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 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.
This and that from SoxWorld following an impressive 8-1 victory over the Indians to split the four-game series after dropping the first two…
1. Alejandro De Aza is a terrific story. Signed by the Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 2001 and later drafted by the Marlins in the 2004 Rule 5 draft, it wasn’t until 2007 that he finally made his big league debut with Florida. He was selected off waivers by the White Sox after the 2008 season and 10 years after signing with L.A., De Aza became a regular last year, hitting .329 with a .400 on base percentage in 54 games from the leadoff spot. Based on his 2011 performance, the Sox felt he was ready to take over permanently–evidently they were right. So far this season he has been outstanding, As a result of his red-hot series in Cleveland his batting average has risen to .285 with a .369 on base percentage.
2. Adam Dunn continues his quest for “Comeback of the Year.” He connected with home run No. 10 last night, giving him 25 RBIs. Add that to an OPS of .970, all indications point to the fact that he is indeed “back.”
3. Paul Konerko keeps rolling along. He’s been so good and so consistent in his first 31 games that there’s a tendency to take him for granted. That, of course, would be a mistake. He’s got six homers and 18 RBIs along with a .345 batting average and a terrific 1.010 OPS.
4. Dayan Viciedo is due to break out anytime now–and, boy, would it be welcomed. If Viciedo can overcome his slow start (3 homers. 5 RBIs, .204 BA), it would mean so much to the offense. Let’s hope he snaps out of it soon.
5. Brent Morel has been struggling, to say the least. He has yet to hit a home run, has only four RBIs and is hitting a paltry .172. The skipper has shown his support for his starting third baseman, but if Morel doesn’t turn it around it’s inevitable a change will be made. There doesn’t seem to be a great alternative on the current roster (platoon of Escobar and Lillbridge?) and the likely choice at AAA Charlotte, Dallas McPherson, has been injured.
6. Jake Peavy‘s performance this season has been amazing. Don’t be surprised if he’s an All-Star and a candidate for his second Cy Young.
We certainly can’t be happy with losing three of four to the Red Sox at home, but it doesn’t seem as bad when you salvage the series finale and end a five-game losing streak. Now the White Sox head into an off-day with a satisfying 4-1 win and get back to .500 at 11-11–tied with the Tigers for second place and just a game behind the Tribe, who invade the Cell for a three-game set on Tuesday night.
Gavin Floyd was the “man” today as he headed into the seventh inning with a no-hitter. He lost the no-no on a Dustin Pedroia single and the shutout on a Cody Ross RBI single and was replaced by Addison Reed. In 6 2/3 frames he allowed just the one run, three hits, one walk and nine strikouts. Reed pitched a scoreless inning and Matt Thornton was perfect in 1 1/3 with two strikeouts for the save. Even more impressive is that Thornton retired the heart of the Bosox lineup–Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz–in order in the ninth.
The Sox offense, with red-hot Paul Konerko out of the lineup with a stiff neck, held up their end of the bargain after the 1-0 loss on Saturday night. In a three-run first, Alex Rios had a RBI single and Adam Dunn a long two-run homer. The South Siders scored an insurance run in the eighth on a clutch two-out RBI by Dayan Viciedo.
We sure wanted the brooms to come out this afternoon, signifying a three-game White Sox sweep over the tough Tigers. It wasn’t to be, however, as the Sox dropped the series finale, 5-2.
It’s certainly not the end of the world as the Sox are still 5-3 on the young season and are playing good baseball. It’s just a bit disappointing we didn’t sweep because the South Siders have been playing so competitively and even had the tying run at the plate when the game ended. All in all, I’ll take it.
Chris Sale pitched well this afternoon (as Gavin Floyd did Saturday and Jake Peavy on Friday), but threw a lot of pitches, left early and on this day couldn’t match the Tigers’ Rick Porcello. In the good news category, Adam Dunn cranked out a pair of doubles and Dayan Viciedo went deep for his second homer of the season.
I’m a glass-full guy, as you know, so take this for what it’s worth: Based on what I’ve seen so far I’m convinced we’ve got an exciting season ahead of us–even though it’s only April 15.
Next up: Four at the Cell with the Orioles.
Day of Celebration: All the Sox and Tigers, along with players on the other 28 Major League clubs, wore No. 42 to commemorate the anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier on April 15, 1947. The Sox players donned the their red pinstripe unis, as they will every Sunday home game, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the outstanding 1972 Pale Hose.
Regardless of who you may have chosen as today’s White Sox “Pick to Click,” you could likely make a case for your choice as the Sox celebrated their home opener with a host of heroes in their 5-2 triumph over the powerful Tigers.
Conventional wisdom would seem to be on the side of Dayan Viciedo, who put the Sox ahead 1-0 in the fifth with a long homer over the centerfield fence (pictured above) and made a spectacular catch in left of the bat of Andy Dirks to prevent the tying and go-ahead from scoring with the Sox ahead 3-2. The catch was certainly a game changer.
But how about Alexei Ramirez, whose diving grab behind the second base bag started the key double play off the bat of the dangerous Miguel Cabrera with one out and men on first and third in the eighth inning. Another game changer.
Or how about Jake Peavy, who gave up just two runs in 6 2/3 while striking out eight.
Then there was Paul Konerko who singled in Alejandro De Aza in the sixth for the sec0nd Sox run and A.J. Pierzynski who tripled in Konerko all the way from first for run No. 3.
And we can’t forget three others–De Aza who tripled in the eighth and scored on a Brent Morel single to give the Sox a 4-2 advantage (the fifth run scored on a wild pitch) and Hector Santiago, who recorded his third save.
OK, let’s give it to Dayan with a bunch of honorable mentions.
Sox note of note: In the category of nothing’s perfect, it’s interesting to note that the three regulars in today’s lineup who weren’t very heroic were the same three hitters who had such poor seasons a year ago: Adam Dunn, who K’d four times, Gordon Beckham, who struck out on three occasions, and Alex Rios, who struck out twice. In all fairness, Rios did smack a double and was at the plate when the final Sox run scored on the wild pitch.
I’m not planning on purchasing playoff tickets just yet, but we all should be happy at what we’ve seen of the Sox as they’ve concluded their initial road trip with a 3-2 record.
* A.J. Pierzynski is on fire with two homers, six RBIs and a .313 batting average.
* Alejandro De Aza also has a pair of homers (hit in the same games as A.J. hit his) and is hitting a respectable .273 from the leadoff spot.
* Paul Konerko is homerless, but has driven in five runs and has an OPS of 1.100.
* Adam Dunn is hitting only .222 with just one homer and two RBIs, but looks much, much better and has an on-base percentage of .364.
* Dayan Viciedo has zeroes in HR and RBIs, but is hitting a somewhat acceptable .267.
* And there are always early-season stragglers looking to break out. In this case, Alexei Ramirez, Gordon Beckham, Alex Rios and Brent Morel all need to get things going. I have to admit I’m concerned about Beckham and Rios while Alexei always gets off to a slow start.
* Chris Sale has to be the top early story here with his terrific performance against the Tribe in his first ML start. The other Sox victories were credited to Matt Thornton in relief against Texas and John Danks, who was far from in command yesterday in Cleveland, but gutted it out and benefitted from the 10 runs of support he got from his teammates.
* The pen has been solid with relievers Jesse Crain, Nate Jones, Addison Reed and Thornton all possessing 0.00 ERAs. And aside from surrendering a leadoff ninth inning homer in the opener against Cleveland, closer Hector Santiago has been impressive with his two saves.
Now it’s time to go home and convince the Tigers that they’re human.
Happy Opening Day! And now the flurry of questions about our 2012 White Sox will begin to be answered.
The April schedule won’t be a cakewalk. First it’s three against the Rangers, beginning this afternoon, then three vs. the Tribe–all on the road–then home for three against the mighty Tigers and four vs. the Orioles. The month concludes with a six-game road trip to Seattle and and Oakland and a four-game homestand against the Red Sox.
I hate to get ahead of myself because facing the two-time defending American League champs the next three days is imposing enough. But the facts are the facts. The Sox, in need of getting off to a good start to excite the South Side fandom, have their work cut out for them.
Today, we’ll see Robin Ventura‘s managerial debut and a new lineup that will look like this:
Beckham , 2B
One mystery is the identity of the closer. Ventura has been mum on the subject, but it seems Matt Thornton, Hector Santiago and Addison Reed are the likely suspects, in no particular order.
One game won’t make or break the season, but it sure would be nice to get out of the box with a “W” against the league champs. And it would be even sweeter if Dunn is a big part of it so he can exorcise those 2011 demons sooner than later.
Scott Merkin whets our White Sox appetite today on whitesox.com with some facts, figures and projections to chew on:
* Pitchers and catchers report on February 23
* Full squad reports on February 28
* First Spring Training game, March 5, vs. the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch
* Opening Day, April 6, at Texas
Merkin’s Projected Batting Order:
Alejandro DeAza CF, Gordon Beckham 2B, Paul Konerko 1B, Adam Dunn DH, Alex Rios LF, A.J. Pierzynski C, Alexei Ramirez SS, Dayan Viciedo RF, Brent Morel 3B
John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Jake Peavy, Chris Sale, Philip Humber
Matt Thornton Closer, Jesse Crain RH setup man, Will Ohman LH setup man (with all other spots up for grabs). Key bullpen prospect to watch is Addison Reed, who very well might be the closer (my two cents, not Merkin’s).
Nestor Molina RHP, Dan Johnson 1B, Ozzie Martinez IF and, of course, the skipper Robin Ventura
Ozzie Guillen, Mark Buehrle, Sergio Santos, Carlos Quentin, Juan Pierre, Omar Vizquel, Ramon Castro, Jason Frasor