June 2011

White Sox Win Juan

For a while it looked like…well, it looked like the same movie we’ve seen a million times. Pitching that keeps us in the game and wasted opportunities by an underachieving offense.

But today, in the rubber game of the series vs. the Rockies, it was a different theme. It was, in short, a satisfying come-from-behind extra inning 6-4 victory. A far cry from the tough and controversial loss in the opener.

Down 4-1 heading into the seventh inning, the Sox scored one in the seventh, two in the eighth to tie the game and two in the 10th to take the lead. Sergio Santos pitched a perfect ninth for his 17th save. He was preceded by starter Jake Peavy, who settled down after allowing a three-run, first inning homer to Troy Tulowitzki, and Will Ohman, Chris Sale and Jesse Crain, who each pitched a scoreless inning.

Two of the most maligned White Sox were today’s heroes. Juan Pierre went 3 for 5 with three RBI, including the single that bounced off the right field wall to score the fifth and sixth runs in the 10th. Gordon Beckham went 3 for 3 with a walk, homered and drove in a pair.

Sox are now 40-42 and remain four games in back of the division lead as they head into Wrigley tomorrow for a three-game series with you know who.

Sox 3, Rockies 2 in Bounce Back Win

It had all the earmarks of another disappointing loss.

Having blown a two-run lead as a result of a pair of solo homers (by Jason Giambi and Ty Wigginton) off of Mark Buehrle, the Sox found themselves tied 2-2 with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the eighth inning Wednesday night. Brian Bruney was on the mound facing Wigginton, who unloaded for the long blast his last time up.

Not exactly the guy you’d choose in an attempt to close the door, Bruney did the job by forcing Wigginton to hit into a double play to end the inning. A huge relief.

That said, it was one thing to close the door because Sox pitching has been their saving grace. It was quite another to think, with all their recent missed opportunities, that they could actually muster a run to take the lead and hand it over to Sergio Santos to clinch the win.

But they did it. Carlos Quentin led off the top of the ninth with a single, coasted to third on a Paul Konerko base hit and scored on an A.J. Pierzynski sac fly that just scored CQ (pictured above). It certainly wasn’t a powerful offensive display and my heart sunk a bit when Alexei Ramirez struck out after the two singles. I had visions of Quentin being stranded at third, like so many White Sox baserunners have so far this season. And as we hoped Santos shut down Colorado 1-2-3 in the ninth for his 16th save and the 3-2 victory.

The  yo-yo season moves on. After Tuesday night’s controversial defeat, we’re on the rebound again, back to three games under .500 and four games in back of the Tigers who got clobbered by the Mets.

Let’s see what happens in tomorrow’s matinee with Jake Peavy on the hill in what is shaping up to be a bit of a bizarre baseball season on the South Side.

Trouble in the Mile High City

Notes and quotes on the White Sox’s  3-2 extra inning loss last night to the Rockies:

* The winning run scored from first base on a single in the 13th inning (pictured above) when centerfielder Brent Lillibridge seemed to nonchalant the play.

Lillibridge explains:

“We’re playing no doubles in one of the biggest ballparks in this league. (Ty Wigginton) bloops it right there behind second base, and the first thing I’m doing is sprinting in there. Once it stops, I have to make sure. I can’t go in on a bare-hand sprint and miss the ball. I’m not going to make a mistake there. I’m going to make sure I get it.

“Right when I looked to see where the runner (Troy Tulowitzki) was, I saw him rounding third base so I gathered myself, made a one-hop throw to home plate and take a chance and he was able to beat it. It was close, but it was a good call by the third base coach. It was just one of those weird things that you never think a guy would send him, but he knew what he was doing and they got the win out of it.”

* Lillibridge was in center because Ozzie pulled Alex Rios from the game for not hustling.

Ozzie on Rios, who was hitless and committed an error in the fifth:

“(He) don’t run the bases. That’s why I got him out of the game. It’s not (the first time) it’s happened. If you don’t play the game right, you’re out of the game.”

* In a much-too-familiar scenario, the White Sox hit into a pair of double plays in the first five innings that halted ralllies.

Ozzie on the loss:

“I don’t think we should feel bad because we earned it to lose this game. We deserved to lose. I think the way we played from the first inning, I don’t think we should have won this game at all. We had opportunities. The only thing about this game, we pitched well. Everything else was pretty bad.

After last night and the recent hitting woes of Adam Dunn and all the rest the five games in which we trail the Tigers seems like 20.

One for the Books

While we spend the off-day wondering how the White Sox will fare when they resume play tomorrow night in Denver against the Rockies, here is something else to ponder:

It is July 27 and Adam Dunn has struck out 100 times in 67 games so far this season.

Sox Hall of Fame second baseman Nellie Fox struck out 91 times from 1954-1960.

I’m just saying.

100 K’s in 67 Games–No Kidding

Talk all you want about Phil Humber walking former White Sox-farmhand-turned-slugger Mike Morse and surrendering the game-winning two-run homer to Danny Espinosa in today’s 2-1 Sox loss to the Nationals. Humber was brilliant today, as he has been all season, and deserved better.

It was same old story. The offense that was supposed to be a sure thing is anything but. That’ll happen when you’ve got at least four decent to outstanding major league hitters–Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, Gordon Beckham and Juan Pierre–all underachieving. Although I’m happy to say that Rios has recently shown some signs of life.

I feel like a broken record when I mention those names. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve written them in the context of poor offensive production.

When it comes to Dunn, underachieving doesn’t come close to describing his performance in a Sox uniform. It’s an historical collapse  the likes of which we–at least I–can’t remember seeing before. Get this:

  • He now has an even 100 strikeouts in 67 games. Amazing.
  • He whiffed a total of seven times–four today and three Saturday–in the last two games.
  • He is hitting .173 overall. Hard to believe.
  • His batting average at home is .126. Not exactly a fan-friendly formula.
  • He is now 1 for 53 against lefties. Can you say platoon?

And this is the guy who has hit 38 homers and 100 RBIs-plus the past two seasons. Not to mention he has the most home runs in the majors this decade, behind only Albert Pujols.

So what can be done? It seems nothing for now. The truth is that as tempting as it is to bench him and bring up Dayan Viciedo for some DH duty, it’s not going to happen. The club, because of the financial commitment and the need for his potentially-potent big bat, seems like they are going to live and die with the slugger.

And once we solve Dunn’s problems, there’s the matter of the others. Our work is never done.

Good News: Sox Win…Bad News: Danks Hurt

You have to give the Sox credit.

They found themselves facing the most unenviable of positions tonight after losing John Danks to an oblique strain after 1 2/3 innings. There they were needing to fill  the remaining 7 1/3 innings  a day after the entire bullpen was used in the 14-inning marathon defeat.

But survive they did as the combination of Brian Bruney (2 1/3), Jake Peavy (4) and Sergio Santos (1) had Danks’ back and shut out the red-hot Nationals, 3-0. Peavy improved his record to 4-1, allowing just one hit and striking out seven  For the record, it was his first major league relief appearance.

The run the Sox scored in the first on a Carlos Quentin sac fly was all the South Siders needed. But they tallied two insurance runs in the eighth on a Ramon Castro single to breathe a little easier.

The Sox were unsure of Danks’ status following the game. He will very likely have to go on the DL, in which case a reliever will be added with the club going with the conventional five-man rotation.

The White Sox go for their 18th consecutive interleague series win tomorrow with Phil Humber on the mound.

No Happy Ending

Ozzie put it best when he said he didn’t know if the Sox “played very good or not that good” in last night’s 9-5, 14-inning loss to the sizzling Washington Nationals.

Comebacks in the ninth (Mark Teahen‘s three-run homer tied the game at three), 10th (a bases loaded wild pitch that evened the score at five) and the 12th (a two-out, two strike homer by A.J. Pierzynski to make it 5-5), showed that the Sox had some grit. The kind of ability to come back that we’ve rarely seen so far this season.

On the other hand, we witnessed some negatives that proved to be fatal. There were multiple missed opportunities with men in scoring position, including the failure to score the winner with the bags full and one out in the 10th. And there was the crucial  throwing error by Alexei Ramirez that Teahen couldn’t handle at first (pictured above), which opened the door to four unearned runs in the 14th.

All in all, good or bad?

Bad, of course, because we lost and blew the chance to reduce Cleveland’s division lead to 3 1/2 games. That said, there was a silver lining with the impressive three comebacks and the fact the Indians, Tigers, Twins and Royals all lost.

Keeping it positive, remember this:  The Sox have won all three interleague series–against the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Cubs–but have dropped the series opener in each case.

How Will Nats Perform Sans Their Skipper?

I wasn’t going to post this morning with no real news coming out of the Sox camp during the off-day.

But then came the news that our next opponent’s skipper, Washington’s Jim Riggleman, had resigned when his GM Mike Rizzo refused to talk with him about an extension.

The whole situation is strange, but if you read between the lines it seems that the fact the Nationals front office didn’t want to engage in any dialogue means Riggleman wasn’t their guy going forward–and he saw it coming. At least that’s my opinion.

So, how does it affect the Sox this weekend? Well, the Nationals come in on fire, having won 11 of their last 12. We just have to hope that despite their recent surge they are a bit dazed and confused with the managerial controversy.

A sweep will put us over .500.

Round 1 to the Sox, Bullpen Shines

To state the obvious, one of the true indicators of a contending team is a strong bullpen. Whether it’s a group of relievers piecing the game together or the closer shutting the door after a starter’s eight-inning effort, it’s a sight to behold when it works.

And last night it was a thing of beauty for the White Sox as they defeated the Cubs, 4-3, and won their 17th consecutive interleague series.

Jake Peavy was solid, especially for his first start after returning from the DL. Offensively, the highlights were A.J. Pierzynski‘s two-run triple and Brent Lillibridge‘s suicide squeeze that scored A.J. But to me, the bullpen succession of Chris Sale, Jesse Crain, Matt Thornton and closer Sergio Santos was the most satisfying part of the victory.

The details:

  • Sale relieved Peavy with two outs in the sixth and got out of a jam by getting the dangerous Starlin Castro to ground out to third. The lefty returned in the seventh and ended the inning by striking out Alfonso Soriano.
  • Crain came on in the eighth with an inherited runner, Tony Campana, who eventually reached third with one out via a stolen base and ground out. Crain proceeded to strike out Koyie Hill before Thornton came on to stifle the rally by striking out Kosuke Fukodome.
  • Santos closed out his 14th save in impressive style by retiring Castro on a groundout and striking out two legit power threats–Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena, who homered in each game of the series.
If the pen can consistently get the job done like they did last night, the postseason is certainly in reach.

Nice Win, But We Live in a Real World

Twenty-four hours ago, my Sox posse and I were lamenting the 6-3 loss to the Cubs in the opener of the Crosstown Series.

One day later, we have claimed an impressive 3-2 rain-delayed win over the North Siders, gained a full game on the first place Indians, to move within 4 1/2 games of first place, and have inched closer to the elusive .500 mark (36-39).

While all of us are feeling better this morning, we can’t ignore three dark clouds that need to clear out before we seriously think postseason:

  • Adam Dunn
  • Alex Rios
  • Gordon Beckham
Dunn — As documented here and everywhere, Dunn has been a failure of monumental proportion. Here we are on June 21 and the slugger who consistently has hit in the 40 homer and 100 RBI range, has smashed just seven HR and driven in 29. Most alarming, of course are his 91 strikeouts in 64 games and his .175 batting average.  It won’t happen for a variety of reasons, but how about recalling Dayan Viciedo to share DH duties and play a little right field? We can’t endure Dunn much longer if he doesn’t snap out of it.
Rios — If it weren’t for Dunn’s woes, Rios would be the main whipping boy. After last season we thought he figured it out, but apparently not. Hitting .212 with six homers and 20 RBIs, he’s looked lost at the plate for the most part and  it seems his offense has affected his defense. He doesn’t seem to be the same “money” centerfielder as he was last season. The good news is that he’s come alive a bit lately.
Beckham — Although it hasn’t gotten the notice–or the blame–of the others, you can make a case that Beckham is the biggest disappointment of all. In his first season (2009), when he was named Rookie of the Year by two peer groups, he was as close to a sure thing as we’ve had since the days of Frank Thomas, Robin Ventura and Jack McDowell. But he began his sophomore season in a horrific slump, came on during the summer and ended the season injured. This year, he looks like another average major league infielder, not the perennial All-Star we thought he would be. There is still time for him to get back to his “glory days,” but if it doesn’t happen it’ll be a colossal disappointment to the organization and its fan base.
On a more positive note, how about that Konerko? He’s absolutely on fire with his 21 homers, 59 RBIs, 331 BA and 1.010 OPS. Not to mention having hit HR in five consecutive games.
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