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.
I’d prefer to ignore the details of last night’s disappointing 5-0 shutout loss to the Royals and move on…the good news is that the Indians and Tigers both also lost and the White Sox remain just 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Tribe.
Since the Sox dropped to 16-18 on the season, today won’t get us to .500 or beyond. That’s what happens when you’re flirting with .500–a loss makes it harder to catch up.
Aside from getting back on the road to .500 and winning the rubber game of the series with K.C., today’s game is important as it relates to Philip Humber. Since his perfect game, he’s spiraled downward. With Jake Peavy pitching as well as anyone in baseball, Gavin Floyd performing as well as he ever has, John Danks rebounding in his last outing and Chris Sale with a whole bunch of promise in his initial starts, a resurgent Humber would round out a pretty potent staff. What we don’t need is a weak link.
So keep an eye on Humber and let’s hope the bats come alive for our 17th win.
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.
“It gets frustrating, but I think the way it’s going, the way the guys are grinding, you can’t fault them for anything.”
–Sox skipper Robin Ventura, after last night’s doubleheader loss to the Tribe
Yesterday was certainly a day to forget as the Sox dropped Game 1 to the Tribe, 8-6, largely on the imperfect outing of Philip Humber, and lost Game 2, 3-2, despite a solid performance by Eric Stults.
Humber, who now has had three bad outings since his perfecto against the Mariners, coughed up eight runs, nine hits and two walks in 2 1/3 innings. The silver lining, and yes there was one, was the terrific job Jose Quintana did in relief of Humber. Brought to the big club just for the doubleheader, Quintana’s major league debut was sterling as he gave up just one hit and two walks in 5 2/3 innings.
In the nightcap, Stults (who also was promoted yesterday) went six innings, allowing only two runs, four hits and four walks. If only he hadn’t walked No. 9 hitter Lou Marson with two outs in the fifth that ultimately gave the Tribe a 2-1 lead.
Ventura’s frustration noted above seems to be referring to all the close games the Sox are dropping. His refusal to place blame seems to refer to the fact that the club is putting forth the proper effort. Case in point is that in both games yesterday the Sox rallied in the late innings, only to come up short.
Robin’s hope is the same as ours. That it’s only a matter of time before the Sox begin winning the close ones.
After Adam Dunn‘s first inning homer, I thought the Sox had a great chance to take the rubber game against the Tigers and head into Cleveland with some momentum. But it was not to be.
Dunn’s blast proved to be the only run the Sox could muster on just five hits. Still, they had their chances where a base hit could have tied the game or even put them ahead, but it didn’t happen in the 3-1 loss. Give credit to Tiger starter Rick Porcello and relievers Octavio Dotel, Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit and closer Jose Valverde.
Sox sub starter Dylan Axelrod wasn’t horrible, but didn’t last long was tagged by two long balls. In 4 1/3 innings he gave up two runs–solo homers to Austin Jackson and Prince Fielder. Axelrod and relievers Will Ohman, Zach Stewart and Hector Santiago did a credible job in the clutch as 12 Detroit runners were left on base. A credible job in the clutch with one exception. Santiago’s penchant to give up homers came back to bite him in the ninth as Andy Dirks‘ solo shot provided the Tigers with a key insurance run that proved key as the Sox had the tying runs on base in the final frame.
Chris Sale, welcome to the closer role.
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.
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.
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.
There was a lot to like last night in the 4-2 Sox victory over the Tribe.
First and foremost, Chris Sale‘s first major league start couldn’t have gone smoother. He was masterful, giving us hope that an All-Star starter is in the making. Granted, it was only his maiden start, but he has shown enough in a relief role to believe he is the real deal.
Another positive was the performance of Alejandro De Aza, who we need to live up to expectations. He led off the game with a homer and pounded out another hit. He needs to keep it going.
Hector Santiago recorded his second save, though he did give up a leadoff homer in the ninth. The good news it was a solo job and he calmed down enough to strike out two batters in the inning.
For the record, I’m ignoring the one big negative–Alex Rios‘s dropped a “can of corn” fly ball that could have been disastrous if Addison Reed didn’t get the Sox out of the inning. Of all the mysteries on this year’s squad, Rios is probably the most perplexing on multiple levels.
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.