June 2011

Sox Notes of Note…

Some random thoughts as the White Sox begin a 10-day homestand tonight with three games against the Tigers, three vs. the Mariners and four against the A’s…

* As a long-time critic of Brent Lillibridge (pictured above), I’ve changed my tune. He’s become a big piece of the Sox puzzle. He’s also become a lot better player in the past year.

* Dallas McPherson has cleared waivers and is headed back to Charlotte. Will we ever see him back in the majors?

* What Sox players will be named to the All-Star team? Because of the numbers we won’t have any starters as usual, but Alexei Ramirez, Paul Konerko (unfortunately there is a lot of competition at first base), Sergio Santos and Carlos Quentin seem to be the candidates.

*With Phil Humber‘s surprising success, Ozzie seems very happy with the six-man rotation.

* It goes without saying that if the Sox are going to be in the thick of the division race at the end we’re going to need Adam Dunn and Alex Rios to turn their seasons around. Tonight would be a good time to start.

* One of the themes of our season has been the fact we’ve consistently faced the toughest pitchers in the league. The tradition continues on this homestand as the Pale Hose will see Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez and the very tough Oakland A’s starting staff.

* Don’t look now, but Gordon Beckham just might be on the road back. After a solid May, his average is .242 and climbing.

* Josh Phegley, who may very well be the Sox starting catcher after A.J. Pierzynski’s contract expires after 2012, had quite a game last night for AA Birmingham. The Indiana University product went four for four with seven RBIs against the Chattanooga Lookouts.

* Now 27-31, the Sox can end the homestand at .500 with a 7-3 mark. Can they close in on the Tribe’s eight-game lead? During the same period of time (thru Sunday, June 12), the Indians play the Rangers (3) and Twins (3) at home and the Yankees (3) on the road.

* If the South Siders do get back in the race, should we credit Ozzie’s Toronto tirade as the reason why?

Signs of Life

The White Sox, aka Road Warriors, completed their third three-city road swing since April 18 today by sweeping away the Red Sox in Boston, 7-4.  It was their seventh consecutive victory at Fenway Park and 13th win in the last 15 games against those “other” Sox.

Perhaps more important is that the Pale Hose finished the current trip to Texas (1-2), Toronto (1-3) and Boston (3-0) at .500, a lot easier number to swallow than the 2-5 mark we held on Sunday night after the mostly lost weekend in Toronto. The South Siders were 3-8 on the trip to Tampa Bay, Detroit and New York and bounced back to go 6-3 on the west coast against Seattle, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Oakland.

It’s hard to rank the many Sox positives as they head into tomorrow’s off-day and the three-game home series against the Tigers beginning Friday.  But here are a few to consider:

There’s the dominance against Boston, the fact we finally hit in the clutch during the three-game series, scoring 24 runs, and coming back today from a three-run deficit. And, of course, moving within four games of .500 for the season (27-31) and eight games behind the first-place Indians, who play tonight north of the border.

Individually, it was a team effort with almost everyone in the lineup making key contributions, though Adam Dunn and Alex Rios continue to struggle mightily. Alexei Ramirez, in particular, had a monster series with starters Jake Peavy, Phil Humber, Gavin Floyd (after early inning trouble today), a resurgent Chris Sale and dependable closer Sergio Santos among the mound stars.

There’s still a long way to go, but it’s an awfully nice way to start out the month of June.

In a Humber State of Mind

When the White Sox entered this season of “All In,” which of the following realities would you have thought was the most likely on June 1?

A.) Adam Dunn would be hitting .185 with just a handful of homers.

B.) Alex Rios would be a non-factor in the lineup and struggling to keep his batting average above .200.

C.) Phil Humber would be the ace of the White Sox starting staff with quality start after quality start and a 3.06 ERA.

I don’t think there’s any question that the most surprising individual development of 2011 is Humber. While we didn’t expect Dunn to be as bad as he’s been, we were well aware of his hit or miss persona. And while we expected Rios to duplicate his outstanding 2010 season, we saw how he struggled in 2009.

Humber, once a first-round draft choice projected to be a top of the rotation starter, seems to have finally arrived. He proved it again last night in the 10-7 Sox victory over Boston. For seven and two-third innings, he neutralized one of the most potent lineups in baseball. It was only David Ortiz‘s three-run bomb in the eighth off of Will Ohman with two inherited runners that brought Humber’s ERA over the 3.00 mark.

Sox Notes of Note:  The Sox won their sixth straight at Fenway Park last night, led by Alexei Ramirez‘s four-hit, three RBI effort. The night before, he collected two hits and two RBI. He’s currently elevated his BA to .290…In addition to Humber’s performance, the most satisfying take away from the first two games in Boston is the clutch hitting, which has been consistently invisible the first two months of the season…During the three, three-city road trips since April 18, the Sox are 13-16 with only this afternoon’s game left on the grueling portion of this schedule.