My weekly offseason opinions and observations about the White Sox and more…
The White Sox have surely kept me in blogging mode with all of the activity in the last few days:
–The signing of Dunn (pictured above)
–Getting A.J. back into the fold
–Picking up the Missle‘s option
Next on the agenda, according to KW, is the attempt to sign Paulie. Despite the cash the team has just spent for the two most recent free agent signings, Williams has said there’s enough resources left to bring Konerko back to the South Side. In part, this has been made possible by non-tendering Jenks, saving $4 million by letting Linebrink go and the unselfish gestures by Dunn and Pierzynski, who have both agreed to defer salary so the Sox will have the wherewithal to afford Konerko. And maybe a bullpen piece to boot.
Sox Lose a Great Fan
My good friend Kevin “Sully” Sullivan, former Communications Director in the George W. Bush White House who also headed up PR for NBC Sports and the Dallas Mavericks, lost his Dad this week. Timothy J. Sullivan was 89.
A South Sider to the core, the elder Sullivan passed along his passion for our White Sox to Kevin and his siblings. Sully shared with a group of Sox fan friends that his Dad would have loved the positioning of his death notice–which was right next to the news that the Sox signed Dunn.
May he rest in peace.
The battle of the Sox was won today by the White over the Red as the Pale Hose swept a day-night doubleheader at Fenway with identical 3-1 scores to move within 3 1/2 games of the Twins. The suddenly “on-fire” South Siders have now won the first five games of their 10-game road trip with the time-honored formula of outstanding pitching and timely hitting.
John Danks outdueled 15-game winner Clay Buchholz, Gordon Beckham delivered a key RBI double in the seventh inning, red-hot Paul Konerko collected three hits and Sergio Santos and Bobby Jenks preserved the win out of the bullpen in Game 1.
Gavin Floyd was the winner and John Lackey the loser in Game 2 with Scott Linebrink and Chris Sale excelling out of the pen before Jenks got the last four outs for his second save of the night. Offensively, Carlos Quentin smashed a double and a triple while scoring a pair of runs and Mark Teahen had a 2 for 4 night. Due to a pair of Bosox errors, which resulted in two unearned runs, backstop Ramon Castro had the only Chisox RBI with a sac fly.
The Manny Watch: In his return to Boston, Manny Ramirez went 2 for 4 in the first game and 1 for 4 in the second, all singles.
It was deja vu for Bobby Jenks as the husky one gave up three runs in the ninth, allowing the Tribe to tie the score at 6. But the resilient Hose scored four in the 11th (including a two-out, nobody-on Brent Lillibridge homer), Scott Linebrink hurled zeroes in the two extra frames and we rallied to beat the Indians,10-6.
The South Siders pounded out 21 hits. Alex Rios led the parade with five, including a homer and four RBIs. Mark Kotsay had three and five players–Omar Vizquel, Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski, Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham collected two hits apiece. Konerko added three RBIs to give him 95 for the season.
Speaking of Beckham, Gordo left the game in the seventh after getting hit in the wrist by Indian reiiever Frank Herrmann (pictured above). SoxWorld held their collective breath until it was announced at the end of the game that it was just a bruise and he’s day to day. Take it from me, it looked a whole lot worse at the time and I had visions of losing our red-hot second baseman for the rest of the season.
With the Twins idle, we narrowed their lead to four–with Manny Ramirez expected to be in the lineup tomorrow night.
With the White Sox hoping to win at least two of three in the weekend series vs. the World Champions to keep pace with the Twins and C.C. Sabathia on the mound tomorrow night, tonight’s convincing 9-4 Sox triumph was a welcome sight.
The combination of outstanding pitching by Freddy Garcia, clutch hitting, another poor performance by the Yankees’ A.J. Burnett and a number of Bomber mistakes, proved to be the difference.
Among the Sox heroes was the ageless Omar Vizquel, who has been a marvel all season. He went 2 for 4 with two runs scored, two RBIs and a stolen base.
Pale Hose Notes of Note: The win tonight was the 70th of the season for the South Siders and the 11th for Garcia…The last thing the Sox needed was another injury to a reliever, but that’s exactly what happened. Lefty Erick Threets, after a scoreless eighth inning, was removed for Scott Linebrink after going 3-2 against Mark Teixiera. No word as to how serious it is…Is it my imagination or does Linebrink cough up a homer every time he appears in a game? He did it again tonight as he surrendered a two-run shot to Nick Swisher…With the Sox having claimed Manny Ramirez on waivers from the Dodgers, it’s now a waiting game to see what happens. The two clubs can either work out a deal or L.A, suddenly in contention for a wild card spot, can pull him back. Manny has a no-trade clause, but word is that he’ll agree to the deal.
You’ve no doubt heard all of the details about the circumstances behind last night’s split doubleheader between the White Sox and Royals in Kansas City:
* The terrible decision to start the game on Friday when umpire Joe West was told a torrential downpour was on its way.
* The fact that Edwin Jackson lost his start and reliever Tony Pena (above) had to start Game 2.
* The Fox Sports edict that the first game had to start at 6:05 CT–with a day game on Sunday.
Those developments set the stage for an eight-hour marathon, which saw the Sox play two extra-inning games–a 6-5 defeat in Game 1 (11 innings) after they blew a 5-1 lead and a 7-6 victory in Game 2 (10 frames) after they came back after blowing a ninth-inning lead.
What can we take from what we saw last night?
–Although he loaded the bases that set the stage for Yuniesky Betancourt‘s game-tying grand slam in Game 1, Freddy Garcia did what he had to do in 6 2/3 innings.
–Bravo to Pena, who made his first start in years, and went seven strong innings in Game 2. Aside from a four-run fourth inning, he was stellar.
–He was the losing pitcher in Game 1, but No. 1 draft pick Chris Sale is a stud. He looked overpowering in his 1 2/3 innings of work. And it was Bobby Jenks who coughed up the winning run.
–Our bullpen has been awful. First it was Santos and Jenks in Game 1, then J.J. Putz blew his third consecutive save in the nightcap after striking out the first two after Scott Linebrink gave up a blast in the eighth. Miraculously, Putz shut the door in the bottom of the 10th.
–The Sox could have very well won Game 1 if Brent Lillibridge, running for Paul Konerko, hadn’t hesitated around second base in the 10th after Carlos Quentin’s gap double to right-center. It was inexcusable for him to be thrown out which would have been the lead run. Lilli needs to be a better fundamental player and avoid the brain freezes.
–In Game 2, Ramon Castro‘s two-run homer, Alex Rios‘s RBI single and Juan Pierre‘s clutch two-out double in the 10th to put the Sox ahead for good, saved the day.
The No. 1 takeaway is that for all of the problems the Sox have had in the past couple of weeks, they keep coming back. They could have packed it in after Game 1 and again after the Royals took the lead in Game 2, but they didn’t and kept fighting. Win or lose, that’s really the legacy of this team.
“To bounce back in the second game and play the way they did, what can be better than that,” Ozzie said in the wee small hours of the morning.
Lillibridge’s blunder: The run that should have scored in Game 1
You have to give it to these White Sox. After Sunday’s ninth-inning meltdown in Minnesota, the third Sox loss in a row, no one knew how the club would react as they headed to Seattle and Oakland. Rest easy Sox fans, at least for now.
There are still five more games remaining on the road trip, but the early signs on the West Coast are very promising. Behind a fine performance by 23-year-old Daniel Hudson and homers by Alex Rios and Andruw Jones, the Sox coasted to a 6-1 victory over the Mariners. In the process they increased their division lead to 2 1/2 games over the Tigers and Twins, who both lost–to the Rangers and Indians respectively.
* The Pale Hose cranked out 12 hits. Omar Vizquel, Rios, Paul Konerko and Gordon Beckham led the way with two apiece.
* Vizquel has been a marvel, at the plate and especially in the field. He’s now batting .271.
* Rios had three RBIs, including the two-run homer, giving him 54 for the season in addition to 16 roundtrippers and a .307 BA.
• Paulie continues to sizzle. His two hits last night raised his average to .303.
* Beckham’s surge has been fun to watch. Once languishing on or near the Mendoza line, GBeck is hitting .571 during his current eight-game hitting streak. He’s now at .241 and
rising. In other words, he’s back to being the Beckham of a year ago.
* Hudson went 6 2/3, giving up only a lone first inning run. Matt Thornton, Tony Pena and Scott Linebrink closed the door in relief, combining for 2 1/3 scoreless innings.
Mr. Hudson to the rescue
When the Braves took an early 3-0 tonight against the White Sox at the Cell, I flashed back to April and May and had that sinking feeling that we were doomed.
But this is a different Sox team. One that can rebound from an early deficit because of renewed starting pitching, clutch hitting and defense that has improved their record to 35-34. You don’t have to look further than tonight’s result against the red-hot Braves to see that. Down 3-0 after one and a half innings, the South Siders scored five runs in the bottom of the second, added one in the third and three in the fourth en route to the 9-6 victory. And after his early woes, John Danks settled down and blanked Atlanta for the next five innings before being relieved by Tony Pena in the eighth.
Here we are one game above .500, 4 1/2 games behind the division-leading Twins and only three in back of the Tigers.
Many heroes surfaced last night. Danks, A.J. Pierzynski (three hits, two RBI), Alexei Ramirez (three hits and an RBI), Paul Konerko (three hits to raise his BA to .304), Alex Rios (two hits and an RBI) and Carlos Quentin, who slammed a three-run homer for the team’s first roundtripper in eight games. We had 16 hits in all. The only negatives happened in the ninth with Scott Linebrink giving up two runs before being relieved by Bobby Jenks (who got the save) and Ramirez leaving the game with a finger injury. Too early to tell how serious the injury is.
No, I didn’t forget Omar Vizquel, who has been outstanding as the main replacement for the disabled Mark Teahen (remember him?). Omar delivered a clutch two-out, two RBI single in the Sox five-run second, which prolonged the rally (pictured above).
How important has Vizquel been to the Sox recent resurgence? The Sox are 13-6 when the future Hall of Fame starts at third base.