The dreaded end of August/early September road trip (dreaded by me since the schedule was released) begins in Boston on Monday. It continues with the first Sox appearance at the new Yankee Stadium a week from tonight, proceeds to the Twinkiedome and ends September 3 in a makeup game at that overrated ballpark on the North Side.
That said, don’t underestimate how important the next three games are at the Cell against the AL East cellar-dwelling Orioles. Sweeping a series doesn’t seem to be our thing, but the Sox can’t lay an egg and have to win at least two out of three. Anything less than that would start the trip on a real downer and put even more pressure to have a successful road swing.
Any reasonable observer would take a look the this weekend’s pitching matchups and say that two of three is a cinch and a sweep, though very uncommon with the South Siders, is a good bet. But, as we all know, this means nothing if the Sox can’t do it on the field.
Here are the probables:
Tonight: Gavin Floyd (10-7) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (7-12)
Tomorrow night: John Danks (10-8) vs. David Hernandez (4-5)
Sunday: Mark Buehrle (11-6) vs. Jason Berken (2-11)
I know, yesterday’s developments in the AL Central don’t come close to something that won’t happen in our lifetime, but it was nonetheless an improbable confluence of events.
Jose Contreras gave up a run and three hits over seven innings yesterday afternoon, giving the Sox a 4-2 win over Zack Greinke and the Royals to take the series. Then, last night, Ian Snell of the Mariners bested the Tigers and 13-game winner Justin Verlander. With the surprising outcome of Contreras beating Greinke and Snell defeating Verlander, the Sox move to within two games of the lead.
Just think how different things looked after Tuesday night’s loss. Taking into consideration the Wednesday pitching matchups, a series loss to a last place team and losing another game to Detroit were staring us in the face. Loyal Sox fans were e-mailing me early yesterday about throwing in the towel.
We all know that’s simply the nature of baseball. Up one day, down the next. We shouldn’t make too much of yesterday’s victory, but we did win a game we had to win and we gained a game in the standings–much more than we expected.
Just moments after the Sox took a 4-1 lead over the Royals in the third inning last night, I e-mailed a friend and told him how much I like this lineup. It’s a much more balanced one than we’ve seen in many years on the South Side with the likes of Beckham, Ramirez, Rios, Nix/Getz and Pods complementing Konerko, Dye, Thome, AJ and Quentin.
But the Royals got to Freddy Garcia and that lineup I raved about in the heat of the Konerko and Quentin homers in the third, didn’t score again the rest of the game. In fact, they didn’t have a hit after the 5th inning and the last 11 Sox were retired in order in the 5-4 loss.
In an isolated game, these things happen–even against the last place Royals. However, I couldn’t help but put the loss in the context of the comments by KW, and echoed by Ozzie, that this team is underachieving. Because in a key series like this at home, against the cellar dwellers, you’d like to think the Sox would rise to the occasion and take advantage of weaker opponents. Now, to win the series, they have to count on Contreras facing Zack Greinke–far from a sure thing–in today’s matinee.
Underachievers? I’ll let Kenny and Ozzie determine that, but there sure is enough talent on this roster to be better than two games over .500. It’ll be very telling to me how they perform today. A series win, what all teams shoot for, will be satisfying and help erase the disappointment of last night. On the other hand, it would be a disaster to lose two of three to the Royals at home in a tight pennant race.
By the time last night’s game had ended, and the Sox survived a Linebrink meltdown by squeaking out an 8-7 victory over the Royals on a clutch two-out Scott Podsednik eighth inning single, I received texts from two passionate and knowledgeable Sox fans.
One read, “Where would we be without Pods?” and the other stated, “Pods makes his case for MVP.”
As we all know, Scotty Pods was rescued from oblivion this spring after being released by the Rockies. The Sox made the move because they were simply not satisfied with their leadoff situation and Anderson, Owens and Wise in center. I think most would agree that Scotty is even better than in ’05 when he was the catalyst on a world championship team and a hero in the fall classic with his walk-off homer in Game 2 against the Astros.
Last night was just an example of what Pods has done this year. In addition to driving in that eventual game winner, he knotted the score 3-3 with a double in the fourth. It’s just been that kind of year for him.
Let’s be realistic, he won’t be the AL MVP. Not with guys like Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira’s tearing it up for the Yankees, who own the best record in the game and are hovering around 30 games over .500. Furthermore, the national press isn’t going to notice a Sox player unless he has Frank Thomas numbers. However, if you polled Sox fans most would tell you that more than any other player Pods is responsible for the club making a run at the division title.
Note of the day: Big night tonight for Freddy Garcia as he faces the Royals in his first start for the Sox since 2006. Needless to say, a solid outing would make us feel a whole lot better about the back of the rotation.
Following the White Sox is a full-time job, so many of you might not have the time to follow some of the departed Sox who have found homes elsewhere whether in the majors, with another organization or in our farm system.
Here are some former Pale Hosers who were on the Sox roster in ’09 and how they’re doing in their new environments:
Brian Anderson, OF, Pawtucket (Red Sox AAA) –27 games, 6 homers, 12 RBI, a .268 batting average and a .304 on-base percentage.
Wilson Betemit, INF, Charlotte (White Sox AAA) — 53 games, 6 homers, 33 RBI, a .257 BA and a .308 OBP.
Lance Broadway, RHP, Buffalo (Mets AAA ) — 15 starts, 4-8 record and a 6.39 ERA.
Josh Fields, 3B, Charlotte (White Sox AAA) — 15 games, 4 homers, 8 RBI, .298 BA, and a. 355 OBP.
Mike MacDougal, RHP, Nationals — 31.2 innings pitched, 0-0 with a 2.27 ERA and has converted 13 of 14 save opportunities.
Corky Miller, C, Louisville (Reds AAA) — 25 games, 0 homers, 6 RBI, .273 BA and a .371 OBP.
Jerry Owens, OF, Tacoma (Mariners AAA) — 79 games, 2 homers, 32 RBI, 52 runs scored, 17 stolen bases, a .322 batting average and a .379 OBP.
Aaron Poreda, LHP, Portland (San Diego AAA) — 3 starts, 0-2, 9.64 ERA.
Clayton Richard, LHP, Padres — 4 starts, 2-0, 4.71 ERA.
It was all set up for the Sox today–a sweep of the A’s, which would only have been the third broom job this season; a fine 4-2 West Coast road trip; and the prospect of cutting the Tigers’ lead to 1 1/2 games as the AL Central frontrunners lost to the Royals.
Considering the recent fortunes of the Sox in Oakland, yesterday’s 8-1 win came as a very pleasant surprise. Even more surprising is that, along with Friday’s extra-inning victory, the South Siders have already won the series in a place that has historically witnessed some of the worst of White Sox baseball.
The 8-7 White Sox victory over the A’s last night (early morning in the East) wasn’t easy to watch, filled with enough ups and downs to make a guy downright nuts.
The best news from the Sox off-day was that Jake Peavy’s first start since early June was successful.
Fourteen goose eggs represent the simple explanation for the South Siders’ disappointing–and rather heartbreaking–1-0, 14-inning loss to the Mariners last night.
Specifically, the Sox stranded 14 runners against ace Felix Hernandez and four relievers. They also wasted Mark Buehrle’s eight-inning gem, which saw him bounce back from an 0-3 record since the perfect game to shut down Seattle with no runs and six hits. Furthermore, it prevented the Sox from picking up another game in the standings as Detroit lost again to Boston. And adding insult to injury, ex-Sox Ken Griffey Jr. drove in the game-winner.
Perhaps the most perplexing moment of the game was in the 10th inning when Pods inexplicably was picked off of third base with one out. Ouch!
“What (were) you thinking?” Ozzie said about the pickoff. “That’s all you can say. You don’t expect that thing to happen on the big league level. I guess he was thinking about something else.”
Rios in the house
Alex Rios made his Sox debut last night, batting third and playing in right field. He was 1-for-6, but at least was able to knock out his first Sox hit–a single.
Off day today, then three against the A’s
Pitching matchups for the weekend: Contreras vs. lefty Brett Anderson on Friday,
Floyd vs. former Sox farmhand, lefty Gio Gonzalez, on Saturday and Danks vs. righty Trevor Cahill on Sunday. Gonzalez, you’ll recall, was traded to the Phils in the Thome deal, traded back to the Sox in the Floyd for Freddy Garcia transaction and then was part of the package to the A’s that brought Nick Swisher to the South Side. It should be interesting in that Gonzalez is pitching very well for Oakland.
Speaking of Freddy Garcia
Reports are surfacing that Garcia may very well start for the Sox on Tuesday in Chicago vs. the Royals. In four minor league starts, the former Sox ace has a 1.80 ERA, 19 strikeouts and has given up only one walk in 20 innings.