A time-honored adage among baseball aficionados is that every team wins 60 games and loses 60. It’s the other 42, conventional wisdom says, that determine how a club will fare over the 162-game season.
With the 6-2 White Sox win over the Royals this afternoon, the South Siders are exactly 60-60 as they once again become a .500 ballclub. While the adage above doesn’t apply only to the symmetry of being even with 42 to go, the remaining games will indeed determine the final result of what has been a roller coaster season, to say the least.
The Sox have been here a few times, but getting over .500 is what has been the challenge as they haven’t been at that plateau since April. They’ll give it another try Tuesday night when they face the Indians in what will be a crucial three-game set.
Give It Up For Lilli
Brent Lillibridge is far from a perfect ballplayer, but he’s been a godsend this year for the Sox. He’s in the majors primarily for his defensive excellence and versatility–and as a result of the Paul Konerko injury and Adam Dunn‘s inability to hit the baseball, especially against lefties, he’s added first base to his repertoire of second, short, third and all three outfield positions. To his credit, he’s played first like he’s been doing it for years, making outstanding play after outstanding play. And by the way, his 10 homers are just one shy of Dunn’s 2011 output. Lilli’s 10th, of course, came today in the form of a three-run blast that gave the Sox an early 4-0 lead that they never relinquished. Brent has 146 at bats, Dunn 341.
Paulie’s a Marvel
It’s certainly not breaking news, but Konerko continues to display the kind of attitude and performance that is indicative of the consummate team leader. Saddled with the calf injury that has made it close to impossible for him to run the bases, the Sox All-Star has refused to take a seat on the bench. And as the full-time DH since the injury he hasn’t lost a beat in what has been one of his finest seasons. Today, he was 3 for 3 with two walks and a run scored.
Sox Pick Up a Game
Now at .500, the Sox now trail the Tigers by four games as a result of our win and the Detroit loss to Baltimore.
If Billy Butler, Melky Cabrera and their young Royals’ teammates played everybody like they do the White Sox, Kansas City would be an A.L. Central contender instead of 20 games below .500.
After Friday night’s 5-1 drubbing, it’s a relief to see the Sox escape with a 5-4 win last night–especially at home and following two rain delays. The winning run came across the plate as a result of a bases-loaded walk to Alejandro De Aza, but we’ll take it.
In the “what else is new?” category, Paul Konerko clubbed his 27th homer in the third inning, a two-run blast that gave the Sox an early 2-0 lead. The advantage was lost in the fifth as K.C. touched up Jake Peavy for four runs, but Tyler Flowers (pictured above, being congratulated by Juan Pierre) got the South Siders within a run in the fifth with his first major league home run. A Carlos Quentin RBI double and the De Aza base on balls turned the tide for good in the seventh. Then, Jesse Crain ( 1 1/3 innings) and Chris Sale, who set down the Royals 1-2-3 in the ninth for his fourth save, shut the door.
With the Tigers and Indians once again defeating the Orioles and Twins, respectively, the victory was a must. But the truth is they are all a must at this stage as the Sox try to make up the five-game Detroit deficit.
Sox Note of Note: At the beginning of the season, Pierre was going through a rocky time. He wasn’t getting on base, he wasn’t stealing bases when he did get on and his defense was bad at best. He’s still not close to his league-leading SB total from a year ago, but his defense has improved and, after his three hits last night, he’s now batting .285.
A 6-1 road trip, after the disastrous 3-7 home stand , is good for the soul–especially because it featured a sweep against the Twins.
Now the hard work starts as the Sox try to turn things around at the Cell. After last night’s 6-3 win over the Orioles, they are 34-27 on the road and only 24-32 at home. Stating the obvious, that puzzling stat has to change if the South Siders have any chance of winning the division.
As we look ahead to get the job done on the upcoming homestand, where we’ll face the Royals, Indians and Rangers in consecutive three-game series, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the history that was made in Baltimore last evening by a pair of Sox pitchers:
* Mark Buehrle tied the club record by allowing three runs or less in 18 straight starts. He now shares the mark with Frank Smith, who accomplished the feat 102 years ago. Buehrle also added to his team standard by winning at least 10 games for the 11th year in a row.
* By chalking up his 25th save, Sergio Santos was perfect in the ninth and in the process broke the great Mariano Rivera’s mark with his 25 consecutive scoreless appearance on the road to start a season.
“The I’m Done with Dunn Watch”: Unfortunately Ozzie either didn’t read yesterday’s blog or ignored my call for Adam Dunn to be benched. For the record, the sorry slugger went 0 for 3 last night with two walks–and, of course, a strikeout.
Jason Frasor surrendered the walkoff homer last night as the Sox winning streak ended at five, preventing them for reaching .500 and gaining another game on the Tigers. But the truth is that it wasn’t Frasor’s gopher ball or Phil Humber’s mediocre start that was responsible for the defeat. And it’s not what has separated a team that is now four games out of the division lead from being on top of the heap. We all know it’s been the offense.
In the 6-4, 10-inning loss to the Orioles, it was apparent as ever. Despite a nice comeback which tied the game at 4-4, the bottom line is that the three players who have been the most disappointing this season had their chances to put the Sox over the top in clutch situations–but didn’t. This time, I find it hard to blame Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham even though they both left multiple runners on base. Rios did collect a pair of hits and scored a run and Beckham had an infield hit and a run scored.
But friends, Adam Dunn is another story–a very, very old story. It’s time, maybe well past time, to cut our losses. After another three-strikeout game and leaving five runners on the bases, Dunn continues to hurt our chances to win games.
It’s time to put him on the bench permanently. With Paul Konerko unable to play first, we’ll just have to live with Brent Lillibridge there for the time being. We know he’s not a starting player and has the potential to be almost as deadly as Dunn a the plate, but as I see it we have no choice. Let’s just put him on first until Konerko’s injury heals and when Sept. 1 rolls around call up Dayan Viciedo to DH. And remember, Viciedo can play first if Konerko’s return to first is delayed longer than we think.
Moving Dunn from the cleanup spot to No. 7 in the order is like moving the deck chairs on the Titanic. You can make a good argument that he’s the main reason why we’re not a first-place team. And even if there’s just a bit of truth to that statement, the time is now: Dunn should take a seat on the bench.
Yesterday’s blog featured a photo that included Monday night heroes A.J. Pierzynski, Alex Rios, Gordon Beckham and Sergio Santos celebrating after the game. Also in the photo was Brent Morel, who went 0 for 4 and committed what could have been a fatal fielding error if the Sox hadn’t rallied to win.
What a difference a day makes. Last night, Morel bounced back and was at the center of the offense as the Sox won their fifth in a row, 4-3. He drove in the Sox’s second run in the second inning with a single and homered in the fourth to widen the Pale Hose lead to 4-0.
While Morel’s bat, along with Carlos Quentin‘s 24th homer and Pierzynski’s RBI double, paced the attack, it was the shutdown bullpen that was most impressive as it held the O’s to only the three runs they scored off starter Gavin Floyd in the fifth. Granted, the pen hasn’t been perfect as evidenced by Jesse Crain surrendering the three-run homer to J.J. Hardy on Monday. But the talent and versatility that Ozzie has at his disposal gives the Sox an advantage over most of their opponents.
Here was last night’s scenario:
* Despite showing signs of tiring, Floyd began the seventh. He gave up a double to Felix Pie, who moved to third on a sacrifice bunt. Floyd then retired the red-hot J.J. Hardy on a grounder to third. Two outs, runner on third, Sox killer Nick Markakis at the plate. Ozzie makes the call to the pen and lefty Will Ohman ends the threat by striking out Markakis.
* Jason Frasor came on to start the eighth. He walked Adam Jones and struck out Vlad Guerrero. With the lefty Chris Davis coming up, Ozzie called on Chris Sale, who retired Davis on a popup and then struck out Mark Reynolds.
* Instead of calling on Santos to begin the ninth, the skipper chose to have Sale face switch-hitter Matt Wieters. He struck him out. With the Orioles opting to call on Josh Bell to pinch-hit for lefty Felix Pie against Sale, Ozzie decided to stay with his lefthander. Bell grounded out to shortstop. Two outs, nobody on.
*Making his final move, Ozzie then called on Santos to face righthanded hitter Robert Andino and he proceeded to strike him out, the way he did with the three batters he faced the night before. For Santos, save number 24.
And at the risk of burying the lead, the Indians extra-inning win over the Tigers helped the Sox narrow the Detroit lead to four games. A win tonight and the Sox are back at the .500, something we doubted might happen again this season after last week’s four-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees.
It was inevitable.
The White Sox mastery over the “other” Sox (seven wins in a row) was bound to end some time. And it certainly did last night as the streak ended with a thud–a 10-2 battering at the hands of Boston.
With Edwin Jackson gone, Phil Humber is being counted on more than ever with the rotation going from six to five. For the first four innings he appeared to be up to the challenge, but he didn’t survive the fifth as a result of giving up a four-spot before being pulled from the game.
Jon Lester being on the mound didn’t help the South Siders’ cause. Our offense is problematic enough with facing the tough lefty, who gave up only two solo homers (Paul Konerko and Gordon Beckham), a total of four hits and struck out eight in eight innings of work.
The game was probably decided anyway, but Boston scored a run in the eighth and five in the ninth off of Brian Bruney, a rare meltdown by a bullpen that has been close to perfect. The good news is that Will Ohman, Jason Frasor, making his Sox debut, and Matt Thornton had effective outings out of the pen.
With the Yankees coming in for four starting tomorrow night, a series win today would be nice to see as we need to keep pace with the Tigers. Detroit remains three games ahead of us and a game and a half in front of the Indians. Both rivals have improved their pitching staffs as the trade deadline approaches. The Tigers acquired starter Doug Fister and reliever David Pauley from Seattle and the Tribe nabbed Ubaldo Jimenez from the Rockies.
Sox Notes of Note: Kenny Williams indicated yesterday that the Jackson/Frasor deal very likely will be it as far as the Sox are concerned with the deadline this afternoon…The greatest hitter in the history of the franchise, Frank Thomas will be honored today with the unveiling of the newest outfield statue.
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.