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.
As the White Sox inched closer to the .500 mark (16-17) with their impressive 5-0 victory over the Royals last night, they did it with a solid team effort, a dynamic we would love to continue.
Here are the main candidates for Player of the Game:
* Gavin Floyd, who recorded his third victory with 7 2/3 of shutout baseball. He allowed just five hits and two walks while striking out five as he lowered his ERA to 2.53.
* Adam Dunn, who gave the Sox an early 1-0 first innning lead with a towering homer, also doubled and walked twice as he ended his major league record of most consecutive games with a strikeout at 36. Dunn now has the same number of home runs he had ALL of last season (11), 26 RBIs and with a .257 batting average is hitting about 100 points higher than his final 2011 figure. Add a .401 on base percentage and a 1.030 OPS and can you say Comeback Player of the Year?
* Alex Rios, now batting .284, drove in the fourth and fifth Sox runs with his third triple of the season. While the Sox ultimately didn’t need the runs, the fact they were on the board made things much more relaxed when the Royals loaded the bases with one out in the eighth.
And a few Honorable Mentions…
Alejandro De Aza continued his hot streak with a pair of hits, an RBI and a run scored…Gordon Beckham, making his own comeback, also had a couple of hits, an RBI and a run scored…Matt Thornton struck out K.C. phenom Eric Hosmer with the bases loaded in the eighth…Hector Santiago pitched a perfect ninth with a strikeout to end the game.
Sox Note of Note: After a clean MRI, Chris Sale is back in the rotation. The new closer? Maybe Addison Reed, maybe a committee in the short term.
The Tigers certainly seem in it to win it. Victor Martinez out for the season? No problem, let’s spend $214 million on Prince Fielder to replace him.
With yesterday’s signing, Detroit should unquestionably be the heavy favorites to win the A.L. Central. But we all know that the winners in the offseason aren’t always the winners when all is said and done.
The combination of Fielder and Miguel Cabrera hitting back to back in scary. And add Justin Verlander heading up a solid pitching staff, it’s pretty hard to think the Sox, Indians, Royals or Twins could outlast the rivals from Motown.
That said, stranger things have happened and it would be foolish to just give up and hand over the division title to Detroit. From a White Sox perspective, let’s just hope Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham rebound and our newly-formed pitching staff delivers. If they do, the South Siders certainly could be as big a pleasant surprise as we were a disappointing one a year ago.
When I heard the Fielder announcement, all I could think of was that the Sox once had Frank Thomas and Albert Belle hitting back to back–a duo even more formidable than the Fielder/Cabrera duo. And the record shows that it didn’t produce a championship team. In fact, the Sox finished around .500 in both seasons Thomas and Belle played together.
So, keep the faith.
In a few weeks the White Sox will be firmly embedded in spring training mode trying to assemble a team that’s ready to contend in the A.L. Central.
Conventional wisdom says it’s going to be a difficult task with the Tigers showing no signs of fading and the Royals and Indians seemingly poised to reach the next level.
You really can’t blame the skeptics. As names like Pujols, Fielder, Buehrle, Darvish, Wilson and others have been the talk of the hot stove period, the White Sox made “headlines” with the acquisition of minor league pitchers Nestor Molina, Simon Castro, Pedro Hernandez, Myles Jaye and Daniel Webb while losing known quantities Sergio Santos, Carlos Quentin and Jason Frasor in the process. The only major news was the signing of John Danks, who we all thought was destined to be traded.
It’s really easy to look at all this and come to the conclusion that bad things are in store for the 2012 club. But we shouldn’t be so quick to judge. With myriad questions, the truth is that we just don’t know how the season will manifest.
How will the Ozzie-less Sox be with Robin Ventura at the helm?
Will the Sox survive without Buehrle?
Will Danks pick up where Buehrle left off?
Will an effective closer be found to replace Santos?
Will Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham rebound?
Will Alejandro De Aza be a competent major league leadoff hitter?
Will Paul Konerko be Paul Konerko?
Will Jake Peavy be the Cy Young Peavy?
Will Dayan Viciedo live up to the hype and make us forget Quentin?
Will Chris Sale make a successful switch to the starting rotation?
Will Kenny Williams make any more significant deals to upgrade the big league roster?
More than any other year I can remember, it’s hard to predict what’s in store for all of us this season. We’re just going to have to wait and see.
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.
I wrote yesterday that unless there was something new to write about, I would wait until there was.
My hope was that I could blog today about the start of a Sox turnaround. As we all know, that didn’t happen last night as the Sox dropped a disheartening 2-1, 11-inning decision to the Royals–but something fresh and new did occur. There are a whole slew of critical comments from Ozzie, many of which reflect the disappointment and and frustration of White Sox Nation.
Here’s a sampling:
* “(Bleeping) pathetic. No (bleeping) energy. We just go by the motions. We take the day off instead of (Thursday).”
* “One day we’re good, three days we’re bad. We don’t have energy in the dugout. A horse (bleep) approach at the plate for the 90th time.”
* “If we go to Cleveland and play the way we did in Kansas City, it’s going to be a (bleeping), dead-(bleep) July. That’s very bad. We’re wasting our money on this club if we go to Cleveland the way we were here.”
* “That’s the team we have all year long. I talk (trash) because what I see. That’s all is see. Nothing against the Kansas City pitching staff. The way we go about our business here, horse (bleep).
I think you get the picture.
Some may point to the fact that Jake Peavy was off of his game last night, giving up five runs, six hits, a pair of walks and a crucial two-out, two-RBI single to journeyman catcher Matt Treanor in six innings of work.
But the truth is that it was the offense that has to bear the bulk of responsibility for last night’s 5-3 loss to the Royals. It wasn’t about getting on base, but rather the season-long problem of clutch hitting. The Sox collected 13 hits and a pair of walks, but stranded 13 runners. The math is simple: if just three of those runners had crossed home plate, the loss would have been a victory.
As Ozzie said after the game, “We’re so unpredictable…We struggle with people on base, and like I preach, we have to get better than that. We need big hits…”
Paul Konerko again was the center of the offense, going 3 for 5 with a homer and two RBIs. And A.J. Pierzynski (3), Omar Vizquel (2), Juan Pierre (2) and Carlos Quentin (2) had multiple hit games, but only Quentin drove in a run. With Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez out of the lineup, Adam Dunn, Brent Lillibridge and Gordon Beckham went 0 for 13 with seven strikeouts.
Remember what Ozzie said: “We have to get better than that.”
The White Sox go into the upcoming season as one of the favorites to win the A.L. Central, but it’s not going to be a cakewalk. The Tigers have improved, the Twins have lost a number of key components but are always strong and the Indians and Royals seem to be making strides as well.