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.
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.
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.
I remember the day in October, 2009, when the White Sox claimed outfielder Alejandro De Aza on waivers from the Florida Marlins–and I wondered if he was good enough to make the major league roster.
De Aza had played professionally since he was signed as a free agent by the Dodgers in 2001–but it was ba rocky road. After a couple seasons in the low minors, he was selected by the Marlins in the 2004 Minor League Rule 5 draft. He eventually had cups of coffee with Florida in 2007 and 2009, though wrist and ankle injuries hampered his progress. Obviously the Sox felt that if he were injury-free, he could contribute.
The speedy outfielder made a positive first impression in a Sox uniform as he enjoyed an outstanding spring training in 2010. He didn’t break camp with the Sox (though some thought he should have) but joined them during the season and hit an even .300 in 30 at bats while hitting .302 in 318 at bats at Charlotte.
While De Aza failed to make the team this year out of spring training, it was obvious to the White Sox after seeing him hit .322 in 385 at bats at Charlotte, that it was prudent to bring him up midseason to see if he could make an impact and compensate specifically for the poor play of Alex Rios and the overall stagnant offense.
Good call. From his first ’11 at bat, when he homered to win the game, to last night’s three-run homer, which tied the score in the Sox’s come-from-behind win over the Twins, he has been a sight for sore eyes. Add his blazing speed and outstanding defense and De Aza just might have finally reached his potential.
It remains to be seen if De Aza, 27, is an everyday player, but let’s enjoy his play while it lasts. No sense in speculating what his role will be in 2012 when we still have 29 games to go in 2011.
One thing, though, is for sure. He’s an exciting player and I’m rooting for him to succeed.
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.
Jim Thome, who became the eighth member of the 600 home run club last night in the Twins win over the Tigers, hit 134 round-trippers in a White Sox uniform.
I have to admit that I wasn’t the biggest Thome fan during his four seasons on the South Side. I felt he struck out or grounded out when an RBI double or homer was needed in a crucial situation. But no one can deny that he is a future Hall of Famer, universally loved by the baseball world for being an ideal teammate and all-round good guy. We all should be happy for him.
I also have a much different perspective about Thome’s tenure in Chicago after witnessing Adam Dunn‘s miserable season as the Sox DH. I guess Gentleman Jim wasn’t so bad after all.
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.
It actually happened. The White Sox swept a series from the Twins and at Target Field to boot.
Who would have thought this was possible after how the South Siders performed in the first eight games (1-7) this season against Minnesota and how they spit the bit against the Red Sox and Yankees?
Today was a day that the pitching, hitting and finally defense clicked harmoniously in the 7-0 whitewash. Jake Peavy pitched eight masterful innings of shutout ball, allowing only three hits while striking out six and walking no one. The Sox clubbed four homers–solo clouts by Brent Lillibridge, Paul Konerko and Alex Rios and a two-run shot by Alexei Ramirez. And the defense was flawless in the field, with an exceptional performance by Lillibridge who started his first major league game at first base.
After six losses in a row, it’s now three straight wins heading into a four-game series in Baltimore. Another bit of good news: the Sox chopped a game off of the Tigers’ division lead and trail Detroit by 5 1/2 games.
Sox Note of Note: A special tip of the cap to Rios (pictured above), who collected five hits in the last two games–hopefully a sign of things to come.
Bizarro World is when up is down, left is right and all things are opposite of the norm. Consider the Friday and Saturday White Sox-Twins games at Target Field as a case in point.
After years of being dominated by the Twinkies and entering this series 1-7 against them this season, the tables turned. It was the Sox, not the Twinkies, who had the outstanding pitching, clutch hitting, sound defense and daring play on the basepaths in the two games. And it was Minnesota which took the role of past Sox teams with less-than-stellar play. Most importantly, the South Siders came out on the winning side of the ledger, 5-3 and 6-1, and already have chalked up a rare series win against their division rivals.
The big story of last night was righty Zach Stewart, who was acquired by the Sox from Toronto in the Edwin Jackson trade. He was aggressive all night and credited with career victory No. 1 in his first Sox appearance as he pitched 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball. Also up to the challenge were Chris Sale, Jason Frasor and Sergio Santos who shut the door after Stewart’s exit.
In the eighth, with Michael Cuddyer on third and no outs, Sale retired Jason Kubel and Jim Thome before Frasor struck out Danny Valencia to end the inning with the tying run on third. Santos pitched a 1-2-3 ninth.
Sox Notes of Note: No one example can back up the Bizarro World scenario more than this: Joe Nathan, for years a closer the Sox couldn’t touch, gave up a two-run homer to Brent Lillibridge in the four-run Sox ninth…Alex Rios collected three hits while his buddy Adam Dunn struck out three more times…Despite the two victories the Sox remained at 6 1/2 games behind the Tigers, who have beaten the Royals on back-to-back nights.
After an inning and a half in last night’s game against the Twins, you could just imagine all the TVs and radios being shut off in disgust wherever White Sox fans had gathered.
The Sox blew a golden opportunity to take a sizeable lead by leaving the bases loaded after scoring just a single run in the top of the first. Then, a ground ball got through the legs of Adam Dunn at first base that paved the way for three unearned runs for Minny in the bottom half of the inning.
In the top of the second, Alejandro De Aza singled to lead off the inning, but was quickly caught stealing. Brent Morel reached on an error and Juan Pierre walked to set up a potential one-out rally. You guessed it, Alexei Ramirez grounded out and Paul Konerko popped out to the shortstop. Nada.
I know what you’re thinking. We’ve seen this movie before. But for the first time in a week, there was a different ending. Thanks to two players who can’t be blamed for the team’s woes this season, Carlos Quentin and Mark Buehrle, the Sox were able to win a game, snapping their six-game slide with a 5-3 victory.
Quentin hit a pair of homers and drove in four runs while Buehrle gave up only four hits in eight innings, allowing no earned runs and lowering his ERA to 3.04.
The Zach Stewart Era Begins Tonight
When minor leaguer Zach Stewart was recently acquired along with proven reliever Jason Fraser in the Edwin Jackson/Mark Teahen trade, Kenny Williams made it clear that Stewart would be in the major leagues before the end of the season.
The comment was somewhat surprising, but the 24-year-old righthander did make three major league starts in June before he was sent back to AA New Hampshire.
The future is now–as in tonight–for Stewart, who will take the mound for the Sox against Carl Pavano and the Twins with Jake Peavy being moved back to Sunday. It’ll be a challenge for the former high draft choice of the Cincinnati Reds as Pavano has had his way with the South Siders this season.
To make room for Stewart, the Sox designated reliever Brian Bruney for assignment.