BALTIMORE–The White Sox gave every indication that they were going to get to Oriole righthander Jeremy Guthrie in the early going today, but the runners they got on base never came around to score. As a result, Guthrie settled down and proceeded to stymie the Hose, giving up only a single run in eight innings of work as Baltimore hung on to win, 4-3.
The bats that were so silent in the season’s early going and so explosive since the beginning of June have been back to being silent the past three games at Camden Yards. The big Sox blow today was the two-run home run by Ramon Castro (pictured above after slugging a homer earlier this season at the Cell ) in the ninth. Unfortunately it was too little too late.
The loss combined with the Twins 5-4 victory in Cleveland, decreased the Sox lead in the A.L. Central to a half-game. The South Siders are hoping for a split of the four-game series here tomorrow night with Edwin Jackson making his second Sox start.
Sox notes of note: After leaving last night’s game with a “tweaked” knee, A.J. Pierzynski got his usual “day game after a night game” rest and should be good to go tomorrow night…Today, it was Gordon Beckham who was replaced as he strained a groin. Early word is that it’s not serious…Speaking of injuries, Mark Teahen will spend a little more time rehabbing in Charlotte. Seems that the Sox want him to spend more time at a variety of positions. The longer Teahen’s there, the more time they’ll have to make a decision on the necessary roster move when he’s ready to come back to the 25-man roster. And don’t forget, rosters expand on September 1…Mark Buehrle pitched well enough to win if only the Sox bats were clicking. He gave up 10 hits, but only three earned runs in seven innings.
Things I’m thinking about…
* After the 12-2 win over the Tigers in the opener I would have loved a doubleheader sweep last night, but as one of the members of my Sox posse e-mailed after the second game: “It’s baseball. You don’t win them all. We split two games and gained one-half game. I’ll take it.” And we all know how difficult it is to sweep a twinbill.
* You’d be hard-pressed to find a better story than that of 43-year-old future Hall of Famer Omar Vizquel (above). Having taken over the third base job after Mark Teahen‘s injury, he’s now hitting .293 with numerous clutch hits and superb defense. Remarkable.
* Has anybody noticed that Alexei Ramirez is hovering around the .300 mark at .296? And, oh, that defense.
* Less than two months ago Chris Sale was the club’s No. 1 draft choice out of Florida Gulf Coast University. Is he now headed to Chicago? After four games with Class A Winston-Salem, he was promoted to AAA Charlotte and has struck out 15 in 6 1/3 innings over seven relief appearances. With Carlos Torres shipped back to Charlotte after last night’s start and Erick Threets on the DL, speculation is that Sale might be joining the big club as the second lefty in the pen.
* I wonder how the hapless Orioles will respond to new manager Buck Showalter, who Ozzie sarcastically has referred to as “Mr. Baseball.” If they improve, I hope they start after we leave town next Monday night.
* I’m eager to see Edwin Jackson face his former teammates in Detroit tonight. Would love to see a lights-out performance.
* A big thank you to the Rays, now on top of the A.L. East, for taking the first two games against the Twins.
Based on his major league performance last year, the last person I expected–and wanted–to see in a White Sox uniform in 2010 was Brent Lillibridge. Both at bat and in the field he looked overmatched in ’09 before being sent to Charlotte, where he spent most of the summer.
That said, Lillibridge’s revival this season has been remarkable. Since being promoted to the Sox after Mark Teahen was placed on the DL he has been a solid contributor, batting .387 as a spot starter and utility man off of the bench. Even more important than the average is the fact he has come up with a number of clutch hits–none more important than his three-run triple this afternoon against Gio Gonzalez and the A’s to pace Gavin Floyd and the South Siders to the 4-1 victory. With the Twins’ victory the Hose remain a half-game ahead of the Twins for the division lead.
So, with Teahen now in a rehab stint and pretty close to returning, what will happen to Lilli? The smart money is on the Sox postponing Teahen’s return as long as possible and when he comes back assigning Dayan Viciedo to Charlotte until the rosters expand September 1. Tank, as Hawk “in my 51 years in baseball” Harrelson calls him, has been impressive, but it would be difficult to demote Lillibridge based on what he’s done and the fact he can play both the infield and outfield.
After a day off tomorrow the White Sox head to Detroit for four games, including a day/night doubleheader on Tuesday. Edwin Jackson is scheduled to make his Sox debut on Wednesday night.
Lillibridge’s triple drove in Ramon Castro, Carlos Quentin and Andrew Jones, pictured here showing their appreciation
When the White Sox acquired Omar Vizquel in the offseason, the hope was that he could be a veteran utility presence in the infield and a steadying influence on Alexei Ramirez.
As we sit here today, 3 1/2 games ahead of the Tigers and Twins, I don’t know where we would be without Omar. With Mark Teahen out of the lineup, he has provided a huge upgrade defensively and has been a key contributor to the offense as well. As of this morning he’s hitting .277, more than we could have reasonably expected.
Alexei? Whether it’s been Vizquel’s influence or not, he is on fire, both at the plate where his average is up to .284, and at short where he has been as good as anyone in the league.
There have been many heroes in the Sox revitalization. Vizquel, Ramirez and their buddy Gordon Beckham (all pictured above) are right at the top of the list.
When the Braves took an early 3-0 tonight against the White Sox at the Cell, I flashed back to April and May and had that sinking feeling that we were doomed.
But this is a different Sox team. One that can rebound from an early deficit because of renewed starting pitching, clutch hitting and defense that has improved their record to 35-34. You don’t have to look further than tonight’s result against the red-hot Braves to see that. Down 3-0 after one and a half innings, the South Siders scored five runs in the bottom of the second, added one in the third and three in the fourth en route to the 9-6 victory. And after his early woes, John Danks settled down and blanked Atlanta for the next five innings before being relieved by Tony Pena in the eighth.
Here we are one game above .500, 4 1/2 games behind the division-leading Twins and only three in back of the Tigers.
Many heroes surfaced last night. Danks, A.J. Pierzynski (three hits, two RBI), Alexei Ramirez (three hits and an RBI), Paul Konerko (three hits to raise his BA to .304), Alex Rios (two hits and an RBI) and Carlos Quentin, who slammed a three-run homer for the team’s first roundtripper in eight games. We had 16 hits in all. The only negatives happened in the ninth with Scott Linebrink giving up two runs before being relieved by Bobby Jenks (who got the save) and Ramirez leaving the game with a finger injury. Too early to tell how serious the injury is.
No, I didn’t forget Omar Vizquel, who has been outstanding as the main replacement for the disabled Mark Teahen (remember him?). Omar delivered a clutch two-out, two RBI single in the Sox five-run second, which prolonged the rally (pictured above).
How important has Vizquel been to the Sox recent resurgence? The Sox are 13-6 when the future Hall of Fame starts at third base.
A week ago, when the White Sox embarked on their seven-game road trip to Cleveland and Tampa Bay, it’s safe to say that we would have been happy with what now has happened–a series win over the Tribe and a split with the Rays.
Of course more would have been better, but the way this season is going a 4-3 mark is satisfactory–with the hope that June will be the time for the turnaround.
The finale in Tampa Bay yesterday, an 8-5 triumph over baseball’s best team, had a lot of heroes. Jayson Nix, who replaced Mark Teahen (injury to right middle finger) at third in the middle of the game, gave the Sox the lead for good in the sixth with a grand slam (pictured above). Alex Rios went 3 for 5 with his 11th homer and a pair of RBI and Juan Pierre made two spectacular catches.
On the pitching side Jake Peavy was nothing special, but got the win. Sergio Santos lowered his ERA to 0.48, Matt Thornton pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings and Tony Pena finished the game by retiring Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena.
Now it’s back to Chicago to face the Rangers, Indians and Tigers. No time to waste.
The spring training of 2009 offered something Sox fans hadn’t seen in a long time–bonafide position prospects. Gordon Beckham, Chris Getz, Brandon Allen, Dayan Viciedo (above), Jordan Danks and Tyler Flowers were among them and offered a glimpse of what appeared to be a bright future for the South Siders.
More than a year later, things have changed. That’s not to say all is lost, but right now the situation is very different and critics are questioning the Sox future.
* Beckham is hitting .194
* Getz, traded to the Royals in the Mark Teahen deal, is batting .188
* Allen, dealt to the D-backs for Tony Pena, is now at AAA Reno hitting .216 with three homers and 11 RBI.
* Viciedo, now 21 and moved to first base, is hitting .297 with 10 home runs and 23 RBI at AAA Charlotte. Certainly promising.
* Danks, who was so impressive in the Arizona Fall League and had a good spring, has a .218 BA with two homers and 19 RBI for the Knights.
* Flowers, the prize in the Javier Vazquez deal and the heir apparent to A.J. Pierzynski, has eight homers and 18 RBI, but is hitting .220 at Charlotte.
So, with the big league floundering with one of the oldest rosters in the majors and some of our top prospects failing to live up to expectations (plus the injury to ’09 top pick Jared Mitchell), where do the Sox go from here?
KW, any comment?