July 2011

A Loss, A Deadline and a Statue

It was inevitable.

The White Sox mastery over the “other” Sox (seven wins in a row) was bound to end some time. And it certainly did last night as the streak ended with a thud–a 10-2 battering at the hands of Boston.

With Edwin Jackson gone, Phil Humber is being counted on more than ever with the rotation going from six to five. For the first four innings he appeared to be up to the challenge, but he didn’t survive the fifth as a result of giving up a four-spot before being pulled from the game.

Jon Lester being on the mound didn’t help the South Siders’ cause. Our offense is problematic enough with facing the tough lefty, who gave up only two solo homers (Paul Konerko and Gordon Beckham), a total of four hits and struck out eight in eight innings of work.

The game was probably decided anyway, but Boston scored a run in the eighth and five in the ninth off of Brian Bruney, a rare meltdown by a bullpen that has been close to perfect. The good news is that Will Ohman, Jason Frasor, making his Sox debut, and Matt Thornton had effective outings out of the pen.

With the Yankees coming in for four starting tomorrow night, a series win today would be nice to see as we need to keep pace with the Tigers. Detroit remains three games ahead of us and a game and a half in front of the Indians. Both rivals have improved their pitching staffs as the trade deadline approaches. The Tigers acquired starter Doug Fister and reliever David Pauley from Seattle and the Tribe nabbed Ubaldo Jimenez from the Rockies.

Sox Notes of Note:  Kenny Williams indicated yesterday that the Jackson/Frasor deal very likely will be it as far as the Sox are concerned with the deadline this afternoon…The greatest hitter in the history of the franchise, Frank Thomas will be honored today with the unveiling of the newest outfield statue.

As SoxWorld Turns…

Rejoice White Sox fans, we’re back at .500 and seemingly on a roll after a nice, efficient 3-1 victory last night against the Red Sox.

Suddenly, things seem a lot bright brighter than they did a few days ago. Whether it’s the series victory over the Tigers, the emotional impact of the Edwin Jackson trade, the continued outstanding pitching, the callup of Alejandro De Aza and benching of Alex Rios or all the above, much more optimism is evident throughout White Sox Nation.

Certainly one of the biggest recent boosts has been the resurgence of Gavin Floyd, who lately has been lights out. In seven innings of work against Boston last evening he gave up a lone run (a homer to Jarrod Saltalamacchia) on three hits with five strikeouts and in the process evened his record to 9-9.  The offense, which is still not where it should be, provided just enough, highlighted by A.J. Pierzynski‘s two-run, seventh inning home run.

Three games back of Detroit and just a half-game behind second place Cleveland, it seems the Sox are going to make a serious run. But before I get too crazy, we still have two more games against the Red Sox, four vs. the Yankees and three in Minnesota. And who knows what trades are going to be made in the next two days that will impact the club.

I guess all that will take care itself. But, for now, like the Sox I’m back in the game.

One Fine Day

Quite a day on the South Side. Here are some of the highlights:

–The 2-1 victory over the Tigers, giving the Sox their second straight series win over Detroit and enabling them to move within 3 1/2 games of the division leaders.

Alejandro De Aza (above), just up from Charlotte, hit his first major league home run, which proved to be the difference in today’s triumph.

–De Aza’s promotion has moved Alex Rios to the bench, a smart move considering the latter’s disastrous season both at the plate and in the field.

John Danks was outstanding today, giving up only a run and six hits in six innings along with 10 strikeouts. Most impressive was the fact he got out of jam after jam against the tough Tiger lineup.

–The Trade: Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen to the Jays for reliever Jason Frasor and minor league pitcher Zach Stewart. The fact that Jackson will be a free agent at the end of the season made his departure an obvious move. Teahen is addition by subtraction. And Frasor, a Chicagoan who has always been tough on his hometown/new team, will be a big help in the pen.

For the record, Jackson was quickly dealt  from the Jays to the Cardinals for centerfielder Colby Rasmus, who was rumored to coveted by the Sox. Counting Toronto, who Jackson never played for, St. Louis is Jackson’s seventh team–Dodgers, Rays, Tigers, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Blue Jays, Cardinals–in his nine big league campaigns.

–Extra! Extra! Adam Dunn didn’t strike out today and had a hit and three walks. A cause for celebration.

–The bullpen has been extraordinary most of the season. This afternoon was no exception as Chris Sale and Sergio Santos (21st save) preserved the Danks win, coming in for three frames of perfect relief. Sale did most of the heavy lifting in his 2 2/3 innings of work as Santos retired one batter–Brennan Boesch, who made the final out.

Sox Note of Note: Apart from the Jackson deal, rumors are flying that other moves are on the way as the Sox try to cut some payroll. Could Matt ThorntonJuan PierreCarlos Quentin or even Danks and Gavin Floyd be next?

Tough, Tough Loss

The game last night was very winnable. Adam Dunn even homered to give the Sox a 2-0 lead, A.J. Pierzynski even threw out a runner at second base and Paul Konerko smashed a two-run homer to tie the game at 4-4.

But a name from our past, Wilson Betemit, reared his ugly head (nothing personal, Wilson) and singled in the eventual winning run and the hope of defeating Justin Verlander for the second time in a row went by the boards. For the record, Betemit is a guy who was horrible in his short stint, both at bat and on defense, on the South Side but as an opponent has owned Sox pitching.

I guess it just wasn’t to be as Jake Peavy weakened as the game went on and Matt Thornton couldn’t retire Betemit when he need to in the eighth. But even if Thornton had retired him, who knows if the Sox could scored the deciding run. We’ll never know.

So, no sweeping the Tigers, but a series victory is a must if the Sox are to keep pace with the division leaders. Especially with the Red Sox, Yankees and Twins looming.

Sox Note of Note:  Charlotte outfielder Alejandro De Aza, who is hitting .322, was pulled from his game last night. It has led to speculation that some kind of deal is in the works as we’re days away from the trading deadline. No official word yet.

Sox Ride Their Prize Horses to Win Over Tigers

The usual suspects led the White Sox to the very satisfying 6-3 victory over the Tigers last night–a win that brought the Sox to within 3 1/2 games of division-leading Detroit.

Mark Buehrle was again stellar, giving up zero earned runs in six innings. Carlos Quentin smashed a key two-run double in the fifth to give the South Siders a 4-2 lead. Paul Konerko hit a homer (23) and drove in a pair (72). And the bullpen did what they had to do even though Jesse Crain wasn’t at his best and gave up a run and two walks.

There was also familiarity in the negative column that included a bloop hit dropping in between Juan Pierre and Alex Rios, which at the time padded the Tiger lead in the third. It was reminiscent of the Sox early season woes. Adding to the usual, Adam Dunn and Rios did very little, though Dunn walked in the three-run fifth and Rios singled in the second.

In the nice surprise category Brent Morel, who hasn’t played regularly lately, delivered three singles to the White Sox’s 11-hit effort.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that Justin Verlander is on the mound for Detroit tonight. The Sox beat him recently, but can they do it again?

No Apologies, We’ll Take It

The way I look at it, we were due to win a game when the opposition commits three errors, including a misplayed flyball that scored a pair of runs (by Ezequiel Carerra, shown above).

The result? Sox 4, Tribe 2.

With the offense still far from where we need it to be, the good news continues to be the Pale Hose pitching–especially the bullpen, where Jesse Crain, Chris Sale and Sergio Santos followed a solid performance by Edwin Jackson and pitched flawless relief.

The Sox have now won six of seven from the Indians this season, a rare winning record against a division foe. But as thrilled as we might be about winning two in Cleveland and moving to within 2 1/2 of the second-place Tribe, the next 13 games could very well tell the story of our season.

Starting tomorrow night, it’s three against the Tigers, three vs. the Red Sox and four against the Yankees at the Cell. Then it’s on to Minnesota to face the Twins for three.

We should know a whole lot more about where we’re headed after the matinee against the Twinkies on Sunday, August 7.

Like you, I’ll be watching on the edge of my seat.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Headline: White Sox shut out Indians, 3-0.

Last night’s game began like so many others as the Sox stranded seven runners in the first three innings. Witnessing that familiar phenomenon, it was a “throw up your hands in disgust” moment for me, especially since it appeared that Ozzie’s rant in Kansas City had absolutely no effect on the troops.

But the South Siders overcame the slow start out of the blocks with a second straight post-All-Star Game gem by Gavin Floyd and a three-run homer by Carlos Quentin to go 4-3 on the road trip.

The win is certainly cause for cautious optimism, but not celebration–yet. There’s still two more games in Cleveland, then a stretch where the Sox will host the Tigers (3), Red Sox (3) and Yankees (4) before heading to Minnesota (3). And our offense is still far from clicking. Case in point: Quentin, with three, has the only Sox homers since the break.

Where do we go from here? One day at a time.

Ozzie on Warpath as Sox Head to Cleveland

I wrote yesterday that unless there was something new to write about, I would wait until there was.

My hope was that I could blog today about the start of a Sox turnaround. As we all know, that didn’t happen last night as the Sox dropped a disheartening 2-1, 11-inning decision to the Royals–but something fresh and new did occur. There are a whole slew of critical comments from Ozzie, many of which reflect the disappointment and and frustration of White Sox Nation.

Here’s a sampling:

*  “(Bleeping) pathetic. No (bleeping) energy. We just go by the motions. We take the day off instead of (Thursday).”

*  “One day we’re good, three days we’re bad. We don’t have energy in the dugout. A horse (bleep) approach at the plate for the 90th time.”

*  “If we go to Cleveland and play the way we did in Kansas City, it’s going to be a (bleeping), dead-(bleep) July. That’s very bad. We’re wasting our money on this club if we go to Cleveland the way we were here.”

*  “That’s the team we have all year long. I talk (trash) because what I see. That’s all is see. Nothing against the Kansas City pitching staff. The way we go about our business here, horse (bleep).

I think you get the picture.

The Clock is Ticking

I guess we have to face the reality of these 2011 White Sox.  It’s one step forward, two steps back–and it’s almost August.

Last night seemed to be a microcosm of what has happened over and over this season. A couple runs early, good-enough-to-win pitching, but not enough sustained offense to win the game.

Focusing in on the 4-2 loss to the Royals, it would have been nice if Jake Peavy hadn’t been touched for the eventual game-winning hit by journeyman Matt Treanor, best known as the husband of Olympic gold medal-winning volleyball player Misty May-Treanor. But that’s not the main issue. It’s the inability of the offense to rebound by rallying to overcome the deficit. Whether it’s been Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, Brent Lillibridge, or any of their teammates, we haven’t consistently gotten the job done.

As I wrote a few weeks back, it’s hard to figure it out other than pointing to the lack of the “it” factor. The Sox just don’t seem to have “it,” that special something we’ve seen this year in Cleveland. But yet our hopes are kept alive by the fact we’re still within striking distance of the division lead, which remains at 4 1/2 this morning after the Twins win over the Tribe.

Writing a daily blog is tiring when you’re basically repeating the same themes every day–and that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve decided to be a bit more discriminating and will write only when there’s something new to say.

My wish is that a winning streak begins tonight, we see some good signs and I’ll see you tomorrow. South Siders, it’s up to you.

Don’t Count on Adam and Alex

One thing is becoming pretty clear to all of us, despite our hopes to the contrary. If the White Sox are to win the A.L. Central and make their first postseason appearance since 2008, they are going to have to do it without major contributions from Adam Dunn and Alex Rios.

We have been thinking things will change, but it’s July 19 and nada.

The disappointing duo, once counted on to be at the heart of the Sox offense, show no signs of significant improvement. If you think about it, it’s pretty impressive that we’re only two games under .500 and 4 1/2 from the division lead without these two being major factors.

As well-chronicled here and elsewhere, Dunn has been and continues to be an absolute failure. He’s on his way to setting the all-time single-season strikeout mark and is threatening to record the lowest qualifying batting average in the last 91 years. He’s now at .158.

Rios is simply lost. It’s apparent he’s confused at the plate and his nonchalant attitude gives the impression he’s not trying. It’s painful to watch his struggles. He’s now at .208 and headed for Dunn territory.

Last night, as has been the case so many times before, the Sox were victorious despite Dunn and Rios. Between them they were 0 for 7 with four strikeouts (two apiece).

Things certainly can change, but right now the conventional wisdom is that any hope of October baseball is going to be accomplished with Nos. 32 and 51.

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