August 2010

“Aside From That, Mrs. Lincoln, How Did You Like The Play?”

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Every team in baseball has to deal with key injuries. Look at the Twins. Justin Morneau has been out since the All-Star break and Joe Nathan has been missing for the entire season. How about the Red Sox? Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Victor Martinez, Jacob Ellsbury, Mike Cameron and Clay Buchholz are among those who have been laid up and Youkilis, Ellsbury and Cameron are out or likely out for the year.
So as much as it took away from last night’s more-exciting-than-it-needed-to-be 7-5 victory over the Orioles and the reality that we gained a game on the Twins, we just have to deal with this unfortunate fact: both Matt Thornton and J.J. Putz are going on the DL and we’ve got to head into the stretch without two key components.
There’s no word at this juncture as to who will replace them. It’s expected that Erick Threets, who has been on a rehab assignment, will take Thornton’s spot–joining rookie Chris Sale as the two lefties in the pen. The other callup could be Carlos Torres or Lucas Harrell, who did such a stellar job when he was promoted to Chicago earlier this year. Or maybe it could be former “cup of coffee” major leaguer Ryan Braun, who has 18 saves and a 2.00 ERA at Charlotte.
Of course, the timing couldn’t be worse. The bullpen has been overworked and struggling as it is. Because of Sergio Santos‘ erratic performance last night and Putz’s injury, Bobby Jenks had to be summoned two days after hurling three innings in Kansas City. The good news is that he was terrific both times–and got the save last night–but how much longer can he hold down the fort by himself? And Ozzie, shown above making the change from Santos to Putz in last night’s harrowing ninth inning, will have to do a major juggling act.
In baseball, sometimes up is down and down is up and what’s expected plays out exactly the opposite. Let’s hope for that.
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I, For One, Can’t Take Much More of This

Walkoff hits, blown saves and extra inning losses are becoming commonplace with the struggling White Sox. It happened again today in Kansas City as Jason Kendall‘s walkoff single doomed Scott Linebrink for the 3-2 loss–the third straight extra inning battle in 22 hours (31 innings in all) as the Sox lost two out of three to the Royals.
It’s getting to the point where the one image that keeps coming into my mind is seeing the Twins and Tigers and Royals and Orioles all celebrating after an excruciating Pale Hose meltdown.
While they’ve shown resiliency in even the most heartbreaking of defeats, there is no indication things are going to get better. The bullpen is the biggest culprit and it doesn’t matter who it is. J.J. Putz, Bobby Jenks (despite pitching three scoreless innings today) Matt Thornton (who says he may have to go on the DL), Sergio Santos and Tony Pena all have had their problems, but at this point nobody in the pen can be trusted.
The offense missed opportunity after opportunity to score this afternoon, but it’s the bullpen that’s the achilles heel of the Sox. And we all know we are going nowhere if the pen doesn’t turn around–and turn around quickly.
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It doesn’t matter who the opposition is, watching the “other” team celebrating is becoming routine for the White Sox and their fans.


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Win or Lose, These Sox Keep Coming at You

55690296.jpgYou’ve no doubt heard all of the details about the circumstances behind last night’s split doubleheader between the White Sox and Royals in Kansas City:
* The  terrible decision to start the game on Friday when umpire Joe West was told a torrential downpour was on its way.
* The fact that Edwin Jackson lost his start and reliever Tony Pena (above) had to start Game 2.
* The Fox Sports edict that the first game had to start at 6:05 CT–with a day game on Sunday.
Those developments set the stage for an eight-hour marathon, which saw the Sox play two extra-inning games–a 6-5 defeat in Game 1 (11 innings) after they blew a 5-1 lead and a 7-6 victory in Game 2  (10 frames) after they came back after blowing a ninth-inning lead.
What can we take from what we saw last night?
–Although he loaded the bases that set the stage for Yuniesky Betancourt‘s game-tying grand slam in Game 1, Freddy Garcia did what he had to do in 6 2/3 innings.
–Bravo to Pena, who made his first start in years, and went seven strong innings in Game 2. Aside from a four-run fourth inning, he was stellar.
–He was the losing pitcher in Game 1, but No. 1 draft pick Chris Sale is a stud. He looked overpowering in his 1 2/3 innings of work. And it was Bobby Jenks who coughed up the winning run.
–Our bullpen has been awful. First it was Santos and Jenks in Game 1, then J.J. Putz blew his third consecutive save in the nightcap after striking out the first two after Scott Linebrink gave up a blast in the eighth. Miraculously, Putz shut the door in the bottom of the 10th.
–The Sox could have very well won Game 1 if Brent Lillibridge, running for Paul Konerko, hadn’t hesitated around second base in the 10th after Carlos Quentin’s gap double to right-center. It was inexcusable for him to be thrown out which would have been the lead run. Lilli needs to be a better fundamental player and avoid the brain freezes.
–In Game 2, Ramon Castro‘s two-run homer, Alex Rios‘s RBI single and Juan Pierre‘s clutch two-out double in the 10th to put the Sox ahead for good, saved the day.
The No. 1 takeaway is that for all of the problems the Sox have had in the past couple of weeks, they keep coming back. They could have packed it in after Game 1 and again after the Royals took the lead in Game 2, but they didn’t and kept fighting. Win or lose, that’s really the legacy of this team.
“To bounce back in the second game and play the way they did, what can be better than that,” Ozzie said in the wee small hours of the morning.
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                  Lillibridge’s blunder: The run that should have scored in Game 1



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Paulie, Buehrle & Friends Right the Ship

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All the frustration from two weeks of blown leads, walkoff homers and the loss of a division lead came to an abrupt halt last night as the White Sox exploded with the 11-0 victory over the Twins. 
When any team in this situation is badly in need of a win, they look to their leaders. The Sox are no exception and theirs came through big-time with a whole lot of help from the troops as The Good Guys hurled a shutout and pounded out 21 hits.
The leaders–three grizzled vets from the 2005 champs–rose to occasion in a huge way. Paul Konerko, enjoying a monster season, went 5 for 5 with his 31st homer and four RBI; Mark Buehrle pitched seven innings of scoreless, five-hit ball; and A.J. Pierzynski, struggling through an offensive season he’d like to forget, added two hits and two RBI. 
Adding to the barrage were three-hit nights from Juan Pierre, Omar VizquelAlexei Ramirez and Mark Teahen. And, by the way, check out these averages: Pierre is hovering around .280 while Vizquel and Ramirez are both in the .290 neighborhood. A far cry from earlier in the season.
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As I live and die with the Pale Hose on a daily basis, it’s always good to get a reality check from one of the guys in my Sox posse. Here’s some wisdom from Tim Clodjeaux, a former Sox PR guru:
“Keep in mind that this ‘meltdown’ is not as bad on paper as it has been to watch. Since the break the Sox are 17-17. Playing  .500 ball will not win you many pennants, but it is far from a collapse. It just looks bad because of the nine losses in 12 games prior to tonight–and the way we lost many of those nine. And the Twins, on the other hand, are now 24-9 since the break. So while the Sox have stumbled, the Twins have deservedly made their move to the top of the standings.”
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What Else is New? Twins 7, Sox 6; South Siders Fall Five Games Back in Division Race

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There’s really not much more to say. Despite the White Sox’s admirable resiliency and the ability to play the Twins close (it’s the third straight 7-6 Sox loss in Minneapolis), the Twinkies are clearly the better team right now and we’re getting dominated. Just want to get out of town and start fresh this weekend in Kansas City.
There’s nothing more unwatchable for me, baseball-wise, than seeing the White Sox play the Twins in Minny. And even though it’s a different venue than in the past, the tradition continues.
Frankly, I’m sick of it.

Ozzie knows best
Our manager is right about defending his decision to let Jim Thome go. Gentleman Jim has been terrific this season against the league and against the White Sox and has benefitted in terms of playing time from Justin Morneau‘s injury. 
But amid all the emotion surrounding his game-winning blast two nights ago, which may have realistically ended the Sox season, let’s get real about Thome. For all his contributions, too many times during his tenure in Chicago he struck out, grounded out or walked when a run-scoring double or home run was needed–and he was a major clog on the bases.
I know he’s a great guy and Sox fans are making this a rallying point, but let’s not blow this out of proportion and, worse yet, revise history.

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This One Really Hurts

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All you have to do is look at their last two road games against the Twins, including last night’s heartbreak, to know that playing in Minnesota is still a nightmare for the White Sox. It happened at the Metrodome, it’s happening at Target Field and it probably would happen at a Little League field in suburban Wayzata.

You can also make a very good case that those two games represent the worst Sox defeats of the season thus far. And, eerily, both were 7-6 walkoff losses.
Before last night, that Sunday, July 18 disaster was the one that stung the most. The South Siders enjoyed a three-run lead going into the ninth only to see Bobby Jenks cough up four runs, blow the save and prevent the Sox from splitting their first series after the All-Star break.
For me, that loss was not as bad as last night. Down 4-0 in the first, the Sox battled back to tie the game at 4-4, tied it again at 5-5 on an Alexei Ramirez homer in the ninth and went ahead 6-5 in the top of the 10th. Then “Minnesota” happened. All-Star Matt Thornton gave up a leadoff single to Delmon Young and ex-Sox Jim Thome, he of the “should we keep him, should we let him go” controversy in the offseason, drilled a two-run homer to end the game. Try to get a good night’s sleep after that one.
If that scenario weren’t bad enough, the once strong White Sox bullpen is going through a significant meltdown. Jenks, who appears to be healthy enough to pitch tonight if needed, has not been reliable. J.J. Putz blew two saves over the weekend and now, for the third straight game, a Sox reliever can’t get the job done with a late-inning lead. A pen that once had three possible closers (four if you include Sergio Santos) now has no one they can really count on.
With 43 games to go, all is not lost. But two things trouble me: the fact that the Twins don’t seem to lose anymore, even without Justin Morneau, and the Sox are making a habit of losing close games late. Unless things turn around quickly, I’m afraid we’ll have plenty of time on our hands in October.
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It’s April and May Again on the South Side


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The White Sox rebound from a 5-1 deficit today to lead 7-5…J.J. Putz blows a save for the second day in a row as the Sox self-destruct in eighth and ninth innings to lose 13-8…Twins sweep the A’s and now lead the South Siders by three games in the A.L. Central…The three-game series between the Sox and Twinkies, which begins Tuesday night at Target Field, could pretty much put us in the rear-view mirror for good.
Sorry, I’m really cranky.

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Yet Another Excruciating One-Run Loss for Sox

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Headline:  Light-hitting Tigers catcher Alex Avila hit a one-out, two-run homer off of J.J. Putz (above) in the top of ninth inning tonight to power the Tigers to a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the White Sox.

Sub-headline:  Putz’s blown save wasted a superb performance by Edwin Jackson, who gave up only a run while striking out 11 in seven innings.
The Reality:  The Twins beat the A’s 2-0 and have now increased their A.L. Central lead to two games over the Sox. What makes matters worse is that the South Siders travel to Minny next week for three games against a team that has beaten them eight of 12 times so far this season. Oh yeah, we’ll be facing Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano, who both gave us fits at the Cell last week, plus Carl Pavano, who will be seeking his 16th win.

Bottom line? A bad loss, a really bad loss.

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                     Avila’s homer sails over Minnie and sinks Putz and the Sox


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Forget Dunn and Berkman, is Teahen the Answer?

55544350.jpgI don’t think my White Sox posse is much different than most Sox fans. We’ve been pretty hard on Mark Teahen. First, he got off to a terrible start in spring training and then unpleasantly surprised us with his subpar defense at third base with an offensive game that was nothing to brag about.
Perhaps the biggest indictment of all is that he went on the DL with the bum finger at the same time the South Siders began their run to the top of the A.L. Central. Coincidence or not, when Omar Vizquel became the Sox regular third baseman the Hose began to roll.
So it’s been a running joke with us that the Twins will get Justin Morneau back from the DL and we get Teahen. Kind of a consolation prize. When somebody went for the laugh last night via e-mail, I responded by saying, “Wouldn’t it be funny if he made a huge impact down the stretch?”
Well, he’s off to a good start. In his first game back, the Rodney Dangerfield of Sox players batted fifth, played right field and went 2 for 4 with a homer, two RBIs and two runs scored in the 8-4 Sox victory over the Tigers.
Kenny Williams pursued Adam Dunn, had Lance Berkman in the fold until the then-Astro nixed the deal and surely looked at others. I don’t want to overreact to one game, but maybe we had that lefthanded hitter we coveted all along. He was just on the DL.
And maybe the joke’s on us.
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Is it Just “One Game” or the Beginning of the End?

55523626.jpgLet me state the obvious: It’s a very long season with many ups and downs. If you don’t believe it’s true, just look at where the White Sox were at the beginning of June.
Where they are now is an interesting subject to ponder. You can look at how much ground they’ve gained in the last two months and see them in a positive position. Or you can look at the last seven games where they were 2-5 against the Orioles and Twins. You can also judge where they are in the standings two ways–you can say that they are ONLY a game out of first or you can view it as a huge disappointment that they’re now out of first place and a full game behind the Twins.
All this doesn’t matter because it’ll be played out on the field. But the troubling thing to me is that we lost two of three to Minnesota at home and last night’s 6-1 defeat was as disappointing and demoralizing a loss that the Sox have had since beginning their turnaround. Add to that, the sinking feeling that comes from seeing that however we’re playing and whatever we do, the Twins are that much better on a consistent basis. It also doesn’t make me any happier that we face them three more times next week at Target Field.
Much of what I’ve written above comes from the frustration of watching the Sox load the bases three times last night–once with no outs and once with one out–and come up empty each time in what was, at this point at least, a pivotal game.
OK, that’s enough. We have to move on. And the Sox will do exactly that tonight against the Tigers behind Mark Buehrle. For the record, I’ll be scoreboard watching with the Twins hosting the A’s.
Sox notes of note: The Sox sent Dayan Viciedo back to Charlotte after the game last night and brought Mark Teahen back from his rehab assignment. Viciedo will surely be brought up September 1 when the rosters expand. For a while it looked like it was going to be a tough decision, but Viciedo’s play both offensively (no walks, too many strikeouts) and defensively (very shaky at third) made it an easier call for the club’s brass to send down Dayan and recall Teahen.
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