It was three days of fun for White Sox fans this weekend as solid pitching and a bevy of home runs carried the Sox to an impressive and very satisfying three-game sweep over the Cubs at Wrigley. And, more importantly, the South Siders, having won four in a row, now stand at .500 with a 21-21 record and are in second place only 2 1/2 games behind the first place Indians.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get better after the Friday and Saturday wins, the Sox rose to the occasion this afternoon winning 6-0, the first time the North Siders have been shut out this season. The Sox pounded out three more home runs–back-to-back fourth inning blasts by Gordon Beckham and Adam Dunn and a fifth inning solo clout by Tyler Flowers–giving them eight for the series. Dunn and Beckham led the way with two apiece while Flowers, A.J. Pierzynski, Dayan Viciedo and Paul Konerko hit one apiece.
Starters Philip Humber, John Danks and Jake Peavy did a terrific job–combining for 19 innings, two earned runs only 11 hits and 13 strikeouts–and the bullpen, with the exception of Zach Stewart giving up four runs in the ninth yesterday when the game was already in hand, closed the door. Peavy, by the way, is now 5-1 with a 2.39 ERA.
Hopefully the winning streak continues as the Sox open a three-game series on Tuesday night against the Twins.
I’d prefer to ignore the details of last night’s disappointing 5-0 shutout loss to the Royals and move on…the good news is that the Indians and Tigers both also lost and the White Sox remain just 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Tribe.
Since the Sox dropped to 16-18 on the season, today won’t get us to .500 or beyond. That’s what happens when you’re flirting with .500–a loss makes it harder to catch up.
Aside from getting back on the road to .500 and winning the rubber game of the series with K.C., today’s game is important as it relates to Philip Humber. Since his perfect game, he’s spiraled downward. With Jake Peavy pitching as well as anyone in baseball, Gavin Floyd performing as well as he ever has, John Danks rebounding in his last outing and Chris Sale with a whole bunch of promise in his initial starts, a resurgent Humber would round out a pretty potent staff. What we don’t need is a weak link.
So keep an eye on Humber and let’s hope the bats come alive for our 17th win.
“It gets frustrating, but I think the way it’s going, the way the guys are grinding, you can’t fault them for anything.”
–Sox skipper Robin Ventura, after last night’s doubleheader loss to the Tribe
Yesterday was certainly a day to forget as the Sox dropped Game 1 to the Tribe, 8-6, largely on the imperfect outing of Philip Humber, and lost Game 2, 3-2, despite a solid performance by Eric Stults.
Humber, who now has had three bad outings since his perfecto against the Mariners, coughed up eight runs, nine hits and two walks in 2 1/3 innings. The silver lining, and yes there was one, was the terrific job Jose Quintana did in relief of Humber. Brought to the big club just for the doubleheader, Quintana’s major league debut was sterling as he gave up just one hit and two walks in 5 2/3 innings.
In the nightcap, Stults (who also was promoted yesterday) went six innings, allowing only two runs, four hits and four walks. If only he hadn’t walked No. 9 hitter Lou Marson with two outs in the fifth that ultimately gave the Tribe a 2-1 lead.
Ventura’s frustration noted above seems to be referring to all the close games the Sox are dropping. His refusal to place blame seems to refer to the fact that the club is putting forth the proper effort. Case in point is that in both games yesterday the Sox rallied in the late innings, only to come up short.
Robin’s hope is the same as ours. That it’s only a matter of time before the Sox begin winning the close ones.
You think that you have problems? Take a look for a moment at the Bobby Valentine Red Sox.
Although they just swept a three-game series from the Twins, the Bosox stand at 7-10 and are in the basement of the A.L. East as they invade the Cell starting tonight for a four-game series. And I’m sure they haven’t forgotten last Saturday’s debacle when they blew a 9-0 lead to the Yankees and lost to their bitter rivals, 15-9.
If that weren’t enough, they’ve lost two-thirds of their regular outfield with serious injuries to Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury, have a decimated bullpen that was severely weakened by an injury to new closer Andrew Bailey on the eve of Opening Day and the starting staff has been far from stellar. Add a little bit of smugness and unfortunate rhetoric from their new skipper and you have a team, as presently constituted, that will have trouble contending with the likes of the Yankees, Rays and even Blue Jays. That said, it will be interesting to see how the sweep in Minnesota has lifted their spirits.
Our Sox come in at 10-8 and in a virtual tie with the Tribe for the division lead after a 4-2 road trip to Seattle and Oakland. It’ll Philip Humber on the mound tonight, fresh off of his perfect game. He’ll be facing promising youngster Felix Doubront.
Friday night it will be John Danks vs. converted reliever Daniel Bard, unbeaten Jake Peavy vs. Jon Lester on Saturday and Gavin Floyd vs. Josh Beckett on Sunday.
It wasn’t an oversight: No, I didn’t overlook yesterday’s 14-inning loss to Oakland. Just didn’t have the heart to revisit the bad memories.
Jake Peavy did his best Philip Humber imitation, pitching a masterful three-hit, complete game shutout. The back-to-normal Adam Dunn and red-hot Paul Konerko hit back-to-back homers in the fourth inning, giving Peavy all the support he needed to offset the outstanding outing by the A’s Bartolo Colon. And, in the end, the Sox went on to win their fourth straight with a 4-0 victory last night in Oakland.
Furthermore, take a look at the standings this morning. The only American League team with a better record is Texas at 13-4. Right behind are the Sox and Tigers tied for the A.L. Central lead at 10-6 and the Yankees and Blue Jays knotted up for the A.L. East lead with the same record. Everyone else is behind these five leaders.
I know it’s early, but this is a lot of fun and I’m going to enjoy it.
Konerko on verge of 400th homer
Konerko’s homer last night was the 399th of his career, tying him for 48th place in major league history with Al Kaline and Andres Galarraga. One more and he joins the “400” club.
Paulie’s standing as one of the game’s Top 50 home run hitters brings to mind Tommy Lasorda‘s comment when the Dodgers traded Konerko to Cincinnati for reliever Jeff Shaw (the Sox acquired PK from the Reds for Mike Cameron). The Hall of Fame manager said, and I paraphrase, that he was comfortable making the deal because he didn’t see Konerko as a 20-homer guy in the major leagues.
As wrong as Lasorda was in judging Konerko’s home run prowess, he was right about one thing. Paulie isn’t a 20-homer slugger. From 1999-2011 in a White Sox uniform, No. 14 averaged 30 homers. He’s had 40 or more twice, 30 or more five times and 20 or more on five occasions.
So much for Lasorda as a talent evaluator.
As we all know, our White Sox are a team that entered 2012 way, way under the radar, even picked by many to finish in the cellar of the A.L. Central.
In the first 14 games of the season, the Sox have mostly impressed with a respectable 8-6 record. Paul Konerko, Jake Peavy, Chris Sale, Alejandro De Aza and even 2011 disappointments Adam Dunn and Alex Rios have led the way.
Now, Philip Humber, a terrific example of talent, humility and persistence, has pitched the 21st perfect game in major league baseball history in yesterday’s 4-0 victory over the Mariners. By itself, it was the ultimate accomplishment for a pitcher and an historic feat by every measure. But I’m hoping for more.
I know that they say momentum is nothing more than the next day’s starting pitcher, but I’d like to think Humber’s gem can put the Sox in a whole different mindset–a renewed sense of confidence that will fool the experts and create a genuine threat to the Tigers. Am I asking for too much? Maybe, but it can’t hurt to think about it.
It will be a while before we can judge if this remarkable event on April 21 was a positive turning point in a season that started with much pessimism in most places outside of the Sox clubhouse. But wouldn’t it be something if that celebration pictured above of Humber’s teammates toasting his perfecto becomes just one of a series of South Side victory parties.
Scott Merkin whets our White Sox appetite today on whitesox.com with some facts, figures and projections to chew on:
* Pitchers and catchers report on February 23
* Full squad reports on February 28
* First Spring Training game, March 5, vs. the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch
* Opening Day, April 6, at Texas
Merkin’s Projected Batting Order:
Alejandro DeAza CF, Gordon Beckham 2B, Paul Konerko 1B, Adam Dunn DH, Alex Rios LF, A.J. Pierzynski C, Alexei Ramirez SS, Dayan Viciedo RF, Brent Morel 3B
John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Jake Peavy, Chris Sale, Philip Humber
Matt Thornton Closer, Jesse Crain RH setup man, Will Ohman LH setup man (with all other spots up for grabs). Key bullpen prospect to watch is Addison Reed, who very well might be the closer (my two cents, not Merkin’s).
Nestor Molina RHP, Dan Johnson 1B, Ozzie Martinez IF and, of course, the skipper Robin Ventura
Ozzie Guillen, Mark Buehrle, Sergio Santos, Carlos Quentin, Juan Pierre, Omar Vizquel, Ramon Castro, Jason Frasor
After suffering through the demoralizing three-game sweep at the hands of Tigers, which included an 8-1 defeat, a blown 8-1 lead and an embarrassing 18-2 thrashing on Sunday night, the White Sox facing the prospect of a split doubleheader in Minnesota on Monday was a scary thought. Especially since the Sox arrived at their Twin Cities hotel around 2 a.m.
But you never know about the game of Baseball.
Philip Humber, rebounding from a tough few starts and a stint on the DL, was outstanding in the first game. He hurled a shutout in his seven innings of work and emerged as the winning pitcher, thanks to a Chris Sale save, in the 2-1 victory.
If Humber’s performance wasn’t impressive enough, rookie Zach Stewart outdid him in the nightcap. Stewart (pictured above at far right, enjoying the moment) flirted with a perfect game, which was thwarted by a Danny Valencia double leading off the eighth inning, and chalked up a complete game, one-hit shutout for a 4-0 triumph.
The Sox are still eight games behind the sizzling Tigers with a tough road ahead, but for now a doubleheader sweep with two young starters with modest expectations allowing zero runs is something to celebrate.
The White Sox can’t officially announce their final moves before leaving Glendale, but it seems the word is out: