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.
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.
Regardless of who you may have chosen as today’s White Sox “Pick to Click,” you could likely make a case for your choice as the Sox celebrated their home opener with a host of heroes in their 5-2 triumph over the powerful Tigers.
Conventional wisdom would seem to be on the side of Dayan Viciedo, who put the Sox ahead 1-0 in the fifth with a long homer over the centerfield fence (pictured above) and made a spectacular catch in left of the bat of Andy Dirks to prevent the tying and go-ahead from scoring with the Sox ahead 3-2. The catch was certainly a game changer.
But how about Alexei Ramirez, whose diving grab behind the second base bag started the key double play off the bat of the dangerous Miguel Cabrera with one out and men on first and third in the eighth inning. Another game changer.
Or how about Jake Peavy, who gave up just two runs in 6 2/3 while striking out eight.
Then there was Paul Konerko who singled in Alejandro De Aza in the sixth for the sec0nd Sox run and A.J. Pierzynski who tripled in Konerko all the way from first for run No. 3.
And we can’t forget three others–De Aza who tripled in the eighth and scored on a Brent Morel single to give the Sox a 4-2 advantage (the fifth run scored on a wild pitch) and Hector Santiago, who recorded his third save.
OK, let’s give it to Dayan with a bunch of honorable mentions.
Sox note of note: In the category of nothing’s perfect, it’s interesting to note that the three regulars in today’s lineup who weren’t very heroic were the same three hitters who had such poor seasons a year ago: Adam Dunn, who K’d four times, Gordon Beckham, who struck out on three occasions, and Alex Rios, who struck out twice. In all fairness, Rios did smack a double and was at the plate when the final Sox run scored on the wild pitch.
I’m not planning on purchasing playoff tickets just yet, but we all should be happy at what we’ve seen of the Sox as they’ve concluded their initial road trip with a 3-2 record.
* A.J. Pierzynski is on fire with two homers, six RBIs and a .313 batting average.
* Alejandro De Aza also has a pair of homers (hit in the same games as A.J. hit his) and is hitting a respectable .273 from the leadoff spot.
* Paul Konerko is homerless, but has driven in five runs and has an OPS of 1.100.
* Adam Dunn is hitting only .222 with just one homer and two RBIs, but looks much, much better and has an on-base percentage of .364.
* Dayan Viciedo has zeroes in HR and RBIs, but is hitting a somewhat acceptable .267.
* And there are always early-season stragglers looking to break out. In this case, Alexei Ramirez, Gordon Beckham, Alex Rios and Brent Morel all need to get things going. I have to admit I’m concerned about Beckham and Rios while Alexei always gets off to a slow start.
* Chris Sale has to be the top early story here with his terrific performance against the Tribe in his first ML start. The other Sox victories were credited to Matt Thornton in relief against Texas and John Danks, who was far from in command yesterday in Cleveland, but gutted it out and benefitted from the 10 runs of support he got from his teammates.
* The pen has been solid with relievers Jesse Crain, Nate Jones, Addison Reed and Thornton all possessing 0.00 ERAs. And aside from surrendering a leadoff ninth inning homer in the opener against Cleveland, closer Hector Santiago has been impressive with his two saves.
Now it’s time to go home and convince the Tigers that they’re human.
Happy Opening Day! And now the flurry of questions about our 2012 White Sox will begin to be answered.
The April schedule won’t be a cakewalk. First it’s three against the Rangers, beginning this afternoon, then three vs. the Tribe–all on the road–then home for three against the mighty Tigers and four vs. the Orioles. The month concludes with a six-game road trip to Seattle and and Oakland and a four-game homestand against the Red Sox.
I hate to get ahead of myself because facing the two-time defending American League champs the next three days is imposing enough. But the facts are the facts. The Sox, in need of getting off to a good start to excite the South Side fandom, have their work cut out for them.
Today, we’ll see Robin Ventura‘s managerial debut and a new lineup that will look like this:
Beckham , 2B
One mystery is the identity of the closer. Ventura has been mum on the subject, but it seems Matt Thornton, Hector Santiago and Addison Reed are the likely suspects, in no particular order.
One game won’t make or break the season, but it sure would be nice to get out of the box with a “W” against the league champs. And it would be even sweeter if Dunn is a big part of it so he can exorcise those 2011 demons sooner than later.
Glendale, AZ—The uncertainty I’m feeling about the 2012 White Sox remains after having witnessed five spring training contests. As has been the pattern since the Sox left Sarasota for Arizona, the record is below .500–2-6 as of this morning. While that in itself is not serious cause for concern, all things considered a win is always better than a loss.
A few observations that contribute to the continuing uncertainty:
* Adam Dunn (knock on wood) looks much, much better. He’s making contact and looked his old powerful self with a three-run shot and a solid double against the Rangers last week.
* Alex Rios really hasn’t made an impression one way or another. A bit disappointing for those of us hoping for his revival.
* John Danks is struggling with his command. He doesn’t seem concerned since it’s happening so early in the spring, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
* Nestor Molina, who was acquired for Sergio Santos, got lit up in his first appearance, but seemed to be much more relaxed in a good outing the next time he took the mound. Simon Castro, who came to the Sox in the Carlos Quentin deal, had an appearance he’d like to forget. Entering the game in the top of the ninth with a 6-5 lead, he imploded with a walk, a wild pitch, a hit batsmen and then surrendered a grand slam home run, sending the Sox into defeat. Neither one will make the opening day roster, but much will be expected of both as early as this summer so it’s worth watching.
* I like what I’ve seen of Brent Morel. I think he’ll just get better and better. His infield mate Gordon Beckham, in somewhat of a do or die situation, has also been a positive. Defensively, they will combine with Paul Konerko and Alexei Ramirez to give the Sox a stellar infield presence.
* Matt Thornton is the leader in the clubhouse for the closer role, but youngster Addison Reed is lurking. Seems like the call won’t be made until the end of the spring.
* Tyler Flowers, the backup backstop, has struck out a lot, but has shown power. Those who have watched him see his potential at the plate, but he’s yet to show it on a consistent basis.
* One reserve position player will likely be selected from Eduardo Escobar, Ozzie Martinez, Dan Johnson, Dallas McPherson and Jim Gallagher. I would say Johnson is the guy right now.
It’s just been that kind of a spring.
Scott Merkin whets our White Sox appetite today on whitesox.com with some facts, figures and projections to chew on:
* Pitchers and catchers report on February 23
* Full squad reports on February 28
* First Spring Training game, March 5, vs. the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch
* Opening Day, April 6, at Texas
Merkin’s Projected Batting Order:
Alejandro DeAza CF, Gordon Beckham 2B, Paul Konerko 1B, Adam Dunn DH, Alex Rios LF, A.J. Pierzynski C, Alexei Ramirez SS, Dayan Viciedo RF, Brent Morel 3B
John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Jake Peavy, Chris Sale, Philip Humber
Matt Thornton Closer, Jesse Crain RH setup man, Will Ohman LH setup man (with all other spots up for grabs). Key bullpen prospect to watch is Addison Reed, who very well might be the closer (my two cents, not Merkin’s).
Nestor Molina RHP, Dan Johnson 1B, Ozzie Martinez IF and, of course, the skipper Robin Ventura
Ozzie Guillen, Mark Buehrle, Sergio Santos, Carlos Quentin, Juan Pierre, Omar Vizquel, Ramon Castro, Jason Frasor