In a few weeks the White Sox will be firmly embedded in spring training mode trying to assemble a team that’s ready to contend in the A.L. Central.
Conventional wisdom says it’s going to be a difficult task with the Tigers showing no signs of fading and the Royals and Indians seemingly poised to reach the next level.
You really can’t blame the skeptics. As names like Pujols, Fielder, Buehrle, Darvish, Wilson and others have been the talk of the hot stove period, the White Sox made “headlines” with the acquisition of minor league pitchers Nestor Molina, Simon Castro, Pedro Hernandez, Myles Jaye and Daniel Webb while losing known quantities Sergio Santos, Carlos Quentin and Jason Frasor in the process. The only major news was the signing of John Danks, who we all thought was destined to be traded.
It’s really easy to look at all this and come to the conclusion that bad things are in store for the 2012 club. But we shouldn’t be so quick to judge. With myriad questions, the truth is that we just don’t know how the season will manifest.
How will the Ozzie-less Sox be with Robin Ventura at the helm?
Will the Sox survive without Buehrle?
Will Danks pick up where Buehrle left off?
Will an effective closer be found to replace Santos?
Will Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham rebound?
Will Alejandro De Aza be a competent major league leadoff hitter?
Will Paul Konerko be Paul Konerko?
Will Jake Peavy be the Cy Young Peavy?
Will Dayan Viciedo live up to the hype and make us forget Quentin?
Will Chris Sale make a successful switch to the starting rotation?
Will Kenny Williams make any more significant deals to upgrade the big league roster?
More than any other year I can remember, it’s hard to predict what’s in store for all of us this season. We’re just going to have to wait and see.
It’s never a good thing when your starting pitcher gives up six runs–highlighted by two homers and three doubles–in the first inning. But the White Sox, despite Jake Peavy‘s early meltdown, gave it a shot this afternoon and came up one run short in the 7-6 loss to the Twins. Adam Dunn and Alex Rios both had their chances to be heroes in the ninth, but didn’t deliver. Sound familiar?
So, the five game winning streak is history and we sink to six games behind the Tigers, who staged a late-inning rally for a come-from-behind triumph over the Royals.
Now the fun begins as we head to Detroit for a three-game series after tomorrow’s off-day. The pitching matchups:
Friday night: John Danks vs. Justin Verlander, he of the 20 wins–already.
Saturday afternoon: Gavin Floyd vs. Brad Penny
Sunday night: Mark Buehrle vs. Matt Scherzer
Look at the bright side, it’s the end of August and we’re still alive.
I debated whether or not to even post this morning after last night’s demoralizing 7-4 loss to the defending American League champion Rangers, which saw Jake Peavy cough up three homers. There doesn’t seem to be much to say that I haven’t written before. You know, the struggles of Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, Gordon Beckham–yada, yada, yada.
So, we stand five games behind Detroit and three games under .500 in the midst of what is now a three-game losing streak. Just when you thought we might be making some headway, we crash. Certainly a familiar scenario in this season of South Side discontent.
It’s getting increasingly more difficult (if not impossible), even for a glass half-full fan like me, to visualize the Sox playing in October. Part of me wants to keep the faith, part of me wants to bag it and start focusing on how to fix things for 2012.
The former is a frustrating exercise, the latter a daunting task.
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.
It actually happened. The White Sox swept a series from the Twins and at Target Field to boot.
Who would have thought this was possible after how the South Siders performed in the first eight games (1-7) this season against Minnesota and how they spit the bit against the Red Sox and Yankees?
Today was a day that the pitching, hitting and finally defense clicked harmoniously in the 7-0 whitewash. Jake Peavy pitched eight masterful innings of shutout ball, allowing only three hits while striking out six and walking no one. The Sox clubbed four homers–solo clouts by Brent Lillibridge, Paul Konerko and Alex Rios and a two-run shot by Alexei Ramirez. And the defense was flawless in the field, with an exceptional performance by Lillibridge who started his first major league game at first base.
After six losses in a row, it’s now three straight wins heading into a four-game series in Baltimore. Another bit of good news: the Sox chopped a game off of the Tigers’ division lead and trail Detroit by 5 1/2 games.
Sox Note of Note: A special tip of the cap to Rios (pictured above), who collected five hits in the last two games–hopefully a sign of things to come.
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.
The game last night was very winnable. Adam Dunn even homered to give the Sox a 2-0 lead, A.J. Pierzynski even threw out a runner at second base and Paul Konerko smashed a two-run homer to tie the game at 4-4.
But a name from our past, Wilson Betemit, reared his ugly head (nothing personal, Wilson) and singled in the eventual winning run and the hope of defeating Justin Verlander for the second time in a row went by the boards. For the record, Betemit is a guy who was horrible in his short stint, both at bat and on defense, on the South Side but as an opponent has owned Sox pitching.
I guess it just wasn’t to be as Jake Peavy weakened as the game went on and Matt Thornton couldn’t retire Betemit when he need to in the eighth. But even if Thornton had retired him, who knows if the Sox could scored the deciding run. We’ll never know.
So, no sweeping the Tigers, but a series victory is a must if the Sox are to keep pace with the division leaders. Especially with the Red Sox, Yankees and Twins looming.
Sox Note of Note: Charlotte outfielder Alejandro De Aza, who is hitting .322, was pulled from his game last night. It has led to speculation that some kind of deal is in the works as we’re days away from the trading deadline. No official word yet.