The Chicago media will undoubtedly turn today’s game into a celebration of Kerry Wood‘s career as he pitched for the last time and walked off the field to a Standing O. And Cub fans will eat it up. After all, they have to find something to cheer about about after more than a century without experiencing the ultimate baseball accomplishment.
Congratulations Kerry, but we Sox fans look at today much differently…
–It was a nice 3-2 victory with a fine start by Phil Humber and scoreless relief by Matt Thornton (Humber was charged with both runs), Nate Jones and new closer Addison Reed.
–It was a game where we got sweet revenge with cocky headhunter Jeff Samardzija, who hit Paul Konerko in the face with a pitch after Paulie clocked him with a two-run homer in his first time at bat. The payback came when Gordon Beckham touched what’s his name with an eighth-inning, solo blast that proved to be the difference.
So, while they’ll be lifting a glass (or 12) to Wood in Wrigleyville tonight, I’ll be grateful that Alex Rios‘s ninth inning “lost in the sun” fly ball didn’t affect the outcome, happy for the beleaguered Beckham and pray that Paulie is OK.
It’s going to be a spring like no other in recent years. As opposed to the past few seasons when the conventional wisdom was that the White Sox were bonafide contenders, there is virtually no one on the outside that is predicting success for the Sox in 2012.
It all starts tomorrow as pitchers and catchers officially report with a group of position players who want to get a head start.
The good news is that there are surprise teams each year that fool the so-called experts. As I’ve stated in this space before, I have no idea how the Sox are going to fare, but they very well could have the makings of one of the teams that will fool the baseball world. If…
* Robin Ventura takes to this managing thing.
* Adam Dunn is the Adam Dunn of old.
* Gordon Beckham reverts to the success of his rookie season.
* Alex Rios plays like he did in 2010.
* Matt Thornton, Addison Reed or someone else becomes a competent closer
* Jake Peavy is close to his previous Cy Young form and he and his fellow starters–John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Phil Humber and newly-appointed rotation member Chris Sale–make up for the innings lost with Mark Buehrle‘s departure.
We’ll have to wait on these and other issues, but my gut tells me things aren’t going to be as dark as everyone is saying.
With the White Sox at an even .500, 3 1/2 games behind the division-leading Tigers and 1 1/2 games in back of second place Cleveland, the South Siders realistically need to win every game.
That said, we know that goal is impossible and some games are just going to wind up in the loss column due to “natural causes.” Last night’s 4-1 defeat to the Tribe was one of those losses. Fausto Carmona, who was beaten up badly in two previous starts against the Sox, was at his best as he limited the Good Guys to four hits. Two of them came off the bat of Alejandro De Aza, who has been quite impressive since his callup, hitting .310 and adding speed and energy to the lineup. The only run scored on Alexei Ramirez‘s 13th homer in the second inning, which at the time tied the score.
It was also the end of Mark Buehrle‘s team record 18-game streak of allowing three runs or less. He gave up four earned runs while being tagged for 12 hits in 7 1/3 innings. Regardless of the outcome, he remains a model of consistency.
While last night was just one of those losses that’s going to happen, tonight represents something much more. The Sox need to win in order to remain .500 or better, win the series and keep pace with the Tigers and Indians as the formidable Texas Rangers prepare to invade Chicago this weekend. Phil Humber looks to regain his early season form tonight against a very tough customer in Justin Masterton.
Jason Frasor surrendered the walkoff homer last night as the Sox winning streak ended at five, preventing them for reaching .500 and gaining another game on the Tigers. But the truth is that it wasn’t Frasor’s gopher ball or Phil Humber’s mediocre start that was responsible for the defeat. And it’s not what has separated a team that is now four games out of the division lead from being on top of the heap. We all know it’s been the offense.
In the 6-4, 10-inning loss to the Orioles, it was apparent as ever. Despite a nice comeback which tied the game at 4-4, the bottom line is that the three players who have been the most disappointing this season had their chances to put the Sox over the top in clutch situations–but didn’t. This time, I find it hard to blame Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham even though they both left multiple runners on base. Rios did collect a pair of hits and scored a run and Beckham had an infield hit and a run scored.
But friends, Adam Dunn is another story–a very, very old story. It’s time, maybe well past time, to cut our losses. After another three-strikeout game and leaving five runners on the bases, Dunn continues to hurt our chances to win games.
It’s time to put him on the bench permanently. With Paul Konerko unable to play first, we’ll just have to live with Brent Lillibridge there for the time being. We know he’s not a starting player and has the potential to be almost as deadly as Dunn a the plate, but as I see it we have no choice. Let’s just put him on first until Konerko’s injury heals and when Sept. 1 rolls around call up Dayan Viciedo to DH. And remember, Viciedo can play first if Konerko’s return to first is delayed longer than we think.
Moving Dunn from the cleanup spot to No. 7 in the order is like moving the deck chairs on the Titanic. You can make a good argument that he’s the main reason why we’re not a first-place team. And even if there’s just a bit of truth to that statement, the time is now: Dunn should take a seat on the bench.
It’s been a long time coming, but the White Sox reached the .500 mark today with a nail-biting 1-0 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley for their fourth straight win. Phil Humber (above), who has been nothing short of extraordinary all season, chalked up his eighth win in seven innings of work. The season’s most pleasant surprise outpitched Matt Garza, who went all the way in the loss.
The South Siders went hitless for five innings before the red-hot Juan Pierre (who else?) collected the first Sox hit and drove in their lone run in the same at bat in the sixth.
With Sergio Santos having pitched three days in a row, Matt Thornton was called upon to preserve the shutout. He did, hurling two perfect frames for his third save. Another spectacular performance by a bullpen that has been nothing less than spectacular in recent days.
Nothing’s perfect, though, and if an Adam Dunn resurgence is forthcoming it’s going to have to wait. Dunn, playing in right field in place of Carlos Quentin, struck out three times. It seems his nightmare is never going to end.
Sox win 4 of first 5 against the Cubs to win Crosstown Cup with 1 game to go.
Going into this afternoon’s rubber game against the D-backs, I had some questions:
- Could the Sox hold their own defensively with Mark Teahen at third and Adam Dunn in right?
- Would one-time journeyman Phil Humber continue his mastery of major league hitters?
- Could the inconsistent Pale Hose offense score some runs off of Arizona’s Josh Collmentor, who entered the game with a 4-2 record and a 1.86 ERA?
With the 8-2 White Sox victory, the answers are yes, yes and yes.
Teahen was outstanding at third, Dunn made a nice catch in his only chance and Humber was magnificent, pitching seven scoreless innings before leaving after allowing a pair of runs in the eighth. The former No. 1 draft pick of the Mets is now a sparkling 7-3 with a 2.90 ERA.
Holding on to a 1-0 lead through six innings, the South Siders scored two in the seventh on solo homers by Paul Konerko and the suddenly rejuvenated Alex Rios. The Sox added five more in the eighth, highlighted by a bases-clearing double by A.J. Pierzynski.
Fasten your seat belts. It’s Sox vs. Cubs the next three nights at the Cell. How about a sweep to get us to .500?
Sox Note of Note: Konerko, who grew up in the Phoenix area, put on a show in the three-game series, hitting homers in each of the three games. His monster season now shows a .327 BA with 19 homers and 56 RBIs. Where would we be without him?
Admit it, you were asking yourself the same question I was asking myself in the ninth inning of today’s series finale against the A’s: Is it possible that Sergio Santos will blow two 5-3 leads in the ninth in the same series?
Thankfully the answer is no, but it wasn’t easy. The Sox closer escaped a heap full of self-induced trouble with the benefit of a favorable call to end the game as Sox nemesis Coco Crisp was called out on a bang-bang play at first, stranding the tying and lead runs.
For the middle of June, there was a lot at stake today. The win shaped the following headlines:
* The Sox are now only 3 1/2 games behind the A.L. Central lead as the pacesetting Tigers and Indians both lost.
* The South Siders moved to within two games of the .500 mark with the 6-4 homestand and are 33-35 as they head to Minnesota and Phoenix. A far cry from where we were a few weeks ago.
* Phil Humber, the find of the year, won his sixth game with yet another fine outing.
* Adam Dunn‘s three-run homer, his seventh, was a sight to behold.
* Like Dunn, it looks like Matt Thornton, who pitched a scoreless, hitless eighth, has turned things around.
The White Sox “To Do” list for the stretch of games vs. the the Mariners and A’s, beginning on June 6:
* Bounce back from the lost weekend series with Detroit…check
* Defeat Seattle’s rookie pitching sensation Michael Pineda…check
* Find a way to beat 2010 Cy Young Award winner “King Felix” Hernandez…check
* Overcome Mariners’ tough lefty Jason Vargas tonight for the sweep…mission pending
* Win the four-game series vs. Oakland, which begins on Thursday…pending
So far, so good, as the Sox continue their effort to accomplish everything on their check list. There’s much more to be done, but last night’s impressive 5-1 win over King Felix and his teammates was particularly satisfying.
Before the season, if you would have told me we’d be facing Hernandez without Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez in the starting lineup, I would have said we have little chance. But that’s exactly what occurred last night as the struggling (to say it mildly) Dunn and Rios were on the bench (Rios did pinch run and played defensively in the ninth) and Ramirez was given a rest in favor of Omar Vizquel.
Vizquel wasn’t simply Ramirez’s replacement, he was one of the game’s heroes. His triple drove in a pair of runs in the Sox four-run third inning. Along with Paul Konerko’s 14th homer and Carlos Quentin‘s two-run blast, his 15th, it provided more than enough offense for the victory.
And, of course, there was another virtuoso performance by the South Siders’ unlikely pitching ace, Phil Humber. The former No. 1 draft choice of the Mets won his fifth game, allowing only a single run on five hits in 7 2/3 innings as he lowered his ERA to 2.87. Humber left the game in the eighth to a standing ovation.
Just think where we’d be without him.
When the White Sox entered this season of “All In,” which of the following realities would you have thought was the most likely on June 1?
A.) Adam Dunn would be hitting .185 with just a handful of homers.
B.) Alex Rios would be a non-factor in the lineup and struggling to keep his batting average above .200.
C.) Phil Humber would be the ace of the White Sox starting staff with quality start after quality start and a 3.06 ERA.
I don’t think there’s any question that the most surprising individual development of 2011 is Humber. While we didn’t expect Dunn to be as bad as he’s been, we were well aware of his hit or miss persona. And while we expected Rios to duplicate his outstanding 2010 season, we saw how he struggled in 2009.
Humber, once a first-round draft choice projected to be a top of the rotation starter, seems to have finally arrived. He proved it again last night in the 10-7 Sox victory over Boston. For seven and two-third innings, he neutralized one of the most potent lineups in baseball. It was only David Ortiz‘s three-run bomb in the eighth off of Will Ohman with two inherited runners that brought Humber’s ERA over the 3.00 mark.
Sox Notes of Note: The Sox won their sixth straight at Fenway Park last night, led by Alexei Ramirez‘s four-hit, three RBI effort. The night before, he collected two hits and two RBI. He’s currently elevated his BA to .290…In addition to Humber’s performance, the most satisfying take away from the first two games in Boston is the clutch hitting, which has been consistently invisible the first two months of the season…During the three, three-city road trips since April 18, the Sox are 13-16 with only this afternoon’s game left on the grueling portion of this schedule.