May 2011

Go Figure…

    After dropping two of three in Texas, three of four in Toronto and looking like a team playing itself out of the divisional race, facing a sizzling Red Sox team at Fenway Park seemed to be the last thing the White Sox needed.
    But baseball is baseball and there’s no explaining some things–like the South Siders’ 7-3 victory over Boston last night where they clocked Red Sox ace Jon Lester for all seven runs. Even more puzzling might be that the Chicagoans have now defeated the Red Sox for the fifth straight time on the road and have won 11 of the last 13 overall against them.
    “It was a big win for the boys,” said the rejuvenated Jake Peavy, who headlined the list of heroes, getting his second victory of the season by going seven innings, allowing three runs, six hits without allowing a walk. A big win indeed after the Toronto debacle as the Sox inched to 8 1/2 games behind the first place Indians.
    Joining Peavy on the highlight reel were Alexei Ramirez (a single, double and two RBIs), A.J. Pierzynski (two singles and two RBIs), Paul Konerko (a homer, his 11th, and a single) and Carlos Quentin (a single and two RBIs).
    What it proved, at least for one night, that the Pale Hose can still get a clutch hit or two or three.
Sox Note of Note: For those of you who missed it, the Sox reached down to Charlotte for some bullpen help, recalling major league vet Brian Bruney and Jeff Marquez, the former Yankee farmhand who is still trying to somewhat justify the Nick Swisher trade. In corresponding moves, Dallas McPherson was designated for assignment and Lucas Harrell, brought up over the weekend to replace the DL’d Tony Pena, was returned to the Knights.

Our Ozzie

For those of you who are regular readers of this blog, you’re well aware that I’m a huge fan of Ozzie‘s.

First and foremost, he’s one of us. In a world where the White Sox have little identity outside of the South Side and nearby environs, he gives us a torch bearer. If baseball fans know anything about the team, it’s Ozzie. He’s put us on the map.

Second, he is hilarious. His off-the-cuff remarks on a daily basis bring some much-needed humor into the ups and downs of the long season. Finally, and this is something that is the least publicized about him, Ozzie is a very good manager. Underrated because his theatrics take center stage, but very good nonetheless.

All that said, our skipper does have an Achilles Heel and it surfaced again in Toronto as the South Siders dropped the final three games of the four-game series against the Jays.

It wasn’t that Ozzie ripped his players after the 14-inning loss on Saturday. I’m glad he did, they deserved it. What I find tiresome is that every time the Sox are in the throes of losing and criticism from the fans and media come his way, Guillen goes into unintelligible, defensive tirades. He’ll criticize the criticism, say or imply he’s not appreciated, question fan loyalty and make the point that he doesn’t need the job because he has plenty of money, etc. In the current episode, he tweeted Sunday that the media misrepresented his remarks, but there was enough on the record to believe the initial reports.

I understand that this is Ozzie’s way of releasing the frustration that all of us feel, but it’s getting old. Blaming the outside influences like the fans and media is not the answer. At least when he criticizes player performance, he’s focusing on the individuals responsible. After all, they’re the ones who have compiled the 24-31 record and stand 9 1/2 games behind the first place Tribe.

While we may not like it, we all know that this is Ozzie’s way and it’s not going to change as long as he’s at the helm of the Sox. Let’s just hope this season of ugliness doesn’t get any uglier.

A Lost Summer?

Storyline:  White Sox drop seven games below .500 with a humiliating 13-4 loss to Jays; Danks gives up six runs in the first inning, nine in all, tumbling to 0-8; and the hapless Pale Hose are now 2-5 on the road trip as they head to Boston to face the hot Red Sox for three (gulp).

It was the same old story. The offense was virtually non-existent except for a Carlos Quentin homer in the first and Ramon Castro’s two-run blast in the ninth when all was lost. We finally got rid of Tony Pena for a while (DL) and his replacement, Lucas Harrell, followed in Pena’s tradition of mediocrity, giving up four runs and nine hits in four innings. One more dubious distinction–Sox pitching allowed journeyman Corey Patterson to collect nine hits, including two homers, in the final two games of the series. Oh yeah, Adam Dunn struck out twice more and is now hitting .181.

Not much left to say except it’s already been an embarrassingly long season and it’s not even June. Kenny Williams, what’s your plan?

                                  Danks is a symbol of White Sox futility

Many Questions, Few Answers as Ozzie Explodes

“It went from a very good game to a very horse (bleep) game. It was a good game because we came back and battled back, but after the ninth inning, we (bleeping) stink. Flat-out stink.”

Ozzie, after today’s frustrating extra inning loss to the Jays

 

Do you get the feeling that it’s just not going to happen for this year’s White Sox?

Today’s 14-inning, 9-8 loss had the unusual and the familiar. Under the umbrella of the unusual, Omar Vizquel played first base, Gavin Floyd was tagged with the loss in relief as he coughed up the game-winning homer to the once-harmless Corey Patterson and the Sox finally showed some life at the plate, coming back from deficits on three different occasions.

What was familiar is that the Sox twice couldn’t deliver the winning run with a man on third in extra innings and Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain couldn’t hold the lead as Juan Rivera‘s two out, three-run double off of Crain gave the Jays an 8-6 advantage in the seventh. Adam Dunn had a run-scoring single in the second inning, but was his usual inept self in other situations where the team needed him to come through. He still hasn’t gotten a hit off of a lefthander and his lack of production is getting old.

Perhaps a platoon is in order. How about calling up the red-hot Dayan Viciedo to hit from the right side or playing Brent Lillibridge (who hit a two-run homer and triple today) in right field and use Carlos Quentin as the righty DH.

After winning the series opener in Toronto after losing two of three in Texas, the Sox find themselves in a heap of trouble in the last four games of this 10-game road trip. It’s the finale against the Jays and the tough Ricky Romero tomorrow, then three vs. the Red Sox, the game’s hottest team.

The White Sox have a lot of questions as we complete the first two months of the season. The problem is that there are few answers as they drop six games below .500 and continue to frustrate their manager to no end.

Same Old Story: Offense Fails, Pena Spits the Bit

Once again the White Sox’s inability to get a clutch hit led to their downfall as the Sox dropped a 4-2 decision tonight to the Blue Jays in the second game of four north of the border. The South Siders managed just two runs on five hits with Juan Pierre collecting three of them.

Another familiar story was the ineffectiveness of reliever Tony Pena, who gave up three hits and an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth. The fact that he’s counted on more than ever because of the newly-installed six-man rotation is a huge problem.  If the truth be told, he’s been lousy since the beginning of the season and should be called upon only in mop-up situations. It’s as if we fans know something bad is going to happen when we see No. 57 enter the game.

Kenny Williams has said some changes may be made when the club returns from the 10-game road swing. With the Sox record now at 2-3 on the trip with five tough games ahead against the Jays (2) and Red Sox (3), something very well could happen.

KW had the opportunity a few weeks ago to keep Jeff Gray and dispose of Pena. Let’s hope he finds a way to do the right thing this time around via trade or designating him for assignment. In my view, it would be addition by subtraction. I’ll take my chances that his replacement won’t be much worse.

                                        Pena: He Gone? We can only hope.  

Sox Escape with “W” Despite Underachieving Stars

The White Sox escaped with a 3-1 victory tonight on the strength of Phil Humber‘s masterful mound performance and the weakness of Toronto reliever Marc Rzepczynski (yes, it’s spelled correctly), who failed to cover first base in the top of the ninth as the Sox scored two unearned runs to grab the “W.”

The much-needed victory masked the South Siders’ low voltage offense, which time and time again has failed to get the clutch hit. Cue Adam Dunn and Alex Rios.

Dunn is helpless these days at the plate, especially against lefties who he hasn’t touched for a hit all season, and tonight earned the dubious distinction of recording the golden sombrero (four strikeouts) for the second time in a week. As far as Rios is concerned, he reached base on an error in the ninth and scored the winning run later in the inning on another miscue, but he’s looked almost as bad as Dunn.

Ozzie was right on target when he said the Sox would have a tough time competing with Dunn and Rios contributing as little as they are now. We keep waiting for one or the other to show some signs of life, hoping it will happen sooner than later.

Thanks to outstanding Sox pitching, including the standout relief stints by Jesse Crain and Sergio Santos, and some bad defense by the Blue Jays, we came out a winner tonight. The Dunn/Rios watch continues tomorrow.

                              Two Golden Sombreros, in honor of Adam Dunn

You Can Put it on the Board: Another “L”

Today was excruciating. The White Sox had chance after chance to overcome a slim Texas lead and the opportunity to take the series from the Rangers, but the South Siders couldn’t get it done.

Although the Sox narrowed the margin to 2-1 on a Paul Konerko single in the seventh, we left runners on first and second  as Alex Rios grounded into a DP, the third of the day for the Pale Hose. For the record, a Rios misjudged ball in center, along with a Gordon Beckham error, were responsible for the only two Ranger runs.

We left runners on first and third in the eighth as pinch hitter Adam Dunn struck out (what else is new?)  and Juan Pierre grounded into a force out to kill the rally.    

After Neftali Feliz walked Carlos Quentin and Konerko in the ninth, we left the tying run on third as A.J. Pierzynski flied out to end the game.

Aside from a fine seven-inning performance by Gavin Floyd, positives were hard to find in the 2-1 loss. Unless you consider the fact that the Sox remained nine games in back of the Indians, instead of dropping another game behind. The Tribe was clobbered by the Red Sox, 14-2.

Homer Happy: CQ and Adam Dunn Too

After a two-hour and 58 minute rain delay, last night’s White Sox game in Arlington had all the makings of a disaster. Thankfully, Carlos Quentin was on the scene and the pitching was just good enough for the 8-6 victory.

While the Sox held a 4-2 lead on the strength of Quentin’s first two of his three homers when the game was halted after three innings, the pessimist in me felt there was still trouble ahead.

One factor was that starter Jake Peavy wouldn’t return after the delay and the Sox would have to patch together the remaining six innings with their up and down bullpen. Second, that pen would have to face what is arguably the most potent lineup in baseball with the likes of Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus.

The Sox did indeed patch together their pen as all six available relievers saw action. And while the rarely dependable Tony Pena, youngster Chris Sale and the puzzling Matt Thornton were shaky (allowing a total of four runs and four hits), Will Ohman and Jesse Crain each pitched a scoreless frame and Sergio Santos rescued Thornton with a scoreless inning and a third for his seventh save.

All that said, the hero of the night was Quentin who recorded the first three-homer game of his career. His solo home run in the first gave the Sox an early lead, his three-run blast in the third widened the margin and his homer in the ninth gave the South Siders some breathing room, setting the stage for Santos’s save.

Another story within the story was Ozzie moving Quentin into the third spot and Adam Dunn down into the fifth hole. Did it work? I’ve documented CQ’s performance and wonder of wonders, Dunn actually went deep, his fifth of the season and first since May 11.

It’s Gut Check Time for White Sox

As heartening as the White Sox recent play has been, it will all amount to nothing if they don’t step it up on this road trip.

The 6-3 West Coast swing and 5-2 homestand were great steps forward, but the bottom line is that after last night’s shutout loss to the Rangers, we’re now five games under .500 and 10 games behind the Indians despite sweeping the A.L. Central leaders last week in the two-game series at the Cell.

In order to get back home on June 3 in decent shape, the Sox will have to tough out the next nine games. It’s hard to say how many games they need to win because a lot has to do with the Indians. And, unfortunately, the Tribe shows no signs of letting up as evidenced last night with their come-from-behind home triumph over the Red Sox.

The Sox simply have to excel in all phases and show some toughness if they are going to survive this tough stretch. One thing I’m sure of, however, is that the underachieving troika of Adam Dunn Alex Rios, and Gordon Beckham has to turn it around–and quickly–or we’re going to be sunk.

In Dunn’s case, I was sufficiently warned by those who have seen him play on a regular basis that his hit or miss approach will drive Sox fans crazy.  The worst part is that we’ve seen all the misses without the benefit of his mammoth home run power which saw him blast 38 in each of the last two seasons with the Nationals.

Because the Sox have 10 games to make up in the standings, it’s not early anymore. And if the South Siders have any hope of reaching the postseason, they need to realize the next two weeks could very well determine their fate.

Sox Mojo to be Tested on 10-Game Trip

Ozzie‘s recent mantra has been to take one day at a time. For a team trying to come back from the dead, I agree that it’s the way to go. I just wish I could walk the walk.

As the White Sox were in the process this weekend of completing a 5-2 homestand on the heels of of an encouraging 6-3 road trip, all I could think of was the upcoming 10-game road swing to Texas, Toronto and Boston.

As the Sox move toward the .500 mark with a 22-26 record, they are about to face a huge challenge while trying to continue their winning ways.

* The defending A.L. champion Rangers are formidable enough, but to make matters more difficult, Texas gets both last year’s MVP Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz back from injury just in time for the Pale Hose.

* Toronto has always been a tough place for us to play and among the issues to deal with up North will be neutralizing the outstanding Blue Jay pitching and home run machine Jose Bautista. Bautista, by the way, is also hitting .353 in addition to his major league-leading 18 homers.

* We all know that the Red Sox are the Red Sox–always tough–and Boston has the major league RBI leader in newly-acquired Adrian Gonzalez (41) plus top-flight pitching.

Sox Notes of Note:  The Sox were able to win the rubber game of the Dodger series today on the strength of Alexei Ramirez‘s four hits, which included a two-run homer, and five RBI…Adam Dunn walked three times and had an RBI single while adding an eighth inning insurance run. WGN cameras caught him mouthing the words, “What was that?” after he got what amounted to his first hit of the series. At least he has a sense of humor…As a result of the Indians’ weekend sweep of the Reds, the South Siders remain nine games behind the Tribe.

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