August 2009

The Calm Before the Storm?

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)

                                            

Cubs Win the World Series!

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.                                   

KW and Ozzie Said It, I Didn’t

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.

MVP

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.                 
 

How Are THEY Doing?

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.
 

How’s This For a Rationalization? Well, the Tigers Lost…

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.

But not so fast, none of it happened and it’s going to be a long flight back to Chicago. 
The Sox lost their 2-1 lead in the eighth. Scott Hairston, he of the “beat my dad’s and granddad’s team as much as humanly possible” Hairstons, doubled in the tying run to make it 2-2. Then Bobby Jenks surrendered the game-winner with two outs as Mark Ellis, a thorn in the side of the South Siders all weekend, homered to left. Sox lost the game 3-2, were denied the sweep, finished the six-game road trip at .500 and remain 2 1/2 games behind Detroit.
With the scary 11-game road trip looming vs. the Red Sox, Yankees, Twins and Cubs, a game like this is one you have to put in the books as a “W.” But the combination of the White Sox and sweeping the opponent has become somewhat of an oxymoron. 
The Royals and Orioles come into the Cell for six games before we hit the road. If a division title is in the cards, a successful homestand (dare I say 5-1?) is a must.
Note of the day: A very, very disappointing loss. Ugh.

A Much Needed Laugher

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.

I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but with Danks going this afternoon I feel good that we can leave the Bay Area with a sweep–a rarity for the ’09 Sox.
Sox Musings:

* I must admit I wasn’t looking forward to facing Gio Gonzalez yesterday. Having the reputation of a cocky kid, I feared he would rise to the occasion against the team that traded him–not once, but twice. But it was the Sox that rose to the challenge.
* I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but the more I watch Gavin Floyd the more I’m impressed. Give KW and the Sox brass their props for recognizing Floyd’s stuff and makeup in spite of his less than stellar reputation with the Phillies.
* The man the Sox traded for Floyd–Freddy Garcia–will be on the mound for the Pale Hose on Tuesday vs. the Royals, hoping to rekindle some of his ’05 magic. Garcia was plagued with injury in Philly and he attempted comebacks with the Tigers and Mets, but the Sox think he’s ready to contribute. And we can certainly use him as we await the arrival of Peavy.
* While Garcia will be occupying the fifth spot in the rotation, the fourth spot is very much an uncertainty with Contreras struggling mightily. Granted he was hurt by bad defense against the A’s on Friday, but he’s not where the Sox want him to be. 
There’s a lot of talk about minor league standout Daniel Hudson, a 2008 fifth-round pick from Old Dominion, being promoted from Charlotte if Jose continues to falter. The righthander has been well-traveled this season, earning promotion after promotion. He has pitched for Kannapolis (low A), Winston-Salem (high A), Birmingham (AA) and Charlotte (AAA) and to date has compiled a combined 13-5 record with a 2.28 earned run average and an impressive strikeout to walk ratio. At Birmingham alone he was 7-0 with a 1.60 ERA.
* Beckham is really a sight to behold. If he’s not driving in runs with line-drive doubles, he’s doing it with ground balls and sac flies. He’s an RBI machine.
* Dye seems to be getting his stroke back after slumping since the All-Star break. Now we need Paulie to do the same.
* Nix has been somewhat disappointing in the field, especially at shortstop, but on balance he’s been a good addition off the bench–evidenced by his two-run shot yesterday. He came to the Sox with a defensive reputation and there’s no reason why he won’t return to form.

The Highs and Lows of an Extra-Inning Victory

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.

Here’s the game in a nutshell, defined by its highs and lows. It goes without saying that this was much easier to write since the Good Guys came out on top.
HIGH

The Sox started out on fire in the top of the first with three straight singles by Pods, GBeck and Dye. Dye’s hit produced the first run of the inning and a Rios’ sac fly made it 2-0.
HIGH

In the second the Sox scored four more, highlighted by Ramon Castro’s two-run shot that drove in Alexei, who singled, and RBIs by Dye and GBeck. It was 6-0 after two.
HIGH

With the offense in gear, it looked like this could be laugher as Contreras pitched scoreless ball for the first three innings. It was not to be.
LOW
Although it didn’t cost the Sox in terms of a run, Alexei was charged with an error on a mixup  as he cut in front of Nix on the second base side of the bag, but couldn’t make the play. This is the first of two inexplicable examples of miscommunication that must drive Ozzie nuts.
LOWEST

The bottom of the fourth was a disaster. With one out Scott Hairston homered, continuing the tradition of the Hairstons (Jerry and Scott) hurting their dad’s and granddad’s old team. Then the Sox really got unhinged. Quentin and Rios misplayed a routine fly ball into a Ryan Sweeney double (that second miscommunication). Tommy Everidge was hit by a pitch and Jack Cust, no Rickey Henderson on the basepaths, reached on a bobbled grounder by Nix that was scored a hit. Bases loaded. Mark Ellis then cleared the bases with a double and scored on a Cliff Pennington single. 6-5 Sox after four innings.
LOW

The A’s scored two more runs in the fifth, ending the night for Contreras. The Sox found themselves down 7-6.
HIGH

After the A’s went ahead 7-6 in the fifth, the bullpen was terrific. Carrasco, Thornton, Dotel (who got the win) and finally Jenks (credited with the save) retired 15 straight batters.
HIGH

Sox tied up the game in the top of the sixth. Nix walked, Castro singled and Pods sac bunt sent them to second and third. GBeck’s groundout scored Nix. 7-7.
HIGHEST

Alexei’s solo homer in the top of the 10th proves to be the game-winner as the Sox take the first game of the series.
I’m exhausted, but happy we pulled this one out.


Short, but Sweet

The best news from the Sox off-day was that Jake Peavy’s first start since early June was successful.

Despite the long layoff, he pitched three scoreless innings (43 pitches) and struck out five for AAA Charlotte against Pawtucket as he rehabs from a strained tendon in his right ankle. He was throwing 91-92 mph.
Peavy’s next start is scheduled for Tuesday night at Durham where he expects to throw up to 60 pitches.
The goal is for Peavy to join the Sox rotation in late August, early September. My hope is that his Pale Hose debut will be August 28 against the Yanks at Yankee Stadium.
Getz to DL

In the “not so good” news department, Chris Getz was put on the disabled list with an oblique muscle injury. Chris has hit .333 in his last 33 games.
Brent Lillibridge was called up from Charlotte to replace Chris on the roster, but Jayson Nix will likely get most of the playing time at second. 

000 000 000 000 00

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.                                                  

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