April 2012

We Needed That

We certainly can’t be happy with losing three of four to the Red Sox at home, but it doesn’t seem as bad when you salvage the series finale and end a five-game losing streak. Now the White Sox head into an off-day with a satisfying 4-1 win and get back to .500 at 11-11–tied with the Tigers for second place and just a game behind the Tribe, who invade the Cell for a three-game set on Tuesday night.

Gavin Floyd was the “man” today as he headed into the seventh inning with a no-hitter. He lost the no-no on a Dustin Pedroia single and the shutout on a Cody Ross RBI single and was replaced by Addison Reed. In 6 2/3 frames he allowed just the one run, three hits, one walk and nine strikouts. Reed pitched a scoreless inning and Matt Thornton was perfect in 1 1/3 with two strikeouts for the save. Even more impressive is that Thornton retired the heart of the Bosox lineup–Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz–in order in the ninth.

The Sox offense, with red-hot Paul Konerko out of the lineup with a stiff neck, held up their end of the bargain after the 1-0 loss on Saturday night. In a three-run first, Alex Rios had a RBI single and Adam Dunn a long two-run homer. The South Siders scored an insurance run in the eighth on a clutch two-out RBI by Dayan Viciedo.

Despite Three-Game Losing Streak, Sox Still in Early A.L Central Hunt; Is it Time for Reed to Take Over as the Closer?

As deflating as last night’s 10-3 loss to the Red Sox was, look at it this way. Despite the current three-game losing streak the Sox are still in a virtual tie for the A.L. Central lead. It seems that the division rivals, including the Tigers who just got swept at home by the Mariners, are struggling a bit as well.

It was only a few days ago that the Sox swept Seattle, won the opener of the A’s series and were at 10-6.  That’s just baseball. And the current slide aside, I feel good about how the Sox are playing. Just wish Gordon Beckham and Brent Morel could turn it around and Hector Santiago can avoid the long ball.

Beckham and Morel are mysteries. Will they turn it around? Will one or both spend some time in Charlotte? Will the Sox turn elsewhere at second and third? Stay tuned.

As far as the closer situation, the Sox certainly have options if Santiago’s problems continue. Addison Reed (pictured above) seems like the logical choice, but Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain (once he’s healthy) will be the mix as well.

I hope Hector overcomes his woes, but the thinking is here that Reed will be the closer by the All-Star break–maybe a lot sooner.

The Red Sox are Coming! The Red Sox are Coming!

You think that you have problems? Take a look for a moment at the Bobby Valentine Red Sox.

Although they just swept a three-game series from the Twins, the Bosox stand at 7-10 and are in the basement of the A.L. East as they invade the Cell starting tonight for a four-game series. And I’m sure they haven’t forgotten last Saturday’s debacle when they blew a 9-0 lead to the Yankees and lost to their bitter rivals, 15-9.

If that weren’t enough, they’ve lost two-thirds of their regular outfield with serious injuries to Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury, have a decimated bullpen that was severely weakened by an injury to new closer Andrew Bailey on the eve of Opening Day and the starting staff has been far from stellar. Add a little bit of smugness and unfortunate rhetoric from their new skipper and you have a team, as presently constituted, that will have trouble contending with the likes of the Yankees, Rays and even Blue Jays. That said, it will be interesting to see how the sweep in Minnesota has lifted their spirits.

Our Sox come in at 10-8 and in a virtual tie with the Tribe for the division lead after a 4-2 road trip to Seattle and Oakland.  It’ll Philip Humber on the mound tonight, fresh off of his perfect game. He’ll be facing promising youngster Felix Doubront.

Friday night it will be John Danks vs. converted reliever Daniel Bard, unbeaten Jake Peavy vs. Jon Lester on Saturday and Gavin Floyd vs. Josh Beckett on Sunday.

It wasn’t an oversight: No, I didn’t overlook yesterday’s 14-inning loss to Oakland. Just didn’t have the heart to revisit the bad memories.

How About These White Sox…and Tommy Lasorda’s Big Mistake

Jake Peavy did his best Philip Humber imitation, pitching a masterful three-hit, complete game shutout.  The back-to-normal Adam Dunn and red-hot Paul Konerko hit back-to-back homers in the fourth inning, giving Peavy all the support he needed to offset the outstanding outing by the A’s Bartolo Colon. And, in the end, the Sox went on to win their fourth straight with a 4-0 victory last night in Oakland.

Furthermore, take a look at the standings this morning. The only American League team with a better record is Texas at 13-4.  Right behind are the Sox and Tigers tied for the A.L. Central lead at 10-6 and the Yankees and Blue Jays knotted up for the A.L. East lead with the same record. Everyone else is behind these five leaders.

I know it’s early, but this is a lot of fun and I’m going to enjoy it.

Konerko on verge of 400th homer

Konerko’s homer last night was the 399th of his career, tying him for 48th place in major league history with Al Kaline and Andres Galarraga. One more and he joins the “400” club.

Paulie’s standing as one of the game’s Top 50 home run hitters brings to mind Tommy Lasorda‘s comment when the Dodgers traded Konerko to Cincinnati for reliever Jeff Shaw (the Sox acquired PK from the Reds for Mike Cameron). The Hall of Fame manager said, and I paraphrase, that he was comfortable making the deal because he didn’t see Konerko as a 20-homer guy in the major leagues.

As wrong as Lasorda was in judging Konerko’s home run prowess, he was right about one thing. Paulie isn’t a 20-homer slugger. From 1999-2011 in a White Sox uniform,  No. 14 averaged 30 homers.  He’s had 40 or more twice, 30 or more five times and 20 or more on five occasions.

So much for Lasorda as a talent evaluator.

White Sox Sweep; Next Up: A’s and Bartolo Colon

The impressive Robin Ventura White Sox brought out the broom today, completing a three-game sweep of the home-standing Mariners.

The Sox overcame another so-so John Danks effort and some shoddy defensive to defeat the Mariners, 7-4. The heroes? The resurgent Alex Rios, who went 3 for 4 with three RBIs including a triple that tied the score at four; Kosuke Fukudome, who drive in his first two runs in a Sox uniform; and the bullpen in the persons of Addison Reed (7th inning), Matt Thornton (8th) and Hector Santiago (9th), who shut down Seattle with each pitching a scoreless inning.

The South Siders head to Oakland with Rios (.333), Paul Konerko (.362) and A.J. Pierzynski (.348) sporting pretty gaudy batting averages. Add Adam Dunn‘s long balls and 14 RBIs and it’s suddenly quite a middle of the lineup.

Even though red-hot Jake Peavy is on the mound tomorrow night against the A’s, the Sox are going to need all that offense and more with the ageless Bartolo Colon on the mound. The former Good Guy has been out of this world thus far this season and last week even hurled 38 straight strikes.

Don’t look now, but the team that most dismissed in their spring predictions is 9-6 and only a half-game behind those “unbeatable” Tigers.

Is Humber’s Gem Just the Start of Something Big?

As we all know, our White Sox are a team that entered 2012 way, way under the radar, even picked by many to finish in the cellar of the A.L. Central.

In the first 14 games of the season, the Sox have mostly impressed with a respectable 8-6 record.  Paul Konerko, Jake Peavy, Chris Sale, Alejandro De Aza and even 2011 disappointments Adam Dunn and Alex Rios have led the way.

Now, Philip Humber, a terrific example of talent, humility and persistence, has pitched the 21st perfect game in major league baseball history in yesterday’s 4-0 victory over the Mariners. By itself, it was the ultimate accomplishment for a pitcher and an historic feat by every measure. But I’m hoping for more.

I know that they say momentum is nothing more than the next day’s starting pitcher, but I’d like to think Humber’s gem can put the Sox in a whole different mindset–a renewed sense of confidence that will fool the experts and create a genuine threat to the Tigers. Am I asking for too much? Maybe, but it can’t hurt to think about it.

It will be a while before we can judge if this remarkable event on April 21 was a positive turning point in a season that started with much pessimism in most places outside of the Sox clubhouse. But wouldn’t it be something if that celebration pictured above of Humber’s teammates toasting his perfecto becomes just one of a series of South Side victory parties.

Humber is Perfect

                 Philip Humber hurls perfect game in 4-0 Sox victory over the Mariners.

A New Hitting Coach and a Medicine Ball Rejuvenate a Beleaguered Dunn

Poor Adam Dunn.

It now comes to light that he may not have had to endure his historically-awful 2011 season if Jeff Manto was the hitting coach.

You see, Dunn spoke yesterday of Manto’s unconventional method of having the slugger swinging a bat with a medicine ball–yes, a medicine ball–between his legs to help keep him from lunging which preserves his overall balance.

So far, at least, the results are clear. Dunn’s been a different hitter as of late, coming up with clutch hits and going the other way to boot. Last night, he drove in five runs in the 7-3 Sox victory over the Mariners with an opposite field, run-scoring double and a pair of homers, one a towering three-run shot.

After the first 13 games of the season he’s now got three homers, 12 RBIs, a .265 batting average (more than 100 points higher than he finished last year), a .368 on-base percentage and .940 OPS.

The strikeouts (22) are still there and, let’s face it, they always wil be for a hitter of this ilk. But I think that you’ll agree that we can live with that, if we get those home runs and run-scoring doubles.

Up and Down Sox are .500 After First Dozen Games

As the White Sox head out to Seattle and Oakland for three games each with the Mariners and A’s, we’re a .500 team. Not so horrible, I guess, but losing three of four at home to the Orioles makes it feel much worse. Especially since we were in every game and raised everyone’s expectations by  taking two of three from the Tigers to open the homestand.

There were certainly positive signs in the Baltimore series as Adam Dunn and Alex Rios both had clutch hits (something rare a year ago), Paulie is Paulie and Jake Peavy is heading into 2007 territory when he won the Cy Young with the Padres. That said, Gavin Floyd (above) left a lot to be desired on the mound, the offense is striking out way too much and either not getting on base enough or leaving too many aboard. In yesterday’s game, the South Siders struck out 16 times and left the bases loaded three times. Certainly not something to build on.

The good news is that we’re only 12 games into the season. The next 150 will determine whether or not we’re more than a .500 team.

Two to Forget

I couldn’t bear to post my blog yesterday after the Sox meltdown Monday night against the Orioles. A 4-2 lead in the ninth should be enough, but we all know that there are always going to be a bunch of these heartbreakers during the course of the season. We just don’t want to admit it–and I couldn’t face writing about it, especially the 10-4 final score.

I had good feelings about the South Siders bouncing back last night with John Danks on the mound, but very few teams are going to win games with two, maybe three hitters, doing what they’re supposed to do. The result? a 3-2 loss.

To state the obvious, we are struggling offensively. Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham are among the culprits along with Brent Morel. And the few who are on their game,  like Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski, haven’t provided enough firepower to overcome the slackers.

The new skipper is still showing confidence in the non-producers. It’ll be interesting to see how long he waits before a makes an adjustment or two.

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