing the possibility of suiting up for the White Sox for the last time and Konerko will attempt to hit his 40th home run in what has been a remarkable year for the All-Star.
Following the game, I will post a look back at the season and also focus on what might happen in the off-season as the Sox try to improve and be more formidable in 2011.
Note: For the record, Mark Buehrle, who tonight won his 13th game to finish .500 for the season, is the other current White Sox player to win a World Series ring in ’05. Under contract in ’11, he will definitely be back in the fold.
Dayan Viciedo (above), Brent Morel (below), Tyler Flowers and Alejandro De Aza found themselves in the Sox starting lineup last night as the likes of Paul Konerko, Alex Rios, Carlos Quentin, Alexei Ramirez, A.J. Pierzynski, Manny Ramirez and the injured Gordon Beckham were firmly planted on the bench in the third base dugout.
Ozzie apparently felt that giving the youngsters some playing time was more important than the Sox extending their three-game winning streak and finishing the season a game shy of 90 victories. The Good Guys wound up losing to the Tribe, 7-3, after Tony Pena surrendered three runs in the first.
With so many questions that need to be answered, it’s impossible to predict what roles, if any, the above four prospects will have with the big league club in 2011. In my view, Morel could certainly be the starting third baseman and Viciedo either a DH or maybe the first baseman if Konerko doesn’t return. With his great speed, De Aza is a possible fourth or fifth outfielder. Pun intended, the bloom could be off the Flowers rose. He no longer looks like the blue-chipper both the Braves and White Sox thought he was. I would be surprised if he’s in the picture next season.
With two games remaining, it’s uncertain who Ozzie will put on the field. But there is still something to play for. I would like to see Mark Buehrle get to the .500 mark tonight with his 13th win and it would be a nice sendoff for Edwin Jackson, who has been less than stellar lately, to shine in his last start of the season.
In this season of White Sox schizophrenia, a constant has been the club’s ability to rebound from early deficits. It happened again last night as Dayan Viciedo lined a ninth-inning RBI single to leftfield for the 5-4 walkoff win against the Bostonians.
The South Siders were indeed “Dayan” for a win, having lost seven straight games at
home–three to the Twins, three to the Tigers and the series opener against the Red Sox.
Sign him up: As the speculation heats up about the futures of free agents Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski, one of the most valuable Sox of 2010, Omar Vizquel, has said he wants to come back.
“I got used to the city and the teammates,” Vizquel said. “And it’s nice to come back to a team where they know what to expect from you, and what kind of personality you have. In my career, I really have been jumping from team-to-team, and you always want to feel comfortable in a place you like. I like it here, so I hope they maybe can think about having me back.”
Some White Sox thoughts on a football Saturday:
* Even before this week Sox fans got used to the fact that we weren’t going to catch the Twins. No one is really talking about it, but we now have a challenge to stay ahead of the Tigers and secure second place. After last night only six games separate us and Detroit. Two more Tiger victories this weekend (it’s Lucas Harrell vs. 16-game winner Justin Verlander this afternoon) and our lead is down to four. Then it’s off to the West Coast followed by a four-game series with the depleted, but always tough, Red Sox. I don’t want to cause any panic, I’m just saying…
* I wrote it before we acquired Manny Ramirez, I wrote it when we got Manny and I’ll say it again now after Manny has had no impact on the Sox pennant chances: regardless of his performance in a Sox uniform, it was the right thing for management to do. I do find it almost laughable, though, that it took a green uniform (because of the halfway to St. Patrick’s Day promotion) and nearly three weeks for him to record his first home run and RBI. To be fair, he is hitting .295 with a .456 on base percentage since arriving in Chicago.
* The Sox brass has a lot of lot of decisions to make in the offseason. So, it’ll be interesting to see how the ’11 Pale Hose are constituted. Some questions:
–Will the Sox sign free agents Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski?
–Will the South Siders bring back Omar Vizquel, after his amazing season?
–Will the intense, but brittle, Carlos Quentin be back?
–Will Tyler Flowers and Jordan Danks, who both seemed to take a step back this season, be viable candidates for the major league roster?
–What will become of Freddy Garcia?
–Will Chris Sale be in the starting rotation?
–Will Jake Peavy be ready for spring training?
–I can’t see Manny, Mark Kotsay or Andruw Jones returning, so who becomes the DH?
–All indications are that Bobby Jenks is a goner, so who will close? J.J. Putz?
–Despite the fact he has two more years to go on his three-year deal, will the disappointing Mark Teahen still be in a Sox uniform even as a utilityman?
–What are Brent Morel‘s chances of winning the starting third base job? Maybe a platoon with Vizquel?
–I know I’m burying the lead, but will both Ozzie and Kenny Williams be back?
The offseason certainly won’t be boring.
I have to be honest, I had the blog pretty much thought out in my head last night. It went something like this, with a definite hint of exasperation: Offense silent as Sox fall to lowly Royals in first game at the Cell after 11-day road trip…Lose for fourth straight time…Miss opportunity for a chance to gain on the Twins, who are shut out in Cleveland.
That, of course, was before the eighth inning heroics which saw A.J. Pierzynski power a two-out double into the gap in right-center (above), driving in the tying and eventual winning runs for the 4-3 victory over K.C. It just goes to show that, once again, these Sox keep coming back with their remarkable resiliency.
Prior to Pierzynski’s clutch two-bagger, the only offense the South Siders could muster was Brent Morel‘s first major league home run, slammed over the 400-foot sign in centerfield. Other than that it was the same-old, same-old that we saw the past three days in Detroit.
So, what could have been a devastating blow turned out to be a most welcome glimmer of hope. The Minnesota lead is still a commanding five games, but it was the first time the Hose gained a game in the standings since August 24. That fact is even more amazing in that we won seven in a row during that stretch.
Along with Pierzynski’s key hit, the most satisfying moment of the game was the performance of rookie Chris Sale, who impressively chalked up his second save. With veterans like Bobby Jenks, Matt Thornton and J.J. Putz, it’s pretty mind-boggling that a kid who was pitching in college just a few months ago is our most reliable arm out of the pen. With all the blown saves, injuries and spotty performances, he’s been a godsend.
The Heroes: A.J. congratulates Sale after the rookie recorded the save.
The White Sox did it again this afternoon in a 5-4 victory over the Tigers in 10 innings. Coming from behind on three separate occasions, including tying the score 4-4 in the eighth and scoring the winning run in the 10th, the South Siders won their seventh straight without a loss on this road trip.
Chris Sale, in relief of Edwin Jackson with one out in the eighth, pitched 2 2/3 perfect innings to record his first major league win. A.J. Pierzynski, who has seemingly found his groove, collected two hits and three RBIs. As for Manny Ramirez, he pounded out three singles, including what represented the winning run. Alejandro De Aza, who came in to pinch-run for Manny, actually scored the 10th inning tally on Pierzynski’s single to left, which put The Good Guys over the top for good.
The Sox showed a great deal of versatility in the win. Pulling out all stops, a group of non-starters–De Aza, Brent Lillibridge, Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez–all saw action and five players found themselves in multiple roles–Omar Vizquel (SS-3B), De Aza (PR-DH), Mark Teahen (3B-1B), Lillibridge (PR-CF), Rios (PH-CF), A. Ramirez (PH-SS).
Same Old Story: The Sox win…and so do the Twins. What else is new? Despite the winning streak, the Pale Hose still remain 3 1/2 games behind Minnesota.
Time will tell whether or not the White Sox will overtake the Twins and go to the postseason. Regardless of the outcome, it’s been a treat to watch this team from the point in early June that they made their move.
These guys just won’t quit. Because of their extraordinary intestinal fortitude, maybe we should call them the Cojones Kids (please see a Spanish dictionary for details if you’re not familiar with the term).
On this road trip alone–where they now find themselves 6-0–there were a pair of late-inning three run-homers (A.J.Pierzynski and Paul Konerko) and a close-to-a-miracle 11th inning shot by Brent Lillibridge in Cleveland and the amazing comeback this afternoon in Boston. This, after the impressive doubleheader sweep yesterday.
Down 5-3 heading to the top of ninth today against the Red Sox’s Jonathan Papelbon, here’s what happened on a beautiful day in Beantown. Please note that all the scoring came after two were out.
–-Omar Vizquel flied out to center.
—Alex Rios walked.
—Andruw Jones, batted for Konerko. With Jones at bat, Rios steals second. Jones called out on strikes.
—Carlos Quentin doubled to center, Rios scored. Red Sox, 5-4. Brent Lillibridge ran for Quentin.
—Ramon Castro singled to center, Lillibridge scored. Score tied at 5-5.
—Alexei Ramirez walked, Castro to second.
—Dustin Richardson replaced Papelbon for Boston.
—Mark Teahen walked, Castro to third, A. Ramirez to second. Robert Manuel replaced Richardson.
—Gordon Beckham walked, Teahen to second, A. Ramirez to third, Castro scored. White Sox lead 6-5.
—Juan Pierre walked. A. Ramirez scored, Beckham to second, Teahen to third. Sox, 7-5.
–Vizquel lined out, making his second out of the inning.
And Matt Thornton, in his first appearance since coming off of the DL, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning for the save as the Pale Hose remain 3 1/2 games behind the Twins, who finished the sweep at home vs. Texas.
What a day–and now on to Detroit for four.
The Quentin Factor: There were many heroes in today’s glorious comeback win. Count Quentin as one of the biggest ones, as he went 3 for 5 with a pair of RBIs including a key one during the ninth inning uprising. CQ is beginnning to heat up and that can mean only good things for the South Siders.
Note of the Day: The Good Guys were a huge threat on the basepaths today with a total of six stolen bases, paced by Rios whose three thefts gives him 32 on the season. Only Pierre, with a league-leading 54, has more this season in a White Sox uniform.