July 2010

Believe It! White Sox in First Place at Break

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With all the angst and negativity that the White Sox and their fans went through during the first two months of the season, it was beyond crazy to think that here at the All-Star break I can look you straight in the eye and say: The Pale Hose are in first place.
On the strength of winning 25 of their last 30 with superb pitching, clutch hitting and tight defense, the Sox are unbelievably on top of the A.L. Central 11 games above .500. Today’s 15-5 triumph over the Royals and the Twins victory in Detroit gave the South Siders their eighth straight win and a 1/2 game division lead over the Tigers.
The Happy Totals: The 15-run, 18-hit offensive explosion today at the Cell was a sight to behold and overshadowed Daniel Hudson‘s mediocre season debut. The Sox scored seven runs in the third inning powered by four home runs (Alex Rios, Carlos Quentin, Andruw Jones and Dayan Viciedo) and five in the sixth (highlighted by Quentin’s grand slam, his second two-homer game in as many days). Jones’ blast, a three-run shot, was his 400th career round-tripper…Other offensive highlights included Gordon Beckham’s 3 for 4, RBI day and a pinch-hit RBI double by the suddenly productive Brent Lillibridge, who is hitting .455 with 10 RBI since his call-up from Charlotte.
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While Peavy Prepares for Surgery, Hudson Hopes to Keep Sox on a Roll Heading into All-Star Break

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Dan Hudson (above), who was so impressive in his short stint with the White Sox last year and is 11-4 with Charlotte in 2010, takes the mound at the Cell today against Zack Greinke and the Royals as he tries to help the Sox win their eighth in a row.
Hudson’s appearance will follow another gem by a Sox starter. This time it was Gavin Floyd‘s one-run, 7 2/3 inning performance in last night’s 5-1 Sox win. It’s hard to believe how dominating Sox pitching has been. In the last three series–nine games–they have allowed only 17 runs and no more than three in a single game.
The South Siders have also found their homer stroke. Carlos Quentin hit a pair last night, Gordon Beckham slugged his third of the season and A.J. Pierzynski went deep twice the night before. Pitching, power and the recent outstanding defense is a pretty solid combination, right?.
Standings Update:  With the Tigers’ second straight triumph over the slumping Twins, the Sox remain a half-game out of the division lead with the possibility of reaching the top today with a win and a Detroit loss to Minnesota…the Twins are now 3 1/2 games behind the Sox, amazing since the Chicagoans were 9 1/2 behind them as recently as last month…The Pale Hose have won 13 of their last 14 at the Cell.
Paulie an All-Star:  It’s unfortunate that it was a result of someone else’s injury as he should have been selected out of the gate, but Paul Konerko has been named to the A.L. All-Star team to replace concussion-plagued Justin Morneau. He’ll join the entire 25-man Yankee roster in Anaheim (OK, I’m exaggerating).
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     All-Star Konerko congratulates Quentin after No. 20′s second homer last night


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A.J. Explodes, Buehrle Outstanding as Sox Rip Royals for 6th Consecutive Victory

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Two days ago I commented to my Sox posse that I was concerned about A.J. Pierzynski‘s recent hitting slump. One of my guys said his toughness, ability to call a game and his durability outweighed what he did with the bat. Another said A.J. had lifetime immunity due to his now-legendary run to first base on a strikeout in Game 2 of the 2005 American League Championship Series against the Angels.
After hearing their reaction I was sorry I even brought up the subject. Now, after A.J.’s two-homer, four RBI performance in the 8-2 White Sox victory against the Royals last night, I was compelled to send the posse an apology.

Sox Vets Rise Above the Rest
In the wake of the LeBron James PR fiasco, where apparently no thought was given to humility and common sense, we Sox fans need to realize that we have two of the most authentic sports role models in our midst–Mark Buehrle and Paul Konerko.
Their leadership, humble nature and on-field performance should be an example to everyone in the sports world. Ironically, because of their low-key demeanors relatively few outside of the South Side recognize what outstanding examples they are. 

Buehrle On Top of His Game

Speaking of the Sox lefty, Buehrle’s seven innings of scoreless ball last night continued his recent mastery of A.L. hitters. Mark is now 5-1 with a 2.23 ERA in his last six outings, all being quality starts. Buehrle and his fellow starters have surrendered only 16 runs in their last eight games against the Rangers, Angels and Royals.
Standings Update

Sox are now 47-38, a half-game behind the Tigers and 2 1/2 games ahead of the Twins. We’ve won six in a row and 23 of the last 28. Pretty amazing.


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If This is a Dream, Don’t Wake Me Up

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After watching the White Sox play during the season’s first two months, this recent surge–which has seen the South Siders win 22 of their last 27 games–is an amazing phenomenon.
The latest development? John Danks‘ magnificent complete game, two-hit shutout against the Angels this afternoon. It gave the Sox the four-game sweep and a five-game winning streak. Think pitching is the name of the game? Here are the opponents’ run totals in the last two series against Texas and Los Angeles: 3, 3, 3, 2, 1, 2, 0, totaling 14. The Pale Hose countered with plenty to spare, scoring 30 during that span. As Hawk would say, that’ll work.
The Royals are next up as the Sox look to continue their dazzling play into the All-Star break. Now a half-game behind the idle Tigers, we have a real shot at being on top of the A.L. Central at the traditional half-way point of the season. Believe it.
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Surging Sox Overcome 5 Errors, Win 4th Straight Behind Freddy’s 9th Win

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For White Sox fans who didn’t survive last night’s rain delay, and heard this morning that the South Siders committed five errors, likely thought it had to be a sloppy, disappointing loss. But it wasn’t the case for these red-hot Sox, who have now won 21 out of their last 25.
Despite the five miscues the Sox won in neat fashion, taking their third straight from the Angels, 5-2, and claiming their fourth consecutive victory overall behind steady Freddy Garcia‘s ninth victory. They now have vaulted into second place, a game behind the Tigers and a half-game ahead of the Twins.
If winning despite five errors isn’t strange enough, then how about Brent Lillibridge being the DH and driving in a pair runs? The once-laughing stock of the Sox roster is now hitting .429 since being called up from Charlotte. He was joined by a team effort offensively with every man in the starting lineup getting at least one hit. Alexei Ramirez, Alex Rios and Paul Konerko had two apiece with Paulie driving in a pair of runs.
Peavy: He Gone?

I’m not burying the lead, it’s just that we’ve got to move on. Will the Sox miss Jake Peavy if he is indeed lost for the season? Undoubtedly, but it doesn’t help to whine. The hope is that Dan Hudson (or someone else that Kenny Williams acquires before the trade deadline) will be good enough to minimize the loss.

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                               “Dr. Andrews, it’s Jake Peavy…I need your help.”



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White Sox Bullpen a Sight to Behold

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Pena, Putz, Thornton and Jenks Seal Deal Against Angels

I don’t want to be the typical provincial fan who can’t see beyond his own team and, admittedly, I haven’t done the required research to make the case. But it’s hard for me to believe there’s a bullpen in baseball with as much quality and depth as the White Sox.

The pen was on display again last night against the Angels as it was put to the test when Jake Peavy left the game in the second inning with a back injury. Cause for concern? Not really.
Tony Pena, who has come through time and again as the long man, was outstanding in the relief of Peavy. He picked up the slack by pitching 4 1/3 innings, allowing a single run on only five hits. He was followed by J.J. Putz, All-Star Matt Thornton and closer Bobby Jenks, who each pitched a scoreless inning. It all added up to a 4-1 over the Halos and Jered Weaver, who in his previous five starts against the South Siders surrendered a total of two earned runs.
Stats don’t tell the entire story, but here are some bullpen highlights:
–Jenks has 18 saves and has improved as the season has gone on, despite missing a week on the bereavement list.

–Thornton has been good enough as a setup guy to be named to the A.L. All-Star team. He’s recorded a 2.78 ERA with five saves.

–Putz’s ERA is an impressive 1.69. He has also been credited with five wins and a pair of saves.

Sergio Santos, the converted infielder who is in his first season in the majors, has a terrific 2.03 ERA in 30 games and has rescued the Sox more than once with his clutch pitching. He’s exceeded everyone’s expectations.

–Pena, except for his recent slump, has been a godsend in his “long” role as he was last night. He also leads the Sox pen in innings pitched.
Notes of the day: Peavy will most likely head to the DL. We’ll know more today after his MRI, but it doesn’t seem as serious as it looked at the time…Dan Hudson, enjoying a fine season at Charlotte with an 11-4 record and a 3.47 ERA, is expected to replace Peavy on the roster…With last night’s victory, the Sox kept pace with the Tigers and Twins. We’re a game behind division-leading Detroit and a half-game behind second place Minnesota.
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What a Difference a “Q” Makes

54758086.jpgLast night’s 9-2 White Sox victory over the Angels was pretty close to perfection. Solid pitching, great defense, four homers, clutch hitting and holiday fireworks to top it all off. The only blemish was a scary top of the eighth as Bobby Jenks, obviously rusty from a week’s absence, and newcomer Erick Threets loaded the bases before Sergio Santos slammed the door on the Halos.
Many heroes emerged: Gavin Floyd and his outstanding seven innings, Dayan Viciedo and his first major league home run and a pair of RBI, red-hot Alexei Ramirez and his homer and two RBI were among them.
But the revitalized Carlos Quentin stole the show. Q hit a pair of homers with three RBI. Overcoming a horrendous start, he now has 15 homers and 53 RBI with a week to go before the All-Star Game.  And then there was the first inning catch off the bat of Sox nemesis Torii Hunter in right field, which saved a run, set the tone for the night and is certain to be an ESPN “Web Gem.” Here it is, though the photo doesn’t do it justice.
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Pauliewood

I can’t say enough about Mark Buehrle. His pitching accomplishments, his leadership, his sense of humor and the fact he still runs out to catch ceremonial first pitches except on days he’s on the mound all contribute to him being special.
And not everybody boasting his credentials would be the leading spokesperson for the election of a teammate for an All-Star berth–especially when said spokesperson didn’t make it himself. But then again, Buehrle isn’t everybody. Here he is, t-shirt and all, at the Cell last night encouraging fans to vote for Paul Konerko, who by the way should already be on the American League roster.
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Alexei: “We Are Very Excited to be Where We Are”

mlbf_9671821_th_13.jpgIt was Alexei Ramirez‘s clutch, two-out, two-run sixth inning homer off of Scott Feldman that proved to be the difference in the 5-3 White Sox victory over the Rangers. 

The game was big, according winning pitcher Mark Buehrle, and that it was. It gave the Sox a series victory over the red-hot A.L. West leaders, a respectable 3-3 road trip and, most importantly, it moved the South Siders to within a game of the Twins and Tigers for the division lead. So it’s no wonder Alexei, whose average is now hovering around .280 after his usual mediocre start, voiced his excitement.
Another factor that can’t be ignored is that revitalized Sox pitching. Against a lineup with the likes of Josh Hamilton, Vlad Guerrero, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz, the Pale Hose gave up only three runs in each of the three games and 18 total hits, an average of only six per contest. 
What seemed like an impossibility just a few weeks ago, the Sox are seriously knocking at the door of the division lead. Now back home for seven games–four against the Angels and three vs. the Royals–before the All-Star break, it is conceivable that we could have a first place team in a matter of days.
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The Unpredictable and Strange All-Star Voting: Thornton in, Rios Out, Konerko Still Has a Shot

52076645.jpgIt just shows how much I know. Thinking Paul Konerko was a cinch to make it as a reserve first baseman and Alex Rios had a shot at a backup outfield spot, I was dead wrong.
Instead it’s Matt Thornton as the lone White Sox All-Star rep (well-deserved, of course) and Rios is shut out completely. Paulie still has a shot in the Final Vote balloting, competing with the impressive quartet of former Sox Nick Swisher of the Yankees, Kevin Youkilis of the Red Sox, Delmon Young of the Twins and Michael Young of the Rangers. Although all of his competitors have strong fan backing, Konerko can take heart that the Sox fans have sent two previous Final Vote candidates, Scott Podsednik and A.J. Pierzynski, to the Midsummer Classic thanks to strong marketing efforts.
In the best tradition of Chicago elections, vote early and often for Mr. Konerko. With 20 HR, in the league’s top five with 59 RBI and in the neighborhood of a .300 BA, he belongs.
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Will BOTH Konerko and Rios Be Named All-Stars?

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The nation’s sports talk shows, to the point of ad nauseum I might add, have created a new national conversation: Should Nationals’ miracle man Stephen Strasburg be named to the All-Star Game?
Frankly, I’m more concerned about what Sox players will be selected when the teams are announced today. We know we won’t have any starters because the White Sox rarely do, but the hope is that we squeak by with two players–Paul Konerko and Alex Rios–instead of the obligatory lone choice. 
Maybe I’m falling into the trap of glorifying the good old days, but I think most will agree that the All-Star Game isn’t what it used to be. There’s no real rivalry anymore, there are more players selected and even though the winning club gets home field advantage for their league in the World Series, the best players aren’t around when the game is decided. 
All that said, I’m still interested when the teams are announced. So I’ll be watching the TBS Selection Show today–confident Paulie’s name will be called and hoping Rios survives from a group of worthy outfielders.
And I’m still waiting for a Sox player to be the MVP of the the midsummer classic. Maybe this is the year.

The Race Goes On…

In the real world, The Sox are looking to end their road trip at 3-3. A victory tonight in Arlington against the Rangers will do it. Then it’s back home against the Angels and Royals before the All-Star break.
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