June 2011

An Altogether Miserable Evening at the Cell

Games like tonight make you wonder if the White Sox are ever going to make a legit run for the A.L. Central title. And to make matters worse, it was a loss at the hands of the Media Darlings from the North Side.

Blowing a 3-0 first inning lead, which was fueled by a Carlos Quentin RBI single and a Paul Konerko two-run blast (No. 20), our familiar “quiet bat” syndrome took hold from innings two through nine.

Add that to a Gavin Floyd meltdown– he gave up four runs in the sixth on a solo homer by Starlin Castro and a three-run belt by Carlos Pena–and it was a disastrous 6-3 loss to the Cubs.

I’ve written it what seems like a million times, but if  Adam Dunn (0-4 with three strikeouts) and Alex Rios (a harmless ninth inning single in four at bats) don’t significantly turn it around, we’re sunk. And the most puzzling aspect of all is the manner in which Dunn has become almost an automatic strikeout victim. What ever happened to his annual output of nearly 40 homers and 100 RBIs? Simply amazing.

The 2011 White Sox are certainly testing our patience. And if a win isn’t in the cards, how about a late inning rally once in while? The truth is, when the Sox got down 6-3 the faithful was pretty sure it was a lost cause.

And it was.

Questions Answered

Going into this afternoon’s rubber game against the D-backs, I had some questions:

  • Could the Sox hold their own defensively with Mark Teahen at third and Adam Dunn in right?
  • Would  one-time journeyman Phil Humber continue his mastery of major league hitters?
  • Could the inconsistent Pale Hose offense score some runs off of Arizona’s Josh Collmentor, who entered the game with a 4-2 record and a 1.86 ERA?

With the 8-2 White Sox victory, the answers are yes, yes and yes.

Teahen was outstanding at third, Dunn made a nice catch in his only chance and Humber was magnificent, pitching seven scoreless innings before leaving after allowing a pair of runs in the eighth. The former No. 1 draft pick of the Mets is now a sparkling 7-3 with a 2.90 ERA.

Holding on to a 1-0 lead through six innings, the South Siders scored two in the seventh on solo homers by Paul Konerko and the suddenly rejuvenated Alex Rios. The Sox added five more in the eighth, highlighted by a bases-clearing double by A.J. Pierzynski.

Fasten your seat belts. It’s Sox vs. Cubs the next three nights at the Cell. How about a sweep to get us to .500?

Sox Note of Note: Konerko, who grew up in the Phoenix area, put on a show in the three-game series, hitting homers in each of the three games. His monster season now shows a .327 BA with 19 homers and 56 RBIs. Where would we be without him?

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

Many of the most cherished moments with my now 88-year-old Dad, Seymour Berke, have been following the White Sox and going to countless games at old Comiskey and the Cell. In 1959, my Dad was able to get two tickets to Game 1 of the World Series, which the South Siders won 11-0. The bad news is that he had to work and didn’t go with me. For the next 46 years I regretted that I never got to go to a Sox World Series game with him. Then, in 2005, my disappointment ended. There we were at Game 1 of the ’05 Series witnessing the 5-3 win over the Astros.

It was a priceless moment that neither of us will ever forget. Sometimes I look back and think it was too good to be true, but I see that picture of the two of us in our Sox jackets and I know it really happened. And his comment after our heroes had finally won the World Series in Houston, was just as memorable. He said,  ”All those games, all those years, we finally did it.”

Happy Father’s Day, Dad, and thanks.

Sox Notes of Note:  Last night’s much-needed 6-2 win over the D-backs was a combination of surprise–Alex Rios‘ homer and four RBIs–and same old, same old, with Paul Konerko‘s 18th homer of the season. And it is comforting to know that John Danks is on the way back with his third consective win…We all breathed a sigh of relief when Danks was able to recover from being hit on the back of the head off the bat of Stephen Drew (He’s pictured below showing off the subsequent bump). It resulted in two Arizona runs, but that was the least of our worries at the time. …It apparently was a night danger as a Brent Lillibridge foul ball hit Konerko’s brother (thumb) and Paulie’s father (chin). Both were sitting right behind the Sox dugout…Sox try to end the road trip at 2-3 this afternoon with Phil Humber on the mound before heading back to the Cell to face the Cubs.

I’m Flummoxed

When you don’t have the answers, pull out the cliches:

  • You can’t win when you don’t score.
  • You’re not as bad as you look when you’re losing and not as good as you look when you’re winning.
  • A team that’s not hitting looks more lethargic than it really is. 

I don’t know what else to say. This White Sox team of the “All In” expectations entering this season has become a conundrum wrapped up in an enigma.  From day to day you never know what team is going to show up.

The biggest issue, of course, has been the offense–an offense that seemed destined to break out on a daily basis. They have been a far cry from what we expected. You only have to look at the last three games, the first three of the road trip. Losing each contest, the South Siders scored one run in the two games against the Twins and scored just a single run last night against ex-Sox Daniel Hudson in the 4-1 loss to the surging D-backs. Surprise, it was a Paul Konerko homer.

Sox Notes of Note:  Ozzie insists that Juan Pierre will remain in the leadoff spot and left field despite the pressure to recall Dayan Viciedo and move Carlos Quentin to left. Guillen also added “as long as he’s here.” I wonder if that was a throw away line or a Freudian slip–and there’s some movement behind the scenes to move Juan…While Pierre’s job is safe right now, Brent Lillibridge will be in the leadoff spot and in left field today against Arizona lefty Zach Duke. Brent Morel will be in the No. 2 hole, Alexei Ramirez will bat fifth and Ramon Castro will be behind the plate.

I’m Dayan for Some New Life

It’s time.

I think we all agree that adding a potent bat to the inconsistent White Sox offense would be a huge plus. Juan Pierre‘s not getting the job done, Gordon Beckham is still scuffling for the most part and the struggles of Adam Dunn and Alex Rios have been documented ad nauseum. And, oh, the lack of clutch hitting.

Forget the trade route, it’s not necessary to pursue. The answer is staring us in the face and it’s in the person of Dayan Viciedo. Kenny Williams has said he’s ready, Dayan himself has said he’s ready, and we could use a shot of adrenaline. Let’s do it.

Three spring trainings ago, when he was 19, there was some scuttlebutt that the Cuban-born Viciedo would be ready to take over third base right away. But it became obvious he had defensive deficiencies, had minimal patience at the plate, was not in good condition and generally not ready for prime time.

So, the Sox sent him to AA Birmingham, then AAA Charlotte, where he is now. He temporarily shifted to first base and now has settled nicely in right field. He’s matured, is in good shape, has more plate discipline–and, of course, still has that electric bat that Sox fans saw briefly last year when he was called up to Chicago. There’s every reason to believe he can be a dominant major league hitter.

His stats back that up. So far this season he has 11 homers, 47 RBIs, 21 doubles, a .325 batting average and a .913 OPS.

So, who does Viciedo replace in the lineup and on the roster? My vote is that he starts in right with Carlos Quentin moving to left. As much as he’s a good guy and a hard worker, Juan Pierre should be the everyday odd man out. Then, it seems it would be between Juan and Mark Teahen as to who stays or goes.

I know, there’s the issue of the leadoff man. Pierre has had trouble bunting, is only hitting in the .250s and isn’t much of a stolen base threat anymore. It might not be as big a problem as we think. And we’re fully aware he’s been dreadful at times in the outfield.

The most logical choice is Alexei Ramirez. He’s not ideal, but I have confidence he can get the job done. It also might mean moving Beckham to the No. 2 hole, though Ozzie has said that in time Brent Morel may be the answer there.

I’ll let KW and the skipper figure out the details, but since there are viable options I’m confident it’s the right thing to do–and at the right time.

We Just Can’t Beat ‘Em

 

Minnesota 1, White Sox 0.

There’s not much left to say. We just can’t beat the Twins, even without the majority of their starters in the lineup. We’re now 0-4 against them this season, scoring a total of three runs.

Our stay in the Twin Cities amounted to one run, 11 hits and two losses. We drop to four games under .500 and 5 1/2 in back of the division lead.

Mark Buehrle was excellent this afternoon, giving up only a Michael Cuddyer homer and three other hits. But there was more frustration on offense as we got shut out for the seventh time and grounded into two more double plays, both stalling potential rallies. The clutch hits just weren’t there–again.

Interesting pitching matchup tomorrow night in Phoenix as we reprise interleague play against the D-backs. It’ll be Edwin Jackson (4-5, 4.39) for the Sox vs. the man they gave up last summer to get him,  young Daniel Hudson (7-5, 3.82).

Another Game, Another Loss to the Twins

It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s the offense, pitching, defense, the ability to prevent stolen bases, if it’s at the Metrodome or Target Field or whether or not the Twins are shorthanded. Whatever the reason, the White Sox are putty in Minnesota’s hands.

Last night’s 4-1 loss brought out that same pattern in the South Siders as they attempt reach to reach .500 and move up in the A.L. Central standings (they are now three below and 4 1/2 games behind the Indians and Tigers).

The offense, with the exception of a Gordon Beckham double and a Brent Morel RBI single, was non-existent as Carl Pavano dominated with a six-hitter. And stalling rallies by grounding into four double plays, a season-long issue, certainly didn’t help.

Defensively, we didn’t commit any errors, but the age old problem of preventing stolen bases reared its ugly head–and three of them were swiped by Michael Cuddyer, not exactly the personification of Rickey Henderson. As much good as A.J. Pierzynski does behind the plate, pairing him with Gavin Floyd to stop the thievery is a recipe for disaster.

Perhaps the most distressing factor of all is that  the Sox couldn’t take advantage of the fact that Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Denard Span, Jim Thome and Jason Kubel were all out of the Twinkie lineup.

The best part about baseball is that it’s a long season and there’s always that next game to change the course of things. It’ll be Mark Buehrle trying to do just that this afternoon as the Sox try to even the rain-shortened series before they head to face the D-backs in Arizona.

Sox Rainy Day Notes and Quotes…

 

Peavy will do what it takes

There is no “i” in team and apparently no “i” in Jake Peavy.  Before last night’s postponement, the Sox injury-plagued righthander said the following about his pending return from the DL:

“We’re sitting here talking about me coming back, and I’m telling Don Cooper and these guys, ‘I’ll do whatever needs to be done.'”  If I need to go to the bullpen and help out there, we have five starters doing their thing. I certainly think I can be a leader in the rotation as well and be as good as these guys have been. But I’ll do whatever it takes because there is no weak link right now on this team. We’re swinging the bat offensively. We’re starting to catch the ball and play fundamentally a lot better than we did early in the year.”

What do KW and Ozzie think? Word is that they think it’s too early to make the call.

 

You knew someone would bring it up and who better than Ozzie?

After all those years playing in what was a house of horrors for the White Sox, the skipper put it all in perspective:

“Where’s the Metrodome when you need it?” Ozzie, of course was referring to the fact that last night’s game wouldn’t have been called if the Twins still played indoors.

Finally, something positive for the Sox to say about the Twinkiedome.

 

Here and there…

No makeup date has been determined for the rainout…Gavin Floyd and Carl Pavano will still be the starters…Jesse Crain, an important Twins contributor for several years, is making his first trip back to his former baseball home since joining the Sox…Ozzie on Brent Lillibridge: “Can he show us he can play every day? Well, that would be nice. If you can produce very day, I’ll get you the shot. But, right now, we have to wait and see”…KW on Dayan Viciedo: “It would be awfully interesting to have him in this lineup. He’s ready. He’s obviously got some things he still needs to work on, but I would have no qualms about bringing him here.”

They’re Still the Twins

The Minnesota Twins are in strange territory for the middle of June. They are 13 games below .500 and in the basement of the A.L. Central as they host the White Sox for three games beginning tonight.

No Joe Mauer. No Joe Nathan. No Jim Thome. No Denard Span. No Jason Kubel. A different Justin Morneau. No Francisco Liriano (he won’t pitch in this series). Slumping Delmon Young and Danny Valencia and no Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier and Jon Rauch from a year ago. The pesky Nick Punto isn’t around anymore either.

Sounds like good news for the Sox, right? Wrong. As long as there are players wearing Twins jerseys, we can’t take anything for granted. And mark my words, they will give us fits.

There’s still Carl Pavano, who starts tonight for Minny, the always-troublesome Michael Cuddyer, exciting rookie outfielder Ben Revere and although Morneau, Young and Valencia aren’t yet themselves, it’s a good bet they’ll snap out of it against the Pale Hose. They always do, evidenced by the Twins 25-11 record against the Sox the last two seasons. The Twinkies also have rebounded a bit, having won eight of their last 10 games.

Gavin Floyd will be on the mound tonight for the South Siders in an attempt to get this six-game road swing off to a good start. A 4-2 trip in Minnesota and Phoenix will put us at .500. Hopefully we can do better than that.

Whew!

Admit it, you were asking yourself the same question I was asking myself in the ninth inning of today’s series finale against the A’s: Is it possible that Sergio Santos will blow two 5-3 leads in the ninth in the same series?

Thankfully the answer is no, but it wasn’t easy. The Sox closer escaped a heap full of self-induced trouble with the benefit of a favorable call to end the game as Sox nemesis Coco Crisp was called out on a bang-bang play at first, stranding the tying and lead runs.

For the middle of June, there was a lot at stake today. The win shaped the following headlines:

* The Sox are now only 3 1/2 games behind the A.L. Central lead as the pacesetting Tigers and Indians both lost.

* The South Siders moved to within two games of the .500 mark with the 6-4 homestand and are 33-35 as they head to Minnesota and Phoenix. A far cry from where we were a few weeks ago.

* Phil Humber, the find of the year, won his sixth game with yet another fine outing.

* Adam Dunn‘s three-run homer, his seventh, was a sight to behold.

* Like Dunn, it looks like Matt Thornton, who pitched a scoreless, hitless eighth, has turned things around.

* Paul Konerko drove in his 52nd run and trails only Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez among A.L. sluggers.

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