Bizarro World is when up is down, left is right and all things are opposite of the norm. Consider the Friday and Saturday White Sox-Twins games at Target Field as a case in point.
After years of being dominated by the Twinkies and entering this series 1-7 against them this season, the tables turned. It was the Sox, not the Twinkies, who had the outstanding pitching, clutch hitting, sound defense and daring play on the basepaths in the two games. And it was Minnesota which took the role of past Sox teams with less-than-stellar play. Most importantly, the South Siders came out on the winning side of the ledger, 5-3 and 6-1, and already have chalked up a rare series win against their division rivals.
The big story of last night was righty Zach Stewart, who was acquired by the Sox from Toronto in the Edwin Jackson trade. He was aggressive all night and credited with career victory No. 1 in his first Sox appearance as he pitched 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball. Also up to the challenge were Chris Sale, Jason Frasor and Sergio Santos who shut the door after Stewart’s exit.
In the eighth, with Michael Cuddyer on third and no outs, Sale retired Jason Kubel and Jim Thome before Frasor struck out Danny Valencia to end the inning with the tying run on third. Santos pitched a 1-2-3 ninth.
Sox Notes of Note: No one example can back up the Bizarro World scenario more than this: Joe Nathan, for years a closer the Sox couldn’t touch, gave up a two-run homer to Brent Lillibridge in the four-run Sox ninth…Alex Rios collected three hits while his buddy Adam Dunn struck out three more times…Despite the two victories the Sox remained at 6 1/2 games behind the Tigers, who have beaten the Royals on back-to-back nights.
After an inning and a half in last night’s game against the Twins, you could just imagine all the TVs and radios being shut off in disgust wherever White Sox fans had gathered.
The Sox blew a golden opportunity to take a sizeable lead by leaving the bases loaded after scoring just a single run in the top of the first. Then, a ground ball got through the legs of Adam Dunn at first base that paved the way for three unearned runs for Minny in the bottom half of the inning.
In the top of the second, Alejandro De Aza singled to lead off the inning, but was quickly caught stealing. Brent Morel reached on an error and Juan Pierre walked to set up a potential one-out rally. You guessed it, Alexei Ramirez grounded out and Paul Konerko popped out to the shortstop. Nada.
I know what you’re thinking. We’ve seen this movie before. But for the first time in a week, there was a different ending. Thanks to two players who can’t be blamed for the team’s woes this season, Carlos Quentin and Mark Buehrle, the Sox were able to win a game, snapping their six-game slide with a 5-3 victory.
Quentin hit a pair of homers and drove in four runs while Buehrle gave up only four hits in eight innings, allowing no earned runs and lowering his ERA to 3.04.
The Zach Stewart Era Begins Tonight
When minor leaguer Zach Stewart was recently acquired along with proven reliever Jason Fraser in the Edwin Jackson/Mark Teahen trade, Kenny Williams made it clear that Stewart would be in the major leagues before the end of the season.
The comment was somewhat surprising, but the 24-year-old righthander did make three major league starts in June before he was sent back to AA New Hampshire.
The future is now–as in tonight–for Stewart, who will take the mound for the Sox against Carl Pavano and the Twins with Jake Peavy being moved back to Sunday. It’ll be a challenge for the former high draft choice of the Cincinnati Reds as Pavano has had his way with the South Siders this season.
To make room for Stewart, the Sox designated reliever Brian Bruney for assignment.
Rejoice White Sox fans, we’re back at .500 and seemingly on a roll after a nice, efficient 3-1 victory last night against the Red Sox.
Suddenly, things seem a lot bright brighter than they did a few days ago. Whether it’s the series victory over the Tigers, the emotional impact of the Edwin Jackson trade, the continued outstanding pitching, the callup of Alejandro De Aza and benching of Alex Rios or all the above, much more optimism is evident throughout White Sox Nation.
Certainly one of the biggest recent boosts has been the resurgence of Gavin Floyd, who lately has been lights out. In seven innings of work against Boston last evening he gave up a lone run (a homer to Jarrod Saltalamacchia) on three hits with five strikeouts and in the process evened his record to 9-9. The offense, which is still not where it should be, provided just enough, highlighted by A.J. Pierzynski‘s two-run, seventh inning home run.
Three games back of Detroit and just a half-game behind second place Cleveland, it seems the Sox are going to make a serious run. But before I get too crazy, we still have two more games against the Red Sox, four vs. the Yankees and three in Minnesota. And who knows what trades are going to be made in the next two days that will impact the club.
I guess all that will take care itself. But, for now, like the Sox I’m back in the game.
Quite a day on the South Side. Here are some of the highlights:
–The 2-1 victory over the Tigers, giving the Sox their second straight series win over Detroit and enabling them to move within 3 1/2 games of the division leaders.
—Alejandro De Aza (above), just up from Charlotte, hit his first major league home run, which proved to be the difference in today’s triumph.
–De Aza’s promotion has moved Alex Rios to the bench, a smart move considering the latter’s disastrous season both at the plate and in the field.
—John Danks was outstanding today, giving up only a run and six hits in six innings along with 10 strikeouts. Most impressive was the fact he got out of jam after jam against the tough Tiger lineup.
–The Trade: Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen to the Jays for reliever Jason Frasor and minor league pitcher Zach Stewart. The fact that Jackson will be a free agent at the end of the season made his departure an obvious move. Teahen is addition by subtraction. And Frasor, a Chicagoan who has always been tough on his hometown/new team, will be a big help in the pen.
For the record, Jackson was quickly dealt from the Jays to the Cardinals for centerfielder Colby Rasmus, who was rumored to coveted by the Sox. Counting Toronto, who Jackson never played for, St. Louis is Jackson’s seventh team–Dodgers, Rays, Tigers, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Blue Jays, Cardinals–in his nine big league campaigns.
–Extra! Extra! Adam Dunn didn’t strike out today and had a hit and three walks. A cause for celebration.
–The bullpen has been extraordinary most of the season. This afternoon was no exception as Chris Sale and Sergio Santos (21st save) preserved the Danks win, coming in for three frames of perfect relief. Sale did most of the heavy lifting in his 2 2/3 innings of work as Santos retired one batter–Brennan Boesch, who made the final out.
Sox Note of Note: Apart from the Jackson deal, rumors are flying that other moves are on the way as the Sox try to cut some payroll. Could Matt Thornton, Juan Pierre, Carlos Quentin or even Danks and Gavin Floyd be next?
While rumors are swirling that he may once again be on the trading block, Edwin Jackson today pitched his finest game since joining the Sox nearly a year ago with a 5-0 complete game shutout of the Tigers. It was his first CG since pitching his no-hitter with the Diamondbacks last June.
Jackson’s usual bugaboo is his inconsistency and lack of control, resulting in high pitch counts. But that wasn’t the case this afternoon in Detroit as he sailed through nine innings on just 101 pitches. He’s now 6-7 and lowered his ERA to under 4.00 (3.97).
If Jackson remains with the Sox, the hope is that he can repeat what he did today on a more consistent basis. If the Sox plan to trade him, which would mean the righthander would be shipped to his sixth team (Dodgers, Rays, Tigers, D-backs, Sox), Edwin did Kenny Williams a favor by showcasing himself in the best possible light.
In addition to Jackson’s gem, two of the Sox first-half whipping boys were keys to the offense. Juan Pierre went 4 for 5 with a run scored and an RBI while Gordon Beckham had his second consecutive two-hit game and also scored a run and drove one in. Pierre has elevated his BA to .275 and Beckham is now at .252. Carlos Quentin had his second straight three-hit game, including his 18th homer.
Even though Adam Dunn delivered a clutch hit in last night’s victory he went 0 for 4 with four strikeouts today. His non-producing buddy, Alex Rios, was also 0 for 4 with two K’s. Dunn is now at a season low .159 and Rios, now at .207, keeps tumbling as well.
Sox Note of Note: If the uniform Jackson is wearing in the above photo threw you off a bit, it’s a throwback uniform the South Siders wore today in tribute to the Chicago American Giants of the Negro Leagues.
Minnesota 1, White Sox 0.
There’s not much left to say. We just can’t beat the Twins, even without the majority of their starters in the lineup. We’re now 0-4 against them this season, scoring a total of three runs.
Our stay in the Twin Cities amounted to one run, 11 hits and two losses. We drop to four games under .500 and 5 1/2 in back of the division lead.
Mark Buehrle was excellent this afternoon, giving up only a Michael Cuddyer homer and three other hits. But there was more frustration on offense as we got shut out for the seventh time and grounded into two more double plays, both stalling potential rallies. The clutch hits just weren’t there–again.
Interesting pitching matchup tomorrow night in Phoenix as we reprise interleague play against the D-backs. It’ll be Edwin Jackson (4-5, 4.39) for the Sox vs. the man they gave up last summer to get him, young Daniel Hudson (7-5, 3.82).
The winning streaks, the losing streaks, the come-from-behind wins, the thrills and the heartbreaks all have led to this–White Sox Game 162.