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 Chicago media will undoubtedly turn today’s game into a celebration of Kerry Wood‘s career as he pitched for the last time and walked off the field to a Standing O. And Cub fans will eat it up. After all, they have to find something to cheer about about after more than a century without experiencing the ultimate baseball accomplishment.
Congratulations Kerry, but we Sox fans look at today much differently…
–It was a nice 3-2 victory with a fine start by Phil Humber and scoreless relief by Matt Thornton (Humber was charged with both runs), Nate Jones and new closer Addison Reed.
–It was a game where we got sweet revenge with cocky headhunter Jeff Samardzija, who hit Paul Konerko in the face with a pitch after Paulie clocked him with a two-run homer in his first time at bat. The payback came when Gordon Beckham touched what’s his name with an eighth-inning, solo blast that proved to be the difference.
So, while they’ll be lifting a glass (or 12) to Wood in Wrigleyville tonight, I’ll be grateful that Alex Rios‘s ninth inning “lost in the sun” fly ball didn’t affect the outcome, happy for the beleaguered Beckham and pray that Paulie is OK.
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.
Halfway through yesterday’s game, with the Sox leading 6-0, I started to think about what I was going to write about the Sox’s two-game sweep over the Tigers.
Then came the top of the sixth inning and all I could think about is “Hold the Presses.”
Andy Dirks singles. Miguel Cabrera homers. Prince Fielder doubles. Alex Avila grounds out, Fielder to third. Brennan Boesch is hit by a pitch. Ryan Raburn homers. Jhonny Peralta walks. (Will Ohman replaces Jake Peavy). Pinch-hitter Delmon Young is hit by a pitch, Peralta to second. Austin Jackson homers. Dirks pops out. Cabrera lines out to center.
Heading into the ninth trailing 10-6, The Sox did make it interesting. They scored twice and had runners on second and third with Dayan Viciedo representing the winning run at the plate. Tank hit a long drive to right that came within a few feet of sending Sox fans home happy. But it was not to be.
Now comes the fun part. After losing a tough game, the Sox entourage took the long flight to Cali to face the Angels in a two-game series, today and tomorrow. Then it’s back to Chicago to face the Media Darlings at Bartman Field. What were the schedule-makers thinking?
Sox Note of Note: A.J. Pierzynski was on fire yesterday, going 5 for 5 with three RBIs and two runs scored.
Any hope of a sweep and the chance of getting above the .500 mark were dashed big-time this afternoon by a journeyman pitcher who was 0-2 with a 5.40 earned run average in 2011 and had a lifetime 75-84 record and a 4.86 ERA going into today’s game.
In seven innings, Rodrigo Lopez, who has pitched for the Padres, Orioles, Rockies, Phillies, Diamondbacks and Cubs in his 10 undistinguished seasons, shut out the Sox with only two hits in his seven innings on the Wrigley mound and the Cubs hung on to win 3-1. Gavin Floyd was decent for the Sox, but had his usual bad inning and now has the dubious distinction of being the losing pitcher in both losses to the Cubs this season.
Offensively, The Sox scored their run against Kerry Wood in the eighth and got the tying runs on the bases, but Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol shut the door with no further damage and Marmol did likewise in the ninth. And you knew this was coming: Adam Dunn was 0-4 with a strikeout, dropping his batting average to .165. There’s really nothing left to say. We’re lucky to be only 3 1/2 games out of first with the once-potent slugger doing absolutely nothing to help the cause.
The Sox head to the South Side for three against the Royals and four against the Twins before leaving for the All-Star break.
Sox Notes of Note: Carlos Quentin was named the lone Sox All-Star with Paul Konerko still having a chance in the final online vote. In an effort to get him on the team, the White Sox have created the campaign, “PaulStar.” For the record, the club has had great success with the “final vote” in the past as fans have voted in both Scott Podsednik and A.J. Pierzynski. Although Konerko unquestionably belongs by virtue of his terrific season, it’s hard to argue with the two first basemen who did make it–Adrian Gonzalez and Miguel Cabrera.
Here’s A.J. showing who he’ll be voting for:
It’s been a long time coming, but the White Sox reached the .500 mark today with a nail-biting 1-0 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley for their fourth straight win. Phil Humber (above), who has been nothing short of extraordinary all season, chalked up his eighth win in seven innings of work. The season’s most pleasant surprise outpitched Matt Garza, who went all the way in the loss.
The South Siders went hitless for five innings before the red-hot Juan Pierre (who else?) collected the first Sox hit and drove in their lone run in the same at bat in the sixth.
With Sergio Santos having pitched three days in a row, Matt Thornton was called upon to preserve the shutout. He did, hurling two perfect frames for his third save. Another spectacular performance by a bullpen that has been nothing less than spectacular in recent days.
Nothing’s perfect, though, and if an Adam Dunn resurgence is forthcoming it’s going to have to wait. Dunn, playing in right field in place of Carlos Quentin, struck out three times. It seems his nightmare is never going to end.
Sox win 4 of first 5 against the Cubs to win Crosstown Cup with 1 game to go.
For a while it looked like…well, it looked like the same movie we’ve seen a million times. Pitching that keeps us in the game and wasted opportunities by an underachieving offense.
But today, in the rubber game of the series vs. the Rockies, it was a different theme. It was, in short, a satisfying come-from-behind extra inning 6-4 victory. A far cry from the tough and controversial loss in the opener.
Down 4-1 heading into the seventh inning, the Sox scored one in the seventh, two in the eighth to tie the game and two in the 10th to take the lead. Sergio Santos pitched a perfect ninth for his 17th save. He was preceded by starter Jake Peavy, who settled down after allowing a three-run, first inning homer to Troy Tulowitzki, and Will Ohman, Chris Sale and Jesse Crain, who each pitched a scoreless inning.
Two of the most maligned White Sox were today’s heroes. Juan Pierre went 3 for 5 with three RBI, including the single that bounced off the right field wall to score the fifth and sixth runs in the 10th. Gordon Beckham went 3 for 3 with a walk, homered and drove in a pair.
Sox are now 40-42 and remain four games in back of the division lead as they head into Wrigley tomorrow for a three-game series with you know who.
To state the obvious, one of the true indicators of a contending team is a strong bullpen. Whether it’s a group of relievers piecing the game together or the closer shutting the door after a starter’s eight-inning effort, it’s a sight to behold when it works.
And last night it was a thing of beauty for the White Sox as they defeated the Cubs, 4-3, and won their 17th consecutive interleague series.
Jake Peavy was solid, especially for his first start after returning from the DL. Offensively, the highlights were A.J. Pierzynski‘s two-run triple and Brent Lillibridge‘s suicide squeeze that scored A.J. But to me, the bullpen succession of Chris Sale, Jesse Crain, Matt Thornton and closer Sergio Santos was the most satisfying part of the victory.
- Sale relieved Peavy with two outs in the sixth and got out of a jam by getting the dangerous Starlin Castro to ground out to third. The lefty returned in the seventh and ended the inning by striking out Alfonso Soriano.
- Crain came on in the eighth with an inherited runner, Tony Campana, who eventually reached third with one out via a stolen base and ground out. Crain proceeded to strike out Koyie Hill before Thornton came on to stifle the rally by striking out Kosuke Fukodome.
- Santos closed out his 14th save in impressive style by retiring Castro on a groundout and striking out two legit power threats–Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena, who homered in each game of the series.
Twenty-four hours ago, my Sox posse and I were lamenting the 6-3 loss to the Cubs in the opener of the Crosstown Series.
One day later, we have claimed an impressive 3-2 rain-delayed win over the North Siders, gained a full game on the first place Indians, to move within 4 1/2 games of first place, and have inched closer to the elusive .500 mark (36-39).
While all of us are feeling better this morning, we can’t ignore three dark clouds that need to clear out before we seriously think postseason:
- Adam Dunn
- Alex Rios
- Gordon Beckham
Games like tonight make you wonder if the White Sox are ever going to make a legit run for the A.L. Central title. And to make matters worse, it was a loss at the hands of the Media Darlings from the North Side.
Blowing a 3-0 first inning lead, which was fueled by a Carlos Quentin RBI single and a Paul Konerko two-run blast (No. 20), our familiar “quiet bat” syndrome took hold from innings two through nine.
Add that to a Gavin Floyd meltdown– he gave up four runs in the sixth on a solo homer by Starlin Castro and a three-run belt by Carlos Pena–and it was a disastrous 6-3 loss to the Cubs.
I’ve written it what seems like a million times, but if Adam Dunn (0-4 with three strikeouts) and Alex Rios (a harmless ninth inning single in four at bats) don’t significantly turn it around, we’re sunk. And the most puzzling aspect of all is the manner in which Dunn has become almost an automatic strikeout victim. What ever happened to his annual output of nearly 40 homers and 100 RBIs? Simply amazing.
The 2011 White Sox are certainly testing our patience. And if a win isn’t in the cards, how about a late inning rally once in while? The truth is, when the Sox got down 6-3 the faithful was pretty sure it was a lost cause.
And it was.