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.
The impressive Robin Ventura White Sox brought out the broom today, completing a three-game sweep of the home-standing Mariners.
The Sox overcame another so-so John Danks effort and some shoddy defensive to defeat the Mariners, 7-4. The heroes? The resurgent Alex Rios, who went 3 for 4 with three RBIs including a triple that tied the score at four; Kosuke Fukudome, who drive in his first two runs in a Sox uniform; and the bullpen in the persons of Addison Reed (7th inning), Matt Thornton (8th) and Hector Santiago (9th), who shut down Seattle with each pitching a scoreless inning.
The South Siders head to Oakland with Rios (.333), Paul Konerko (.362) and A.J. Pierzynski (.348) sporting pretty gaudy batting averages. Add Adam Dunn‘s long balls and 14 RBIs and it’s suddenly quite a middle of the lineup.
Even though red-hot Jake Peavy is on the mound tomorrow night against the A’s, the Sox are going to need all that offense and more with the ageless Bartolo Colon on the mound. The former Good Guy has been out of this world thus far this season and last week even hurled 38 straight strikes.
Don’t look now, but the team that most dismissed in their spring predictions is 9-6 and only a half-game behind those “unbeatable” Tigers.
Poor Adam Dunn.
It now comes to light that he may not have had to endure his historically-awful 2011 season if Jeff Manto was the hitting coach.
You see, Dunn spoke yesterday of Manto’s unconventional method of having the slugger swinging a bat with a medicine ball–yes, a medicine ball–between his legs to help keep him from lunging which preserves his overall balance.
So far, at least, the results are clear. Dunn’s been a different hitter as of late, coming up with clutch hits and going the other way to boot. Last night, he drove in five runs in the 7-3 Sox victory over the Mariners with an opposite field, run-scoring double and a pair of homers, one a towering three-run shot.
After the first 13 games of the season he’s now got three homers, 12 RBIs, a .265 batting average (more than 100 points higher than he finished last year), a .368 on-base percentage and .940 OPS.
The strikeouts (22) are still there and, let’s face it, they always wil be for a hitter of this ilk. But I think that you’ll agree that we can live with that, if we get those home runs and run-scoring doubles.
As the White Sox head out to Seattle and Oakland for three games each with the Mariners and A’s, we’re a .500 team. Not so horrible, I guess, but losing three of four at home to the Orioles makes it feel much worse. Especially since we were in every game and raised everyone’s expectations by taking two of three from the Tigers to open the homestand.
There were certainly positive signs in the Baltimore series as Adam Dunn and Alex Rios both had clutch hits (something rare a year ago), Paulie is Paulie and Jake Peavy is heading into 2007 territory when he won the Cy Young with the Padres. That said, Gavin Floyd (above) left a lot to be desired on the mound, the offense is striking out way too much and either not getting on base enough or leaving too many aboard. In yesterday’s game, the South Siders struck out 16 times and left the bases loaded three times. Certainly not something to build on.
The good news is that we’re only 12 games into the season. The next 150 will determine whether or not we’re more than a .500 team.
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.
As the historically inadquate Adam Dunn takes a seat on the bench and Alex Rios holds firm with his .212 batting average and equally-deficient power numbers, a new wave of excitement has hit the South Side.
The emergence of Alejandro De Aza, Tyler Flowers and Dayan Viciedo, who all started the season at AAA Charlotte, has poured new energy into what has been a stagnant offense. In the last two days, as the Sox have won their third and fourth games in a row against the Mariners and Twins, respectively, the threesome has delivered big-time.
* Viciedo has gone 4 for 6 with a homer, four RBIs, three runs scored and a pair of walks in his first two major league games this season. It has been particularly satisfying to see how improved his plate discipline has been. Those two walks represent a major accomplishment.
* Flowers (pictured above), batting a very respectable .281 as he subs for the injured A.J. Pierzynski, hit his first career grand slam against the Mariners on Sunday and drove in two of the three White Sox runs last night in the 3-0 victory over the Twins with a double and a sac fly.
* De Aza has been a breath of fresh air since joining the club and slamming a home run in his first ’11 major league at bat. He’s got great speed, is excellent defensively and is sporting a .319 batting average. Last night he went 2 for 3, including a double, with a run scored and a key stolen base.
While youth is being served, we can’t ignore the fact that the Mr. Perfect has been outstanding as well. Mark Buehrle was on his game once again last night as the Sox moved to within five games of Detroit and four games in the all-important loss column. He gave up just four hits in 7 2/3 innings as he improved his record to 11-6 and his ERA to a fine 3.05.
You can make the case that the White Sox would have been better off, provided they won today’s game, if Dayan Viciedo didn’t single in his first at bat, slug a three-run homer in his second appearance and draw a walk the third time (which put him on base for Tyler Flowers‘ first career grand slam).
Now, all the pundits, internet geeks and talk show callers are going to be more vocal than ever that Viciedo should have been brought up weeks ago to compensate for the failures of Adam Dunn and Alex Rios.
As inviting as it might be, I’m going to resist the temptation to criticize. The fact is that he wasn’t called up before and there’s nothing we can do about it. I’m just going to look ahead and hope Viciedo, in that Hollywood ending I suggested in my last post, helps turn the tide.
On the heels of today’s 9-3 victory and three-game sweep in Seattle, the Sox come home to face the Twins in an abbreviated three-game homestand. And by virtue of the Tigers’ loss to Minny and the Indians defeat at the hands of the Royals, the Sox find themselves in second place, six games behind Detroit and a half-game ahead of Cleveland.
The Viciedo Era has begun.
Sox Note of Note: With all the talk about the barren Sox farm system, it’s particularly comforting to see Viciedo and Flowers come through this afternoon. Although he hasn’t been given as much credit as he deserves, Flowers has done a terrific job in place of A.J. Pierzynski, hitting .273 with a pair of homers and playing above average defense behind the plate. Let’s hope the performance of these two youngsters are a sign of positive things to come.
Breaking News: Carlos Quentin placed on the 15-day disabled list, Dayan Viciedo recalled from Charlotte.
This is a Hollywood script in the making. Just imagine, Viciedo finally arrives on the South Side, has a monster five weeks and helps the White Sox overcome the seven-game deficit to win the A.L. Central.
I’m just saying…
What were the odds…at the beginning of the season that Brent Lillibridge (12) would have more home runs than Adam Dunn (11) at the end of August? And Lilli has done it in about 200 less at bats. Brent’s 12th, a two-run blast, came last night and proved to be the difference in the 4-2 Sox victory over the Mariners At Safeco Field. A native of the Seattle area, Lilli is shown above, perhaps pointing to this friends and family in the stands.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. Winning two of three from the Mariners and in the process defeating their two aces, Michael Pineda and Felix Hernandez, is cause for celebration. But the reality is that the Sox can’t afford to lose a game like they did last night when it’s a tie ballgame going into the ninth with their closer, Sergio Santos, on the hill.
Sure, it’s baseball and you can’t come through every night, but in the case of the Pale Hose there is simply very little margin for error after their horrendous start.
A victory would have enabled the South Siders to gain a game on both the Indians and Tigers, the two teams they are chasing. As it stands, instead of standing five games behind Cleveland and three and a half in back of Detroit, it’s six and four and a half. Much improved from a few weeks ago, but the opportunity was there to shave the leads and the Sox couldn’t get it done.
It’s not that the Hose didn’t show signs of life. Down 4-2 heading into the bottom of the eighth, the Sox tied the score on Carlos Quentin‘s two-run homer, his second blast of the game and 17th of the season. Unfortunately, the offense stopped there and the Sox lost in 10 innings, 7-4.
Perhaps the most disheartening aspect of the contest was a pattern with which we’re all too familiar. Leading off the top of the 10th, Seattle’s Justin Smoak blooped a double that fell between Brent Morel and Juan Pierre in left field, which started the three-run rally (pictured above). Presumably Pierre was playing deep in a “no doubles” defense and it really wasn’t Morel’s play, although he made the effort from his position at third base.
Whether it was anyone’s fault or just one of those things, it doesn’t matter. If the Sox are to dig out of their early season hole, that play and others like it somehow have to be made.
After three straight losses to start the exhibition season–two by one run–the White Sox finally got into the victory column today with a convincing 6-1 home win over the Mariners. The triumph was highlighted by a four-run Pale Hose eighth inning, the first Sox homer of the spring and excellent pitching.