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.
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.
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.
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.
There are not many things I dislike more than the White Sox giving up a lead in the late innings and losing on a walk-off homer.
So, you can’t be surprised when I tell you I got little sleep last night after the Tigers 5-4 triumph.
On our way to the deflating loss, Jake Peavy was magnificent in eight innings of work and Gordon Beckham gave further hope that he’s on his way back with a single, double and two-run blast that gave us a 4-2 lead. Just a few days ago, his batting average was well under the .200 mark. He’s now at .233. The fact these performances were wasted, made Jhonny Peralta‘s two-run, game-winning clout that much more disturbing.
New Sox Closer
Chris Sale couldn’t have been much better in his first foray as a major league starting pitcher (3-1, 2.81 ERA), but the Sox are moving him into the bullpen as the closer to preserve his career. Evidently, the youngster has had soreness and tightness in his elbow and the club is concerned it could cause problems down the road if he continued to start. It appears that Dylan Axelrod will have the first shot at replacing Sale in the rotation.
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.