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.
I love Sports Illustrated. I love the people there. I spent the 20 most enjoyable years of my life as the magazine’s chief spokesman and I treasure every moment.
GLENDALE, AZ–With nearly 12,000 in attendance and more watching on TV back in Chicago, it seemed like a great opportunity yesterday for the White Sox to display their “All In” brand of baseball against our friends from the North Side.