Art Berke, a lifelong White Sox fan, has worked at the highest levels of the sports industry with Major League Baseball, ABC Television and Sports Illustrated. He grew up in Northwest Indiana, in the shadow of old Comiskey Park, and proudly proclaims 2005 as the best year of his life. Art offers his glass half-full opinions and observations as he lives and dies with the Sox.
I really don’t know what to say. As I was getting ready to celebrate our eighth victory and a series win over the A’s, the roof fell in. What else is new?
Another blown three-run ninth inning lead, Matt Thornton‘s fourth blown save without recording one and poor performances by Chris Sale and Jesse Crain proved to be too much to overcome as we lose, 7-4. For the record, we lead the major leagues in allowing 12 ninth inning runs. Not good, not good at all.
I really don’t feel like extolling the virtues of John Danks‘ outstanding eight-inning performance and recapping any of our offensive exploits. The bottom line is that we blew another one and we look nothing like a contender.
Even though his new team is having its own struggles, somewhere Bobby Jenks is laughing.
It was the Missile’s night. Alexei Ramirez‘s three-run second inning homer gave the Sox a 3-1 lead and his 10th inning walkoff blast sent the fans home happy with a 6-5 victory. And, by the way, we’ll forgive him for his error in the fifth that prompted Ozzie to yank Edwin Jackson before the Pale Hose starter qualified for the for the “W.” Nobody’s perfect.
It was a satisfying win, especially due to the fact there was still a collective hangover from Matt Thornton‘s blown save and Juan Pierre‘s dropped fly ball Monday night. Those bad memories surfaced again in the sixth inning when Alex Rios‘ dropped the club’s sixth fly ball of the season. Fortunately, no damage was done as a result.
Apart from Ramirez, the most positive news resulted from the four scoreless innings–two apiece–by Sergio Santos and Chris Sale. With the bullpen less than effective in our first several games, it was a welcome sight and gave the Sox the chance to ‘hang in.”
The White Sox have started the season of being “All In” with a respectable 6-4 record after their first 10 games, but due to some serious bullpen woes and shoddy defense things don’t feel as good as they may seem on the surface.
Three of the Sox losses have resulted into a trio of Matt Thornton blown saves. The man who would be the successor to the much-maligned Bobby Jenks has yet to save a game. In their losses, the Sox have blown two three-run leads and a one-run margin made even worse by dropped fly balls and other miscues.
Take last night. Mark Buehrle was magnificent, throwing eight innings of scoreless, two-hit baseball. Then the roof fell in. In the ninth, Thornton gave up a leadoff double to AndyLaRoche and pinch runner Cliff Pennington scored when Juan Pierre (pictured above), for the second time in four days, dropped a very catchable fly ball. That tied the game and Kurt Suzuki hit the game-winning homer in the 10th to give Oakland a 2-1 extra inning victory.
If Thornton or his bullpen teammates don’t find the formula to save games and the defense doesn’t play better in clutch situations, the explosive offense will be negated and the summer of “All In” will be a bust.
On a day that saw the White Sox dominate Tampa Bay, 6-1, with an outstanding eight-inning performance by Gavin Floyd, two home runs by Paul Konerko and a solo blast by Gordon Beckham (pictured above), I can’t stop thinking about the status of our bullpen.
My focus is there because of Ozzie‘s comments this weekend that he may approach the closer role a bit more democratically than simply turning to Matt Thornton. Earlier this spring when the manager announced that Thornton would be the main guy, he did leave the door open a bit by saying the tall lefty would get most of the save opportunities. But his recent comments, perhaps a result of Thornton’s two blown saves without recording one, seem like he’s getting closer to creating a “committee” with Thornton perhaps the primary option.
In most circumstances I wouldn’t be in favor of having multiple closers, but the flexibility of this year’s pen gives me the confidence that it would work with the situation determining who would close. The candidates are Thornton, Chris Sale, Jesse Crain and Sergio Santos. There are no guarantees, but I would feel comfortable with any of them appearing in a save situation. And at this point, Santos is the hottest of the four with a 0.00 ERA.
For those of you who think the lack of closer stability would be a detriment, think back to 2005. The South Siders started out with Shingo Takatsu, followed with Dustin Hermanson and won a World Series with Bobby Jenks. Granted, it was a very different situation, but I think you see my point. It can work.
A.J. Pierzynski, whose two-run double in the seventh proved to be the difference in today’s 4-2 White Sox victory, modestly told Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone in the post-game interview that the story of today’s game was fifth starter Philip Humber (pictured above).
Humber’s outstanding performance was just what the Sox needed after last night’s ninth inning meltdown. The former No. 1 draft pick of the Mets, Humber allowed just one run, four hits and two walks with four strikeouts in his six innings of work. Pierzynski added that Humber’s curveball is one of the best he’s seen and rivals Gavin Floyd‘s hook as the best on the Sox staff.
SOX NOTES OF NOTE: Sergio Santos, who pitched a scoreless, hitless eighth inning still hasn’t allowed an earned run since the start of spring training. One of the charter members of my Sox posse is convinced Santos will be the Pale Hose closer by the All-Star break. Could be…Will Ohman seems to be back on track with a clean seventh and Chris Sale, despite giving up a ninth inning homer to Felipe Lopez, earned the save…For those of you that watched the game you witnessed one of the greatest catches you’ll ever see when rightfielder Sam Fuld robbed Juan Pierre of at least a triple and maybe an inside the park grand slam (see below). If you didn’t see it, make sure you find it on the highlight shows. Like Mark Buehrle‘s Opening Day, between-the-legs play last year, Fuld’s grab could very well be voted the outstanding catch of the year even though it happened so early in the season.
It was all shaping up so nicely last night. The Sox built an early lead, added on as the Rays got closer and entered the ninth with a 7-4 advantage. All Matt Thornton and his teammates had to do was shut the door on a team which had yet to reach the win column in this young season.
Not so fast.
A shaky Thornton, sloppy errors by Alexei Ramirez and Juan Pierre and a three-run homer by the mediocre Dan Johnson turned a Sox victory into a demoralizing 9-7 defeat and gave Tampa Bay its first triumph.
As unsettling as Thornton’s “closing” performances have been, it’s still early. Same goes for the Sox defensive meltdown last night so I’m resisting the urge to overreact. I just hope it doesn’t have an effect going forward–both on the South Siders and the now-rejuvenated Rays in the last two games of the series.
Silver Lining: Despite the tough loss, it’s only fair to point out a few positives…As the DH, Mark Teahen went 3 for 4 wth a homer and three RBIs…Jesse Crain pitched two perfect innings and looked great doing it…Paul Konerko collected two hits and an RBI and is very quietly hitting .393…Gordon Beckham‘s three hits, which included his first homer, elevated his BA to .355.