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.
I couldn’t bear to post my blog yesterday after the Sox meltdown Monday night against the Orioles. A 4-2 lead in the ninth should be enough, but we all know that there are always going to be a bunch of these heartbreakers during the course of the season. We just don’t want to admit it–and I couldn’t face writing about it, especially the 10-4 final score.
I had good feelings about the South Siders bouncing back last night with John Danks on the mound, but very few teams are going to win games with two, maybe three hitters, doing what they’re supposed to do. The result? a 3-2 loss.
To state the obvious, we are struggling offensively. Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham are among the culprits along with Brent Morel. And the few who are on their game, like Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski, haven’t provided enough firepower to overcome the slackers.
The new skipper is still showing confidence in the non-producers. It’ll be interesting to see how long he waits before a makes an adjustment or two.
We sure wanted the brooms to come out this afternoon, signifying a three-game White Sox sweep over the tough Tigers. It wasn’t to be, however, as the Sox dropped the series finale, 5-2.
It’s certainly not the end of the world as the Sox are still 5-3 on the young season and are playing good baseball. It’s just a bit disappointing we didn’t sweep because the South Siders have been playing so competitively and even had the tying run at the plate when the game ended. All in all, I’ll take it.
Chris Sale pitched well this afternoon (as Gavin Floyd did Saturday and Jake Peavy on Friday), but threw a lot of pitches, left early and on this day couldn’t match the Tigers’ Rick Porcello. In the good news category, Adam Dunn cranked out a pair of doubles and Dayan Viciedo went deep for his second homer of the season.
I’m a glass-full guy, as you know, so take this for what it’s worth: Based on what I’ve seen so far I’m convinced we’ve got an exciting season ahead of us–even though it’s only April 15.
Next up: Four at the Cell with the Orioles.
Day of Celebration: All the Sox and Tigers, along with players on the other 28 Major League clubs, wore No. 42 to commemorate the anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier on April 15, 1947. The Sox players donned the their red pinstripe unis, as they will every Sunday home game, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the outstanding 1972 Pale Hose.
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.
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.
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.
Just take a look at the picture above. It pretty much represents all you need to know about the White Sox’s impressive 7-6 come-from-behind win over the Orioles, their fourth consecutive victory.
–At the far left, there’s A.J. Pierzynski, who went 2 for 3 with three RBIs, including his sixth home run. He also made as good a catch on a foul pop as you’re ever going to see to record the second out of the eighth inning with men on first and second. Matt Thornton then came on to get the third out to thwart the Baltimore rally.
–Next to him is Alex Rios, whose two-out RBI single in the eighth (following an A.J. sac fly), broke a 6-6 tie after a three-run J.J. Hardy blast put the O’s ahead. It has to be said that Rios has been a different player the past three games after being benched in the opener in Minnesota for his less-than-spectacular offense. He has seven hits in the past three contests.
–At the far right of the photo is Gordon Beckham, whose two-run homer in the second provided the Sox with an early 4-0 lead.
–Right behind Beckham is Sergio Santos, who recorded his 23th save by striking out the side in the ninth. It was also his 28th straight scoreless appearance on the road. Not bad for a converted infielder.
–In the “who doesn’t belong and why” category, Brent Morel is also in the frame. Unfortunately, it wasn’t one of his best nights. He went 0 for 4 and if it weren’t for the Sox rally he could have been the goat. He was charged with a missed catch error at third base in the seventh that put runners on first and third. One out later Hardy put the Orioles ahead.