During the course of the long baseball season, certain games stand out as being more memorable, more significant or both. For a variety of reasons, we know last night’s 10-inning, come-from-behind White Sox victory over the Angels was memorable. Our hope is that as the season moves on, it will hold a great deal of significance as one of the key moments in the Sox turnaround.
Why was last night so memorable?
–It was Jake Peavy‘s 2011 debut as he pitched six innings, allowing four runs and seven hits along with zero walks and four strikeouts. No one could mistake him for Roy Halladay or even the Peavy of old, but considering the circumstances the effort should certainly be considered a success.
–The Pale Hose completed their second consecutive West Coast series victory.
–The Sox were able to rally for two in the ninth and two in the 10th to chalk up the “W” when all seemed lost–something that hasn’t been done much in this young season.
–We witnessed a rarity in the 10th inning as the winning run scored from third on a wild pitch as Angel pitcher Kevin Jepsen was intentionally walking Paul Konerko with runners on second and third.
–Being at the plate during the intentional walk/wild pitch in the 10th was only the beginning of an inning for the ages for Konerko. It started with the walk and continued as he proceeded to steal second base (who, Paulie?). In the bottom of the frame, he made a spectacular leaping catch off the bat of Maicer Izturis for out No. 2 (who, Paulie?) and ended the game with a behind-the-back toss to Matt Thornton on a bunt by Torii Hunter (See photo above of Konerko and Thornton having a laugh over it). It undoubtedly brought to mind Mark Buehrle‘s award-winning between-the-legs play last season and prompted A.J. Pierzynski to joke, “Konerko had the best five minutes of his life.”
–In that Thornton recorded the last out in a 6-4 game, it’s obvious that he got credit for the save. But let me underscore that: the 2010 All-Star actually recorded a save after three losses and four blown attempts.
—Adam Dunn continued to climb out of his early season hole by smashing a homer and a double and reaching base five times.
—Sergio Santos continued his year-long Mariano Rivera imitation as he pitched two scoreless innings. His ERA remains at 0.00.
The South Siders are still eight games under .500, 9 1/2 games behind the first place Tribe and their winning percentage is better than only the Twins and Astros. But I’m enjoying this victory as much as any other this season and hoping it’s a sign of good things to come.
Entering this season, one of the questions I had was, “Can John Danks take another step forward to become a dominating, All-Star caliber pitcher?”
Although Danks has looked good at times (inconsistency has always been his Achilles Heel), he has now fallen to 0-6 as a result of his subpar performance last night in the 6-2 loss to the Halos. It’s especially disheartening in that the loss ended the Sox momentum at three straight wins.
Danks’ disappointing effort came on the heels of Ozzie‘s official announcement that for the next 20 games the Sox will go with a six-man rotation. It accomplishes at least three things:
1. It makes room for Jake Peavy
2. It keeps the surprising Phil Humber in the rotation
3. It will give some extra rest to the other pitchers, especially Mark Buehrle
The “new look” pitching staff debuts tonight with Peavy making his first start of the year. It’s a key game, providing an early indication if the former Cy Young Award winner can have an impact as well as giving the opportunity for the Sox to win their second straight series on the West Coast.
With a season high three straight victories, Sox fans can begin to take the bags off their heads and start to believe there might be a season after all.
While we’re hardly out of the woods, Carlos Quentin‘s 3 for 4, 5 RBI night that included a three-run homer, Gordon Beckham‘s 2 for 4 with a two-run blast, two-hit nights from Alexei Ramirez and Adam Dunn and seven shutout innings from Edwin Jackson in an 8-0 victory over the Angels will do that to the faithful.
Apart from the recent winning streak, the big news is that Jake Peavy will make his debut on Wednesday. What he can contribute and what it does to the surprising Phil Humber is anybody’s guess. Could some semblance of a six-man rotation be forthcoming?
BASEBALL IS A FUNNY GAME: Last year during spring training converted infielder Sergio Santos‘s future was uncertain. However, after an impressive spring on the mound he made the ballclub–a moment emotionally captured by MLB Network cameras for the series, “The Club.” Now, a year later, he is the club’s unofficial closer and has yet to give up a run in 2011. He gave up nada during the spring and has yet to be scored upon in 15 1/3 innings of the regular season. it’s a bit early to think about All-Star Game selections but Santos, along with Paul Konerko, have to be the favorites to represent the White Sox. Just think, an All-Star candidate for the A.L. pitching staff who was a shortstop and third baseman just two short years ago.
Winning a series might not seem like much, but it’s the first time the White Sox have accomplished the feat since early April when they did it against Tampa Bay. And the way the South Siders won today–with three runs in the top of the 10th to outlast the
Mariners–is convincing enough for me to return to the blog after a much-needed week’s absence.
Believe me, as a Sox fan dating back to the 1950s, I’ve seen my share of hapless teams.
This year’s Sox, however, are not one of those dreadful ballclubs. That’s why this horrendous few weeks, filled with a non-existent offense, inconsistent pitching and shoddy defense, has been so alarming. No one in baseball has been able to figure it out.
Hopefully the last two games are the start of the turnaround. It won’t be easy with the Angels and A’s on the horizon, but I’m feeling a whole lot better than I did a week ago.
Despite a sore wrist, Paulie enjoyed a 5 for 5 day as the Sox downed the
P.S. — Thanks to all those who weighed in and encouraged me to make a speedy return.
I feel for those poor baseball beat writers who have had to cover the disaster that has, up until now, been the 2011 White Sox. The difference between the scribes and yours truly is that I’m a fan and they’re not. So, while the reporters are witnessing the carnage, they don’t have my emotional investment–an investment almost 60 years in the making.
While I’m not throwing in the towel by any means and will continue to watch faithfully, I’m taking a hiatus from the blog until further notice. It might be a day, it might be a week, but recapping these games after watching them is like leaning into a left hook. It’s painful.
This is my way of preserving some of my sanity and at the same time challenging the baseball gods to stop this madness.
The April results were ugly. A 10-18 record and nine games behind the first place Indians. So, how have things gone on an individual basis? Bet you can guess.
Mark Buehrle — 1-3 mark with a 5.12 ERA, but offense and pen have hurt him…Grade: C
Jesse Crain — 0-1 with a fine 1.50 ERA, but has been inconsistent…Grade: C
John Danks — 0-4, 3.92 and should have three wins…Grade: C
Gavin Floyd — 3-1, 3.60 and best record among the starters…Grade: B
Jeff Gray — 0-0, 3.48…Hard to judge, but has been decent in mop-up role…Grade: C
Phil Humber — 2-3, 3.06…Has been a huge surprise, near no-hitter vs. Yanks…Grade: B+
Edwin Jackson — 2-3, 5.86…Up and down, teased us in home opener. Grade: C
Will Ohman — 0-0, 8.31…Brutal start, better lately…Grade: C-
Tony Pena — 0-1, 9.64…I never feel you can count on him…Grade: F
Chris Sale — 2-0, 5.91…Sophomore jinx, has a lot to learn…Grade: C-
Sergio Santos — 0-0, 0.00…Brilliant, still hasn’t allowed a run in 2011…Grade: A
Matt Thornton — 0-2, 8.64, four blown saves…Awful, seems to have lost magic…Grade: F
Ramon Castro — 1 HR, 2 RBI, .261…Expecting more from reliable backup…Grade: C-
A.J. Pierzynski — 1, 11, .264…Like everyone else in lineup, need more…Grade: C+
Gordon Beckham — 2, 9, .194…Thought to be special, but now who knows?…Grade: F
Adam Dunn — 2, 10, .160…Appendectomy or not, a huge disappointment…Grade: F
Paul Konerko — 6, 19, .286…It’s certainly not the captain’s fault…Grade: A-
Brent Morel, 0, 7, .203…Was hoping for better in rookie campaign…Grade: D
Alexei Ramirez, 3, 10, .265…Better start than in past, a bit shaky at short…Grade: B-
Mark Teahen — 1, 3, .282…Decent at bat, surprisingly good in field…Grade: B-
Omar Vizquel — 0, 2, .276…A joy to watch, so glad we have him…Grade: B
Brent Lillibridge — 2, 3, .320…the NY legend has been solid in backup role…Grade: B+
Juan Pierre — 7 RBI, 5 SB…Not getting it done offensively or defensively…Grade: D
Carlos Quentin — 6, 17, .294…Along with Paulie, only offensive bright spots…Grade: A-
Alex Rios — 1, 6, .163…2009 form won’t cut it…He’s been horrible…Grade: F
Santos earns only solid “A” on April report card
A muffed relay throw by Paul Konerko, a wild pitch by John Danks that gave the Orioles a four-out inning and ultimately a game-changing homer, a mishandled ground ball by Alexei Ramirez and a “wild” performance by Jesse Crain resulting in four unearned runs without the benefit of a hit.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to your 2011 White Sox, 10-4 losers last night in a season that is quickly unraveling before our eyes.
Captain Konerko says creating a sense of urgency would create tension and tension is the last thing you want in a 162-game season. GM Kenny Williams tells fans not to panic. I keep telling myself it’s early and it will get better. Surely, we’ll turn things around when we get to the Cell. Not so much.
The truth is that we are an awful team right now and arguably the biggest disappointment of the young baseball season. I’m tired of all the talk and really tired of having to write about what has become a train wreck dressed in silver and black.
Like so many others, I’m sick to my stomach. Sharp objects are probably being kept away from Kenny Williams and we know Ozzie well enough to know he’s due for a tirade.
Although we’re still in April, the noble “All In” philosophy of 2011 is on the verge of collapse unless a turn-around comes pretty quickly. After a 3-8 road trip, in which we scored 12 runs in the last seven games, the South Siders are already seven games out of first place. The much talked about offensive firepower has virtually been reduced to getting standing ovations for getting a runner on base. This is the curious, inexplicable reality of what has happened to a team once thought to be destined for greatness.
The first two games against the Yankees gave fans reason to think that better days might be ahead. The pitching was excellent, the defense was solid (thanks, Brent Lillibridge) and the Sox scored just enough to win. Even though the Sox lost Game 3 of the series, it was there for taking. Again, it was the offense.
Then, there was last night and the 12-3 debacle. I’ll spare most of the details, but it was ugly. To make matters worse I witnessed it in person. Trust me, it was real ugly. Edwin Jackson couldn’t find the plate and the offense (sound familiar?) was a no-show. All you need to know is that the Sox had runners on second and third with nobody out in the first innning and couldn’t score. It was similiar to the night before when we loaded the bases in the second inning with none out and came up empty. So we can’t chalk it up to the fact yesterday was get-away day.
My good friend Jeff Graubard, a Yankee fan who invited me to the game (yes, I socialize with the enemy on occasion), thinks that a whipping like this might signal the club has hit rock bottom and will spur a winning streak. Jeff knows his baseball, even though he has bad taste in teams, so I’m counting on his wisdom.
Let’s see how wise he is, starting tonight at home against the Orioles.
While the victories in the first two games of the Yankee series were exhiliarating and last night’s loss somewhat palatable because of the Monday and Tuesday wins, we’re still 10-15, in last place in the A.L. Central and set to face nemesis C.C. Sabathia tonight in the series finale.
With the pitching and defense seemingly getting better, we all know where the blame lies. Nine runs in the last six games–that’s the harsh truth about the White Sox offense.
We’ve known since the offseason moves were made that the pieces of the puzzle are there. But it’s gotten to the point where we’re grateful for just getting runners on base. Forget the big rally, it’s just not happening. Case in point was the second inning of last night’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of Bartolo Colon. The Sox loaded the bases in the second inning with no outs after falling behind, 3-0, on the strength of Robby Cano‘s three-run homer. The result? Zip. A strikeout and two harmless fly outs.
What is going on? Let me count the ways:
—Juan Pierre is struggling. The leadoff man not getting on base is a problem.
—Alexei Ramirez is in his usual early season funk.
—Adam Dunn has gotten a few hits lately, but we’ve yet to witness his mammoth power. He does get the benefit of the doubt because he’s still fighting his way back from the appendectomy.
—Alex Rios is hitting like he did when he first joined the team in 2009. We’re missing the 2010 version of the centerfielder.
—Gordon Beckham? Great spring, great first few games, now he’s back to where he was a year ago. Like so many of the other offensive developments, it’s inexplicable.
If it weren’t for Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin…well, I just don’t want to think
With the way the South Siders played in Tampa Bay and Detroit we have to be happy with the developments this week in New York. At worst we get a split, which would have been acceptable going into Monday’s action. If we can survive tonight, taking three of four from the Yanks could be a significant sign that things are moving in the right direction.
But will we be able to score enough runs?
Sox Note of Note: It had nothing to do with the result of the game, but it was obvious from the beginnning that home plate umpire Todd Tichenor was going to have a bad night. It started in the first inning with a couple of calls that resulted in Ozzie arguing to the point where he got ejected. To me, the telltale sign was that both teams were griping about his work. Now that I know a little bit more about Tichenor, it’s understandable. He’s a AAA umpire who will be filling in most of this season. At least for one night, his performance was strictly minor league.
In the most improbable of endings, pinch-runner turned defensive replacement Brent Lillibridge (shown above being congratulated by Juan Pierre) stunned the 41,000 onlookers at Yankee Stadium tonight with two of the finest catches you’ll ever see, resulting in a thrilling 3-2 Pale Hose victory. Adding to the drama was that he robbed the likes of Alex Rodriguez and Robby Cano back-to-back with the tying and winning runs on base to end the game.
The amazing turn of events prompted Ozzie to come up with the quote of the night. “I think I finally found my closer–Lillibridge.”
Lilli’s heroics from his spot in right field and the subsequent Sox triumph were preceded by a stellar outing by Gavin Floyd and a clutch two-run homer by Paul Konerko. Floyd, who gave up only solo homers to Cano and Brett Gardner and two singles to Derek Jeter, struck out 10 in eight plus innings. Paulie’s blast gave the Sox the lead in the eighth–a margin they never relinquished, thanks to Lillibridge’s defensive wizardry.
Any two wins after beginning the road trip 1-6 would be welcome. But the fact we’ve won two close games against the Yankees in New York is special. How special? check out this fact:
It was the first time the White Sox overcame a deficit in the eighth inning or later to beat the Yankees in New York since 1996.
There was also a bonus moment for Sox fans when the cameras focused on Jeter’s expression of frustration and bewilderment after Lillibridge’s game-ending gem. He owes us a few of those.
Full disclosure: Readers of this blog know full well I’m not Lillibridge’s biggest fan–in fact, Sox Posse member Tim Clodjeaux reminded me of that tonight. I’ve said more than once that a player with his specific skills needs to be smart and do the little things. Too often Lilli has made mental mistakes and physical errors that have cost the Sox. But the two catches he made this evening were nothing less than magnificent and he deserves every accolade that will be bestowed upon him in the days ahead.