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 Chicago media will undoubtedly turn today’s game into a celebration of Kerry Wood‘s career as he pitched for the last time and walked off the field to a Standing O. And Cub fans will eat it up. After all, they have to find something to cheer about about after more than a century without experiencing the ultimate baseball accomplishment.
Congratulations Kerry, but we Sox fans look at today much differently…
–It was a nice 3-2 victory with a fine start by Phil Humber and scoreless relief by Matt Thornton (Humber was charged with both runs), Nate Jones and new closer Addison Reed.
–It was a game where we got sweet revenge with cocky headhunter Jeff Samardzija, who hit Paul Konerko in the face with a pitch after Paulie clocked him with a two-run homer in his first time at bat. The payback came when Gordon Beckham touched what’s his name with an eighth-inning, solo blast that proved to be the difference.
So, while they’ll be lifting a glass (or 12) to Wood in Wrigleyville tonight, I’ll be grateful that Alex Rios‘s ninth inning “lost in the sun” fly ball didn’t affect the outcome, happy for the beleaguered Beckham and pray that Paulie is OK.
As the White Sox inched closer to the .500 mark (16-17) with their impressive 5-0 victory over the Royals last night, they did it with a solid team effort, a dynamic we would love to continue.
Here are the main candidates for Player of the Game:
* Gavin Floyd, who recorded his third victory with 7 2/3 of shutout baseball. He allowed just five hits and two walks while striking out five as he lowered his ERA to 2.53.
* Adam Dunn, who gave the Sox an early 1-0 first innning lead with a towering homer, also doubled and walked twice as he ended his major league record of most consecutive games with a strikeout at 36. Dunn now has the same number of home runs he had ALL of last season (11), 26 RBIs and with a .257 batting average is hitting about 100 points higher than his final 2011 figure. Add a .401 on base percentage and a 1.030 OPS and can you say Comeback Player of the Year?
* Alex Rios, now batting .284, drove in the fourth and fifth Sox runs with his third triple of the season. While the Sox ultimately didn’t need the runs, the fact they were on the board made things much more relaxed when the Royals loaded the bases with one out in the eighth.
And a few Honorable Mentions…
Alejandro De Aza continued his hot streak with a pair of hits, an RBI and a run scored…Gordon Beckham, making his own comeback, also had a couple of hits, an RBI and a run scored…Matt Thornton struck out K.C. phenom Eric Hosmer with the bases loaded in the eighth…Hector Santiago pitched a perfect ninth with a strikeout to end the game.
Sox Note of Note: After a clean MRI, Chris Sale is back in the rotation. The new closer? Maybe Addison Reed, maybe a committee in the short term.
There are not many things I dislike more than the White Sox giving up a lead in the late innings and losing on a walk-off homer.
So, you can’t be surprised when I tell you I got little sleep last night after the Tigers 5-4 triumph.
On our way to the deflating loss, Jake Peavy was magnificent in eight innings of work and Gordon Beckham gave further hope that he’s on his way back with a single, double and two-run blast that gave us a 4-2 lead. Just a few days ago, his batting average was well under the .200 mark. He’s now at .233. The fact these performances were wasted, made Jhonny Peralta‘s two-run, game-winning clout that much more disturbing.
New Sox Closer
Chris Sale couldn’t have been much better in his first foray as a major league starting pitcher (3-1, 2.81 ERA), but the Sox are moving him into the bullpen as the closer to preserve his career. Evidently, the youngster has had soreness and tightness in his elbow and the club is concerned it could cause problems down the road if he continued to start. It appears that Dylan Axelrod will have the first shot at replacing Sale in the rotation.
Let’s call it the Gordon Beckham factor.
I think all of us would agree that if the White Sox’s No. 1 draft pick from 2008 can recapture the kind of offensive production and excitement he generated in his rookie season, our Sox would have a lot better chance to contend in the A.L. Central.
Gordo reminded us of what he can do with a 3 for 4 effort with this first homer of the season and two RBIs in last night’s 7-2 Sox win over the Indians.
After the past two seasons, which saw Beckham hit .252 and and .230, respectively, with disappointing power numbers–9 HR and 49 RBI in 2010 and 10, 44 in 2011–it’s been hard to remember that he came on the scene in ’09 with 14 homers, 63 RBIs and a .270 batting average in his first 103 games.
By far his best offensive game in a long time (he has already proven to be one of the best defensive second basemen around). Beckham has given hope that he’s turned the corner. One game doesn’t make a season, but it’s something to build on.
In 2009, Beckham was named the A.L. Rookie of the Year in two different polls. It was then that he was pegged as our next big star and the new, fresh face of the franchise. But life intervened and something happened, whether it was in his head or a flaw in his swing.
Maybe it’s wishful thinking to look at this performance against the Tribe and think Beckham will now return to elite status. But I, for one, choose to believe it.
Time will tell.
As deflating as last night’s 10-3 loss to the Red Sox was, look at it this way. Despite the current three-game losing streak the Sox are still in a virtual tie for the A.L. Central lead. It seems that the division rivals, including the Tigers who just got swept at home by the Mariners, are struggling a bit as well.
It was only a few days ago that the Sox swept Seattle, won the opener of the A’s series and were at 10-6. That’s just baseball. And the current slide aside, I feel good about how the Sox are playing. Just wish Gordon Beckham and Brent Morel could turn it around and Hector Santiago can avoid the long ball.
Beckham and Morel are mysteries. Will they turn it around? Will one or both spend some time in Charlotte? Will the Sox turn elsewhere at second and third? Stay tuned.
As far as the closer situation, the Sox certainly have options if Santiago’s problems continue. Addison Reed (pictured above) seems like the logical choice, but Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain (once he’s healthy) will be the mix as well.
I hope Hector overcomes his woes, but the thinking is here that Reed will be the closer by the All-Star break–maybe a lot sooner.
I couldn’t bear to post my blog yesterday after the Sox meltdown Monday night against the Orioles. A 4-2 lead in the ninth should be enough, but we all know that there are always going to be a bunch of these heartbreakers during the course of the season. We just don’t want to admit it–and I couldn’t face writing about it, especially the 10-4 final score.
I had good feelings about the South Siders bouncing back last night with John Danks on the mound, but very few teams are going to win games with two, maybe three hitters, doing what they’re supposed to do. The result? a 3-2 loss.
To state the obvious, we are struggling offensively. Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham are among the culprits along with Brent Morel. And the few who are on their game, like Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski, haven’t provided enough firepower to overcome the slackers.
The new skipper is still showing confidence in the non-producers. It’ll be interesting to see how long he waits before a makes an adjustment or two.
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.