It was three days of fun for White Sox fans this weekend as solid pitching and a bevy of home runs carried the Sox to an impressive and very satisfying three-game sweep over the Cubs at Wrigley. And, more importantly, the South Siders, having won four in a row, now stand at .500 with a 21-21 record and are in second place only 2 1/2 games behind the first place Indians.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get better after the Friday and Saturday wins, the Sox rose to the occasion this afternoon winning 6-0, the first time the North Siders have been shut out this season. The Sox pounded out three more home runs–back-to-back fourth inning blasts by Gordon Beckham and Adam Dunn and a fifth inning solo clout by Tyler Flowers–giving them eight for the series. Dunn and Beckham led the way with two apiece while Flowers, A.J. Pierzynski, Dayan Viciedo and Paul Konerko hit one apiece.
Starters Philip Humber, John Danks and Jake Peavy did a terrific job–combining for 19 innings, two earned runs only 11 hits and 13 strikeouts–and the bullpen, with the exception of Zach Stewart giving up four runs in the ninth yesterday when the game was already in hand, closed the door. Peavy, by the way, is now 5-1 with a 2.39 ERA.
Hopefully the winning streak continues as the Sox open a three-game series on Tuesday night against the Twins.
The quick two-game road trip to the left coast, between the pair of games against the Tigers last Monday and Tuesday and the upcoming weekend series at Wrigley beginning tomorrow, ended today in a split. At least the plane trip home will be a pleasant one.
Speaking of pleasant, the offense woke up in the 6-1 victory over the Angels. The red-hot A.J. Pierzynski pounded out three hits with two RBIs and four players had two hits apiece: Adam Dunn (2 RBIs), Paul Konerko (RBI), Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez. Dayan Viciedo, who is on a tear, added his sixth home run.
Chris Sale got credit for this fourth victory, pitching 5 1/3 innings. The only run he surrendered came on Albert Pujols third homer, his second in two days. Nate Jones (1 1/3 innings), Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain ( an inning apiece) closed the door the rest of the way with a scoreless 3 2/3.
Now, the Cubs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We certainly can’t be happy with losing three of four to the Red Sox at home, but it doesn’t seem as bad when you salvage the series finale and end a five-game losing streak. Now the White Sox head into an off-day with a satisfying 4-1 win and get back to .500 at 11-11–tied with the Tigers for second place and just a game behind the Tribe, who invade the Cell for a three-game set on Tuesday night.
Gavin Floyd was the “man” today as he headed into the seventh inning with a no-hitter. He lost the no-no on a Dustin Pedroia single and the shutout on a Cody Ross RBI single and was replaced by Addison Reed. In 6 2/3 frames he allowed just the one run, three hits, one walk and nine strikouts. Reed pitched a scoreless inning and Matt Thornton was perfect in 1 1/3 with two strikeouts for the save. Even more impressive is that Thornton retired the heart of the Bosox lineup–Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz–in order in the ninth.
The Sox offense, with red-hot Paul Konerko out of the lineup with a stiff neck, held up their end of the bargain after the 1-0 loss on Saturday night. In a three-run first, Alex Rios had a RBI single and Adam Dunn a long two-run homer. The South Siders scored an insurance run in the eighth on a clutch two-out RBI by Dayan Viciedo.
Jake Peavy did his best Philip Humber imitation, pitching a masterful three-hit, complete game shutout. The back-to-normal Adam Dunn and red-hot Paul Konerko hit back-to-back homers in the fourth inning, giving Peavy all the support he needed to offset the outstanding outing by the A’s Bartolo Colon. And, in the end, the Sox went on to win their fourth straight with a 4-0 victory last night in Oakland.
Furthermore, take a look at the standings this morning. The only American League team with a better record is Texas at 13-4. Right behind are the Sox and Tigers tied for the A.L. Central lead at 10-6 and the Yankees and Blue Jays knotted up for the A.L. East lead with the same record. Everyone else is behind these five leaders.
I know it’s early, but this is a lot of fun and I’m going to enjoy it.
Konerko on verge of 400th homer
Konerko’s homer last night was the 399th of his career, tying him for 48th place in major league history with Al Kaline and Andres Galarraga. One more and he joins the “400” club.
Paulie’s standing as one of the game’s Top 50 home run hitters brings to mind Tommy Lasorda‘s comment when the Dodgers traded Konerko to Cincinnati for reliever Jeff Shaw (the Sox acquired PK from the Reds for Mike Cameron). The Hall of Fame manager said, and I paraphrase, that he was comfortable making the deal because he didn’t see Konerko as a 20-homer guy in the major leagues.
As wrong as Lasorda was in judging Konerko’s home run prowess, he was right about one thing. Paulie isn’t a 20-homer slugger. From 1999-2011 in a White Sox uniform, No. 14 averaged 30 homers. He’s had 40 or more twice, 30 or more five times and 20 or more on five occasions.
So much for Lasorda as a talent evaluator.
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.
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.