May 2011

Buehrle, Bats Rebound From Friday Nightmare

“The nicest thing about baseball and the hardest thing about baseball is that every day is a different day. Players have to turn the switch on and off right away.” —Ozzie Guillen

No matter how long you watch baseball, getting over a heartbreaking loss is never easy. So it was last night as the Sox were one out away from a victory over the Dodgers in the opener of the three-game interleague series before fate reared its ugly side.  The bottom line? With two outs and nobody on base in the ninth, a third baseman by the name of Russ Mitchell stepped up and tied the game with a homer and the Dodgers won the game with three runs in the top of the 10th.

To Ozzie’s point, the Sox had to regroup today and put last night’s disappointing loss in the rearview mirror. Mission accomplished as Mark Buehrle outdueled close friend and former mound mate Jon Garland and the offense exploded for a 9-2 win. Buehrle’s line showed seven innings, two runs and seven hits, plus he became the all-time leader in interleague victories with 24. Garland, on the other hand, lasted only 3 2/3, allowing seven runs and 11 hits.

Some of the highlights:

* Paul Konerko was 3 for 5 with three RBIs.

* Alexei Ramirez was 3 for 4 with two RBIs, two runs scored and delivered a clutch two-out single that drove in a pair of key runs in the six-run fourth.

* A.J. Pierzynski had a 3 for 5 day with two runs scored.

*Alex Rios and Brent Lillibridge each blasted two-run homers.

* Gordon Beckham, followed up the two-run homer he hit last night with a 2 for 3 afternoon and reached via a walk to boot.

TAKE THE GOOD WITH THE BAD: While his teammates were enjoying a nine run, 16-hit day on Saturday, Adam Dunn was fit for the “Golden Sombrero,” striking out four times.

Nobody’s Perfect

We knew that Sergio Santos‘s 0.00 ERA and perfect won-loss and save records wouldn’t last forever, we just didn’t know when the party would end.

Now we do.

In last night’s heartbreaking, extra-inning 6-4 loss to the Dodgers, the walls came tumbling down for Santos and the Sox. The closer gave up a two-out, top of the ninth homer to L.A. third baseman Russ Mitchell that tied the game and surrendered three more runs in the 10th before giving way to Will Ohman.

The result: The Sox drop to nine games behind the Indians, six games below .500 and Santos is now 2-1 with a still outstanding ERA of 1.69.

Santos or no Santos, the Pale Hose offense continues to baffle. Gordon Beckham’s second inning two-run blast was a welcome sight, but he just might not be the player we thought he was. Adam Dunn has delivered occasionally, but his power numbers have been disappointing and he’s hitting below .200. Alex Rios gets a hit once in a while, but he’s not doing what we need him to do. Same goes for Juan Pierre and Alexei Ramirez. If the Sox are going to be a serious postseason contender, we need to snap out of it. Today, if possible.

Sox Note of Note:  Mike McDougal, who failed so miserably in a White Sox uniform, recorded the save last night for the Dodgers. Am I the only one who is amazed he’s still on a major league roster?

The Fausto Factor

Remember the good old days? Or, April 1 of this year to be exact.

It was Opening Day in Cleveland and the White Sox seemed to meet all of the high expectations set during the offseason by throttling the Tribe 15-10 on 18 hits. More specifically, they got to Indians’ starter Fausto Carmona (above) for 10 of the runs and 11 of the hits in just three innings.

We all know what happened to the Sox shortly after that. The offense went cold, mental mistakes were commonplace, the bullpen imploded and the disheartening losses began to pile up.

There’s some symmetry to the fact that as the Sox begin to escape their early season woes, having won nine of their last 12 to pull within five games of the .500 mark and eight games behind the division-leading Indians, that Fausto is again a factor in their success.

Carmona was on the mound again last night as the Sox won their third straight in the convincing 8-2 triumph. On this night in Chicago, the Pale Hose touched up the righthander for eight runs, seven hits and two walks in five innings. Carmona’s two-game total against the Sox amounts to 18 runs in eight innings. In 56 1/3 innings against the rest of the American League he has allowed just 16 runs. Go figure.

Sox Note of Note: It’ll be a homecoming this weekend for two of the stalwarts of the 2005 World Champs as Juan Uribe and Jon Garland (below) come to Chicago with the Dodgers for a three-game interleague series. Garland, in fact, will be the Sox pitching opponent on Saturday afternoon as he’ll be facing friend and former teammate, Mark Buehrle.

Peavy’s Gem: I Never Saw it Coming

I have to admit, I didn’t see it coming. I was just hoping Jake Peavy, in only his second start of the season, could pitch well enough for the Sox to stay in the game against Indians ace Justin Masterton.

Stay in the game? He was the game.

Peavy was dominating last night. He pitched a complete game, three-hit shutout against a potent Tribe offense and made a first-inning Adam Dunn sacrifice fly hold up in the 1-0 victory.

It’s hard to say how much impact this will have on the Sox, now six games under .500 and nine games behind Cleveland. It’s one thing for Peavy to hurl this gem, it’s another for him to stay healthy and become the club stopper. And then there are the myriad other issues.

There’s the inconsistency from the rest of the staff–for example, the winless John Danks, the maddening inconsistency of Edwin Jackson and the up and down mound personality of Gavin Floyd.  Will Alex Rios, Gordon Beckham and Juan Pierre turn things around and will Dunn match his power numbers from recent years? And though the bullpen seems to be shaping up with Sergio Santos as the closer, I’m still nervous when I see Matt Thornton warming up in the bullpen.

I don’t want to diminish Peavy’s spectacular effort, it was a sight to behold. But the truth is that there are still many questions that need to be answered.

M & M Boys to the Rescue

The duo of Brent Morel and Dallas McPherson (pictured above) is a far cry from the powerful twosomes of Mantle and Maris, Mays and McCovey and even Mauer and Morneau. But at least for one night, one of the most unlikely M & M combos you’ll ever see provided plenty of excitement and set the stage for the much-needed White Sox victory.

For the first half of last night’s game against the Rangers, the formula looked very familiar. Subpar pitching, sloppy defense and the inability to capitalize offensively. It seemed like the same uninspired, lethargic team we’ve seen so often in this young season.

Then, the strangest thing happened. In the bottom of the fifth, Morel tied the game at three with a three-run blast for his first homer of the season. If that wasn’t rare enough, McPherson, the one-time Angel phenom who was just called up from Charlotte to replace DL-bound Mark Teahen, delivered a clutch single up the middle in the eighth that sent Gordon Beckham to third. Just moments later, Beckham scored the eventual game-winner on a wild pitch and Sergio Santos recorded his sixth save in as many opportunities. His ERA remains at 0.00 with 16 consecutive scoreless innings spanning over 20 innings.

It was nice to see Morel come through and Santos continue his streak. But you have to be the happiest for the hard luck McPherson, who certainly stopped to smell the roses after the game.

“Yeah, that definitely was a great moment,” he said. ” It was nice to get that one out of the way. I was looking for something to hook in the four-hole. I miscalculated the sink a little bit, and I kind of got lucky it went over the middle.”

For the record, Dallas’s last major league hit was in September, 2008 with the Marlins.

White Sox Reward McPherson

Ten years ago Dallas McPherson was drafted in the second round by the Angels out of The Citadel. The hope was that he would be the club’s third baseman for years to come. But his disappointing performance on the field and a rash of injuries turned McPherson from a future All-Star to a journeyman. Now, a decade and four teams later, he’s getting another chance with the White Sox, having been recalled from Charlotte to replace DL-bound Mark Teahen.

McPherson, a non-roster invitee to spring training, was batting .305 with nine doubles, three homers and 18 RBIs in 31 games with the Knights. Conventional wisdom had the Sox recalling the red-hot Dayan Viciedo, but the Sox figured it was better for Viciedo to continue playing every day in Charlotte. And in the process they are giving McPherson another major league shot.

Who knows, maybe he’s a late bloomer.

Happy Birthday, Carlos May

He is the answer to one of sports’ most intriguing trivia questions: Who is the only professional athlete in history to have his birthday on the back of his uniform?

By now, many Sox fans are well aware that Carlos May, born May 17, 1948 and sported his name and the number 17 on the back of his White Sox uniform, holds the distinction.

Named The Sporting News Rookie of the Year in 1970, May was on his way to a promising major league career when he blew off his thumb while on duty in the Marine Reserves. He still had a respectable 10-year career, mostly with the Pale Hose, but I’m confident he wanted more than to be known for a piece of trivia.

The younger brother of outstanding major league hitter Lee May, Carlos finished his career with a .274 batting average, 1127 hits, 90 homers and 536 RBIs in 1165 games.

We Need More Nights Like This

uYNIgGIU.jpgDuring the course of the long baseball season, certain games stand out as being more memorable, more significant or both. For a variety of reasons, we know last night’s 10-inning, come-from-behind White Sox victory over the Angels was memorable. Our hope is that as the season moves on, it will hold a great deal of significance as one of the key moments in the Sox turnaround.
Why was last night so memorable?
–It was Jake Peavy‘s 2011 debut as he pitched six innings, allowing four runs and seven hits along with zero walks and four strikeouts. No one could mistake him for Roy Halladay or even the Peavy of old, but considering the circumstances the effort should certainly be considered a success.
–The Pale Hose completed their second consecutive West Coast series victory.
–The Sox were able to rally for two in the ninth and two in the 10th to chalk up the “W” when all seemed lost–something that hasn’t been done much in this young season.
–We witnessed a rarity in the 10th inning as the winning run scored from third on a wild pitch as Angel pitcher Kevin Jepsen was intentionally walking Paul Konerko with runners on second and third.
–Being at the plate during the intentional walk/wild pitch in the 10th was only the beginning of an inning for the ages for Konerko.  It started with the walk and continued as he proceeded to steal second base (who, Paulie?). In the bottom of the frame, he made a spectacular leaping catch off the bat of Maicer Izturis for out No. 2 (who, Paulie?) and ended the game with a behind-the-back toss to Matt Thornton on a bunt by Torii Hunter (See photo above of Konerko and Thornton having a laugh over it). It undoubtedly brought to mind Mark Buehrle‘s award-winning between-the-legs play last season and prompted A.J. Pierzynski to joke, “Konerko had the best five minutes of his life.”
–In that Thornton recorded the last out in a 6-4 game, it’s obvious that he got credit for the save. But let me underscore that: the 2010 All-Star actually recorded a save after three losses and four blown attempts.
Adam Dunn continued to climb out of his early season hole by smashing a homer and a double and reaching base five times.
Sergio Santos continued his year-long Mariano Rivera imitation as he pitched two scoreless innings. His ERA remains at 0.00.
The South Siders are still eight games under .500, 9 1/2 games behind the first place Tribe and their winning percentage is better than only the Twins and Astros. But I’m enjoying this victory as much as any other this season and hoping it’s a sign of good things to come.

Danks Down, Peavy Up

59912119.jpgEntering this season, one of the questions I had was, “Can John Danks take another step forward to become a dominating, All-Star caliber pitcher?”
Although Danks has looked good at times (inconsistency has always been his Achilles Heel), he has now fallen to 0-6 as a result of his subpar performance last night in the 6-2 loss to the Halos. It’s especially disheartening in that the loss ended the Sox momentum at three straight wins.
Danks’ disappointing effort came on the heels of Ozzie‘s official announcement that for the next 20 games the Sox will go with a six-man rotation. It accomplishes at least three things: 
1. It makes room for Jake Peavy
2. It keeps the surprising Phil Humber in the rotation
3. It will give some extra rest to the other pitchers, especially Mark Buehrle
The “new look” pitching staff debuts tonight with Peavy making his first start of the year. It’s a key game, providing an early indication if the former Cy Young Award winner can have an impact as well as giving the opportunity for the Sox to win their second straight series on the West Coast.

Sox Math: Three is Better than Two

61489438.jpgWith a season high three straight victories, Sox fans can begin to take the bags off their heads and start to believe there might be a season after all.
While we’re hardly out of the woods, Carlos Quentin‘s 3 for 4, 5 RBI night that included a three-run homer, Gordon Beckham‘s 2 for 4 with a two-run blast, two-hit nights from Alexei Ramirez and Adam Dunn and seven shutout innings from Edwin Jackson in an 8-0 victory over the Angels will do that to the faithful.
Apart from the recent winning streak, the big news is that Jake Peavy will make his debut on Wednesday. What he can contribute and what it does to the surprising Phil Humber is anybody’s guess. Could some semblance of a six-man rotation be forthcoming?
BASEBALL IS A FUNNY GAME:  Last year during spring training converted infielder Sergio Santos‘s future was uncertain. However, after an impressive spring on the mound he made the ballclub–a moment emotionally captured by MLB Network cameras for the series, “The Club.”  Now, a year later, he is the club’s unofficial closer and has yet to give up a run in 2011. He gave up nada during the spring and has yet to be scored upon in 15 1/3 innings of the regular season. it’s a bit early to think about All-Star Game selections but Santos, along with Paul Konerko, have to be the favorites to represent the White Sox. Just think, an All-Star candidate for the A.L. pitching staff who was a shortstop and third baseman just two short years ago.