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.
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.
As Paul Konerko said after last night’s sixth straight Sox loss–and a four-game sweep at the hands of the red-hot Yankees–“It is what it is.”
What it is, Sox fans, is the worst case scenario in a season that started out with great hope. But the potentially potent offense never manifested and the pitching that has been the reason we’ve hung in as contenders so long is now slumping. And after a 3-7 homestand, which actually began with a series win over the Tigers and a series opening victory over the Red Sox, we now face the Twins, a team we can’t beat to save our lives.
Six straight defeats, six games under .500 and six and a half games behind the division lead. 6-6-6, isn’t that a widely recognized symbol for the devil?
Nothing in sports is as frustrating as the ups and downs of a 162-game baseball season. Last week, the White Sox won a tough three-game series with the first place Tigers and moved to within three games of the division leaders. Today, after two losses to the Red Sox and one to the Yankees last night, the Pale Hose find themselves on a three-game losing streak, three games under .500 and 4 1/2 games behind Detroit.
With three games left with the Yankees this week and three in Minnesota this weekend, the reality is that the season is hanging in the balance.
Last night was a game to forget. Paul Konerko was out of the lineup with an injured calf; 12 runners were left on base; hitting into double plays continued to be an albatross; Brent Lillibridge, in the lineup for his defense, didn’t hit the cutoff man on a crucial play; as a team they failed to execute offensively and only 24, 142 fans showed up to watch the Sox play the mighty Yankees. Oh, and Adam Dunn struck out three times in the cleanup spot.
I think we’re at a point where we have to face the facts. The postseason, and maybe even a .500 record, don’t seem to be in our future.
For anyone who wants to understand the White Sox struggles through the club’s first 106 games just has to look at the last three innings of today’s disappointing 5-3 loss to the Red Sox. It serves as a microcosm of the team’s failure to be better than their 52-54 record.
7th Inning: The Sox lost their 3-2 lead (wasting another Mark Buehrle effort) , largely due to a deflected infield hit and a Tyler Flowers passed ball that moved the tying and winning runs into second and third. The two runners scored on a Dustin Pedroia base hit.
8th Inning: With two outs and Alexei Ramirez on second with his 22nd double, Juan Pierre failed to drive in the tying run. It is important to note that Pierre was hitting in the third spot only because he replaced Paul Konerko, removed from the game after being hit by a pitch.
9th Inning: Now down 5-3, the Sox had three of their supposed big bats in position to give it a shot. But they went down with a whimper as Carlos Quentin, Adam Dunn and Alex Rios all went down swinging. The problem, as we all know, is that Dunn and Rios are far from being big bats, despite the preseason expectations and the back of their baseball cards. They haven’t done it in the first four months and there’s no reason to believe things are going to change.
If Dunn and Rios continue their woeful offense and continue to fail when it counts, there’s no reason to believe the Sox are any better than a .500 team let alone a division contender.
Bad Timing?: With two losses in a row, the Sox find themselves in a tough situation with the Yankees coming in for four games. To make matters worse, C.C. Sabathia is on the mound in Game 1 tomorrow night.
The Frank Thomas Statue Was Unveiled Before Today’s Game