It’s never a good thing when your starting pitcher gives up six runs–highlighted by two homers and three doubles–in the first inning. But the White Sox, despite Jake Peavy‘s early meltdown, gave it a shot this afternoon and came up one run short in the 7-6 loss to the Twins. Adam Dunn and Alex Rios both had their chances to be heroes in the ninth, but didn’t deliver. Sound familiar?
So, the five game winning streak is history and we sink to six games behind the Tigers, who staged a late-inning rally for a come-from-behind triumph over the Royals.
Now the fun begins as we head to Detroit for a three-game series after tomorrow’s off-day. The pitching matchups:
Friday night: John Danks vs. Justin Verlander, he of the 20 wins–already.
Saturday afternoon: Gavin Floyd vs. Brad Penny
Sunday night: Mark Buehrle vs. Matt Scherzer
Look at the bright side, it’s the end of August and we’re still alive.
As the historically inadquate Adam Dunn takes a seat on the bench and Alex Rios holds firm with his .212 batting average and equally-deficient power numbers, a new wave of excitement has hit the South Side.
The emergence of Alejandro De Aza, Tyler Flowers and Dayan Viciedo, who all started the season at AAA Charlotte, has poured new energy into what has been a stagnant offense. In the last two days, as the Sox have won their third and fourth games in a row against the Mariners and Twins, respectively, the threesome has delivered big-time.
* Viciedo has gone 4 for 6 with a homer, four RBIs, three runs scored and a pair of walks in his first two major league games this season. It has been particularly satisfying to see how improved his plate discipline has been. Those two walks represent a major accomplishment.
* Flowers (pictured above), batting a very respectable .281 as he subs for the injured A.J. Pierzynski, hit his first career grand slam against the Mariners on Sunday and drove in two of the three White Sox runs last night in the 3-0 victory over the Twins with a double and a sac fly.
* De Aza has been a breath of fresh air since joining the club and slamming a home run in his first ’11 major league at bat. He’s got great speed, is excellent defensively and is sporting a .319 batting average. Last night he went 2 for 3, including a double, with a run scored and a key stolen base.
While youth is being served, we can’t ignore the fact that the Mr. Perfect has been outstanding as well. Mark Buehrle was on his game once again last night as the Sox moved to within five games of Detroit and four games in the all-important loss column. He gave up just four hits in 7 2/3 innings as he improved his record to 11-6 and his ERA to a fine 3.05.
You can make the case that the White Sox would have been better off, provided they won today’s game, if Dayan Viciedo didn’t single in his first at bat, slug a three-run homer in his second appearance and draw a walk the third time (which put him on base for Tyler Flowers‘ first career grand slam).
Now, all the pundits, internet geeks and talk show callers are going to be more vocal than ever that Viciedo should have been brought up weeks ago to compensate for the failures of Adam Dunn and Alex Rios.
As inviting as it might be, I’m going to resist the temptation to criticize. The fact is that he wasn’t called up before and there’s nothing we can do about it. I’m just going to look ahead and hope Viciedo, in that Hollywood ending I suggested in my last post, helps turn the tide.
On the heels of today’s 9-3 victory and three-game sweep in Seattle, the Sox come home to face the Twins in an abbreviated three-game homestand. And by virtue of the Tigers’ loss to Minny and the Indians defeat at the hands of the Royals, the Sox find themselves in second place, six games behind Detroit and a half-game ahead of Cleveland.
The Viciedo Era has begun.
Sox Note of Note: With all the talk about the barren Sox farm system, it’s particularly comforting to see Viciedo and Flowers come through this afternoon. Although he hasn’t been given as much credit as he deserves, Flowers has done a terrific job in place of A.J. Pierzynski, hitting .273 with a pair of homers and playing above average defense behind the plate. Let’s hope the performance of these two youngsters are a sign of positive things to come.
The day-to-day angst that comes with following a contending team in the heat of a pennant race has diminished a bit for me as the White Sox have dipped below .500 once again and stand 6 1/2 games behind the Tigers. The feeling now is more along the lines of let things play out and hope for the best.
As long as there is hope, mathematical or otherwise, I’ve never given up and won’t this year. As you Sox fans know, we’ve seen much worse. But the big difference in 2011, as opposed to many of the really lean years, has been the high expectations of a team that was favored by a host of experts to win the division. We expected so much more.
The reasons are obvious and there’s plenty of blame to go around, but blame isn’t going to get us to the postseason. It is what it is.
It’s easy to point to the sloppy defense and bad baserunning as the reasons for last night’s 5-4 defeat at the hands of the Angels. A loss, by the way, that dropped the Sox to 6 1/2 games behind the Tigers in the A.L. Central.
But the truth is that it’s the same old story for the Sox that has plagued them throughout this maddening season. Suffice it to say that, in my view, if Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham had just decent seasons that 6 1/2 game deficit would be wiped out and the Sox, with their solid pitching, would be on top of the division.
Just look at what one man–Justin Verlander–has done for Detroit. The team is 12 games above .500 with him on the mound, a .500 team without him. Think about the impact Dunn, Rios and Beckham would have had with fairly good seasons.
Here are the numbers through 127 games:
–Dunn: .167, 11 homers, 40 RBIs
–Rios: .214, 8 homers, 31 RBIs
–Beckham: .238, 9 homers, 34 RBIs
It’s hard to reach the postseason when three key cogs in the offense perform at such a low level.
Duh, yeah, Alex Rios, you’re right about that: “The more wins we get, the better off we will be.”
I guess the White Sox centerfielder could be excused for his Yogism after he had a lot to do with the White Sox’s rare laugher this afternoon as they blanked the defending American League champion Rangers, 10-0. It was a banner day for the beleaguered Rios both at bat and in the field.
On a day like this when everything is clicking, it’s a pleasure to look at the box score:
–The South Siders scored 10 runs on 16 hits.
–Homers were cranked by Rios and Brent Lillibridge.
–A three-hit day was enjoyed by Lillibridge while Rios, Juan Pierre, Paul Konerko,Tyler Flowers, Alejandro De Aza and Gordon Beckham had two hits apiece. The only Sox player without a hit was Alexei Ramirez, but he scored a run after drawing a walk.
–Other offensive highlights included a three RBI day by De Aza, two apiece by Pierre, Lillibridge and Rios and Flowers’ three runs scored.
—Gavin Floyd was outstanding as he won his 11th game. In seven innings, he gave up just three hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Chris Sale pitched a scoreless eighth and Jason Frasor struck out the side in the ninth.
–The only blemishes were the two errors, one by Lilli and one by Alexei.
With the victory the Sox are back at .500. They remain five games in back of the Tigers and are now just a half-game behind the Indians.
Sox Note of Note: It’s likely that Carlos Quentin won’t be back in the lineup until the end of the week at the earliest. The possibility of him being put on the DL is still there with Dayan Viciedo waiting in the wings.
I debated whether or not to even post this morning after last night’s demoralizing 7-4 loss to the defending American League champion Rangers, which saw Jake Peavy cough up three homers. There doesn’t seem to be much to say that I haven’t written before. You know, the struggles of Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, Gordon Beckham–yada, yada, yada.
So, we stand five games behind Detroit and three games under .500 in the midst of what is now a three-game losing streak. Just when you thought we might be making some headway, we crash. Certainly a familiar scenario in this season of South Side discontent.
It’s getting increasingly more difficult (if not impossible), even for a glass half-full fan like me, to visualize the Sox playing in October. Part of me wants to keep the faith, part of me wants to bag it and start focusing on how to fix things for 2012.
The former is a frustrating exercise, the latter a daunting task.