August 2010

After Win, White Sox Can Celebrate–For Now

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The time-honored adage goes something like this: Momentum in baseball is only as good as the next day’s starting pitcher. And it proved to be true last night as the White Sox’s John Danks was at his best in stifling the Twins, 6-1.
So those who were talking about the pending Sox demise after the South Siders took that 12-6 shellacking Tuesday night are a bit calmer today. Amazing what a pitching gem can do 
for the soul.
That said, it would be just as wrong to think the Pale Hose are now out of danger after the win. As pointed out above, it’s all about the next game. And while The Good Guys look to be in good hands tonight with the red-hot Gavin Floyd, they’ll be facing a formidable foe in Francisco Liriano. With the two teams now in a dead heat for the division lead, we’ll all be watching to see who emerges from this rubber game in sole possession of the top spot in the A.L. Central.
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Sox nemesis Denard Span can only watch as Carlos Quentin’s second inning homer gives the Sox an early 2-0 lead in Wednesday night’s triumph.


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Castro: “They Were Hitting Everything”

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It was over early last night. Carlos Quentin‘s three-run blast got the White Sox within two runs in the second inning, but the Twins never let up and went on to overwhelm the former first-place South Siders, 12-6, to take a one-game lead in the A.L. Central. 

Sox backup catcher Ramon Castro, who was behind the plate last night, pretty much said it all with above quip. The usually steady Freddy Garcia gave up six runs, including three homers, in 2 1/3 innings and the relievers had no answer for the Minnesota bats either.
The Sox have hit some hard times since winning three of four from Detroit last week–losing three of four to the Orioles in Baltimore and starting the Twins series this way. It’s also troubling that The Good Guys have lost seven of the first 10 games to their rivals up north and are below .500 in the A.L. Central.
That said, these resilient Sox will be looking for a turnaround tonight behind John Danks. They’ve come back from adversity all season so this is no time to panic. All that’s needed is a win to get us back into first place.
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“O” My, This Was Hard to Watch


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It was a series for the taking. The first-place White Sox against the last-place Orioles with a pitching staff laden with double-digit losers.
But these aren’t the same woeful Orioles–at least right now. Since Buck Showalter took over as the skipper, Baltimore swept a three-game series against the Angels and just took three of four from the South Siders–all one-run victories with two extra inning walkoff wins. While the Sox pitching was outstanding during the series, giving up only 11 runs in the four contests, the Hose scored only 10.
So the Sox come home to face the Twins, who are now in a dead heat with The Good Guys for the division lead, after a 4-4 road trip. I guess we should just chalk it up to circumstance: We were due for hitting slump and Showalter’s arrival was just bad timing. 
One thing you can say for these Sox, they’re shown resiliency time and time again. Down in the ninth both yesterday and today, they made it interesting on both occasions. Ramon Castro hit a two-run blast yesterday as the Sox inched within a run before losing and tonight Paul Konerko tied up the game 2-2 before the O’s won it on a Brian Roberts homer in the 10th.
Bring on the Twinkies, our bats can’t stay this silent for much longer.
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A Sunday to Forget

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BALTIMORE–The White Sox gave every indication that they were going to get to Oriole righthander Jeremy Guthrie in the early going today, but the runners they got on base never came around to score. As a result, Guthrie settled down and proceeded to stymie the Hose, giving up only a single run in eight innings of work as Baltimore hung on to win, 4-3.
The bats that were so silent in the season’s early going and so explosive since the beginning of June have been back to being silent the past three games at Camden Yards. The big Sox blow today was the two-run home run by Ramon Castro (pictured above after slugging a homer earlier this season at the Cell ) in the ninth. Unfortunately it was too little too late.
 
The loss combined with the Twins 5-4 victory in Cleveland, decreased the Sox lead in the A.L. Central to a half-game. The South Siders are hoping for a split of the four-game series here tomorrow night with Edwin Jackson making his second Sox start.
 
Sox notes of note: After leaving last night’s game with a “tweaked” knee, A.J. Pierzynski got his usual “day game after a night game” rest and should be good to go tomorrow night…Today, it was Gordon Beckham who was replaced as he strained a groin. Early word is that it’s not serious…Speaking of injuries, Mark Teahen will spend a little more time rehabbing in Charlotte. Seems that the Sox want him to spend more time at a variety of positions. The longer Teahen’s there, the more time they’ll have to make a decision on the necessary roster move when he’s ready to come back to the 25-man roster. And don’t forget, rosters expand on September 1…Mark Buehrle pitched well enough to win if only the Sox bats were clicking. He gave up 10 hits, but only three earned runs in seven innings. 


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Late White Sox Comeback Hands Mr. Baseball First Oriole Loss; Markakis is the New Mattingly

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BALTIMORE–The White Sox scored a run in each of the 7th, 8th and 9th innings tonight to come from behind for the 4-2 victory. It gave Buck “Mr. Baseball” Showalter his first loss as the Oriole skipper and it was also the first game in the last three that the temporarily resurgent O’s didn’t win on a walk-off.
Tonight’s heroes were July’s A.L. Pitcher of the Month Gavin Floyd, who won his eighth game with another superb performance; Carlos Quentin, who broke the ice for the Hose with a fourth inning solo blast; Matt Thornton and J.J. Putz, who closed the door with an inning of scoreless relief apiece; and A.J. Pierzynski (double), Alex Rios (single) and Gordon Beckham (single), who drove in the Sox’s 2nd, 3rd and 4th runs in the last three frames, respectively. A.J.’s heroics may have been costly as he left the game with an apparent ankle injury after sliding hard into third. Let’s hope it’s not too serious.
Oh, that Markakis

Years ago, when the Yankees’ Don Mattinglywas battering American League pitchers, one of the Yankee announcers mentioned that he hit a little over .500 against the White Sox. My reaction was, when did he make the outs?

Having watched the Orioles’ Nick Markakis over the past few years, and the last two nights, in particular, I’m having Mattingly flashbacks.
For the record, he went 4 for 5 on last night and 1 for 3  with a walk tonight, but it seems like he’s on base every time up. There are certain guys who have killed the Sox over the years–Mattingly and Mike Sweeney for instance–and Markakis is certainly one of the them.
Bobby Who?

That’s right, Ozzie went to Putz tonight to close out the game. Frankly, it was a relief I didn’t have to sit in Section 44 at Camden Yards and chance another Bobby Jenks‘ meltdown. Now that the door is open and Putz breezed through the ninth, has Jenks lost his job? Stay tuned?
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The Best Part of Tonight Happened in Cleveland

BALTIMORE–I arrived here today with the hope that the White Sox would derail the Orioles from their three-game winning streak under new manager Buck “Mr. Baseball” Showalter

Unfortunately, the streak hit four tonight as the O’s eeked out a 2-1, 10-inning victory over the South Siders. Aside from John Danks‘ outstanding seven-inning performance, Gordon Beckham‘s homer and a Mark Kotsay triple which eventually went for naught, there wasn’t much to cheer about.
That said, a few hundred miles North and West in Cleveland, a walk-off homer by Matt LaPorta (below) in the bottom of the ninth powered the Tribe over the Twins, 7-6, after Minnesota scored a pair of runs in the top of the inning to tie the score. And in the process, it made the Hose loss much easier to take as our game and a half lead is still in tact.
Thanks Matt.
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Kotsay, Santos Lift Our Spirits After Yet Another Bobby Jenks Meltdown

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There was no scarcity of storylines in today’s dramatic 6-4, 11-inning White Sox win over the Tigers.
Pick one: There’s the validation of Mark Kotsay (above) or the sad-but-true Bobby Jenks chronicles or the continuing transformation of infielder-turned-relief ace Sergio Santos or last, but not least, yet another example of the South Siders’ impressive resiliency.
Kotsay: Just a couple of days after Ozzie defended Kotsay’s role with the club, the versatile first baseman/outfielder/DH went 3 for 5 with a key two-run homer in the ninth and the game-winning two-RBI triple in the 11th. It was a sight for sore eyes as the popular Kotsay has been in a season long slump, which even resulted in him burning his bats in a recent ceremony.
Jenks: Kotsay’s heroics made Jenks’ latest meltdown a bit more palatable, but the reliever’s woes are still a big cause for concern. Even Ozzie seemed flummoxed after the Sox closer coughed up a two-out, three-run homer in the ninth to the immortal Ryan Raburn, which tied the score and cost Freddy Garcia his 11th victory of the season.
“You know what?” Guillen said to reporters after the game. “Ask Bobby what he wants to do. I don’t know. I don’t say we’ve lost confidence, but when your closer gives up one run (it’s OK). The last three times he blew the game, he gave up three or four runs…I keep saying, when Bobby’s the closer, our bullpen is better. But right now, I’ve got to wait and see what I’m going to do for the next couple of days.”
If Jenks’ blown opportunities aren’t bad enough, he has a tendency to minimize his failures, which drives fans nuts. It’s one thing to fail, it’s another not to be accountable. I understand that closers need to have short memories, but admitting that he has stunk up the place (i.e., Minnesota, Seattle and Detroit) wouldn’t hurt his relationship with the faithful.
Santos: What a godsend Sergio has been. His two scoreless innings today, in the 10th and 11th innings, were obviously instrumental in the team’s ability to come back after the dreadful ninth.
Never Say Die White Sox: These Sox continue to amaze with the ability to bounce back. After the stunning Rayburn homer, the Hose could have laid down and died and wound up dropping the game to Detroit as well as losing ground to the victorious Twins. But they didn’t–and never do.
I’m happy to say that I’ll be meeting up with the first-place Sox in Baltimore for the weekend series. To echo a now all-too-familiar phrase: “Don’t stop now, boys.”
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Jackson Shines in Sox Debut; Sale a Big Leaguer

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When the White Sox announced they had traded promising righty Daniel Hudson and another top prospect for Edwin Jackson, skeptics pointed to Jackson’s subpar performance in Arizona this season.
Then word leaked out that Sox pitching guru Don Cooper had spotted something in Jackson’s delivery and was convinced he could help Edwin make the necessary adjustment.
If Jackson’s Sox debut is any indication, Coop deserves a standing ovation from Sox fans. Though he was touched for nine hits, the newest Sox starter gave up only one run while striking out six and walking just one in seven-plus innings tonight as the Pale Hose defeated the Tigers, 4-1.
Sale of the Year

While Jackson’s performance provided the best news, the most intriguing news out of SoxWorld today was the promotion of the club’s 2010 top draft pick Chris Sale to Chicago. Just a matter of months away from leading the staff at Florida Gulf Coast University, Sale is now the second lefty in our pen. Can’t wait to see him in action. He was lights out at both Winston-Salem and Charlotte in his brief minor league stint.
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Just a couple of months ago, Chris Sale was introduced as the club’s first round draft choice and threw out the ceremonial first pitch (above). Now he’s a full-fledged member of the White Sox bullpen.


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Random Sox Thoughts on a Wednesday Morning

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Things I’m thinking about…

* After the 12-2 win over the Tigers in the opener I would have loved a doubleheader sweep last night, but as one of the members of my Sox posse e-mailed after the second game: “It’s baseball. You don’t win them all. We split two games and gained one-half game. I’ll take it.” And we all know how difficult it is to sweep a twinbill.
* You’d be hard-pressed to find a better story than that of 43-year-old future Hall of Famer Omar Vizquel (above). Having taken over the third base job after Mark Teahen‘s injury, he’s now hitting .293 with numerous clutch hits and superb defense. Remarkable.
* Has anybody noticed that Alexei Ramirez is hovering around the .300 mark at .296? And, oh, that defense.
* Less than two months ago Chris Sale was the club’s No. 1 draft choice out of Florida Gulf Coast University. Is he now headed to Chicago? After four games with Class A Winston-Salem, he was promoted to AAA Charlotte and has struck out 15 in 6 1/3 innings over seven relief appearances. With Carlos Torres shipped back to Charlotte after last night’s start and Erick Threets on the DL, speculation is that Sale might be joining the big club as the second lefty in the pen.
* I wonder how the hapless Orioles will respond to new manager Buck Showalter, who Ozzie sarcastically has referred to as “Mr. Baseball.” If they improve, I hope they start after we leave town next Monday night.
* I’m eager to see Edwin Jackson face his former teammates in Detroit tonight. Would love to see a lights-out performance.
* A big thank you to the Rays, now on top of the A.L. East, for taking the first two games against the Twins.
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The Remarkable Revival of Brent Lillibridge


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Based on his major league performance last year, the last person I expected–and wanted–to see in a White Sox uniform in 2010 was Brent Lillibridge. Both at bat and in the field he looked overmatched in ’09 before being sent to Charlotte, where he spent most of the summer.
That said, Lillibridge’s revival this season has been remarkable. Since being promoted to the Sox after Mark Teahen was placed on the DL he has been a solid contributor, batting .387 as a spot starter and utility man off of the bench. Even more important than the average is the fact he has come up with a number of clutch hits–none more important than his three-run triple this afternoon against Gio Gonzalez and the A’s to pace Gavin Floyd and the South Siders to the 4-1 victory. With the Twins’ victory the Hose remain a half-game ahead of the Twins for the division lead.

So, with Teahen now in a rehab stint and pretty close to returning, what will happen to Lilli? The smart money is on the Sox postponing Teahen’s return as long as possible and when he comes back assigning Dayan Viciedo to Charlotte until the rosters expand September 1. Tank, as Hawk “in my 51 years in baseball” Harrelson calls him, has been impressive, but it would be difficult to demote Lillibridge based on what he’s done and the fact he can play both the infield and outfield. 
After a day off tomorrow the White Sox head to Detroit for four games, including a day/night doubleheader on Tuesday. Edwin Jackson is scheduled to make his Sox debut on Wednesday night.
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Lillibridge’s triple drove in Ramon Castro, Carlos Quentin and Andrew Jones, pictured here showing their appreciation

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