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Time for a Change After Sox Clock Twins

To My Loyal Readers:

As I approach the third anniversary of writing Art of the Pale Hose, I’m still enjoying the process of blogging about the ins and outs and ups and downs of my favorite baseball team. It’s been especially fun to write about the victories–like last night’s 6-0 shutout win over the Twins behind Chris Sale and a potent offense, which was highlighted by Alex Rios and Paul Konerko home runs.

That said, one thing is going to change–I’m moving to another venue and this is my last day on mlblogs.com.

The good folks at ChicagoNow.com, the popular Chicago Tribune-owned blog network with several hundred blogs covering all interests, have asked me to join their select roster of White Sox bloggers. It will give me the opportunity to reach you as well as a new universe of Sox fans.

So, beginning tomorrow (Friday), you can find me at chicagonow.com/art-pale-hose. I hope you will join me there. And I thank you for your loyal support.

Best regards and Go Sox!

Art Berke

6 Possible Explanations for the 9-2 Blowout

I can’t say last night’s 9-2 thrashing by the Twins was a big surprise, though I would have preferred a fifth straight win and the chance to get over the .500 mark.

1. First of all, it would have been natural to have a letdown after the emotionally-charged weekend sweep at Wrigley.

2. The off-day on Monday might very well have stifled the Sox momentum.

3. Earlier in the day, the Sox attended the funeral of popular batting practice pitcher/coach Kevin Hickey. So, the day probably manifested into more of a reflective one than an atmosphere suited for a hard-nosed victory on the baseball diamond.

4. We continue NOT to play our best ball against the Twins. We’ve gotten better lately, but I guess it’s something about those uniforms.

5. The Sox have trouble facing pitchers they’ve never seen.

6. If the first five points didn’t contribute to the disappointing loss, this one certainly did: Simply put, this kind of blowout happens in baseball.

Impressive Sweep at Wrigley Puts Sox at .500

It was three days of fun for White Sox fans this weekend as solid pitching and a bevy of home runs carried the Sox to an impressive and very satisfying three-game sweep over the Cubs at Wrigley. And, more importantly, the South Siders, having won four in a row, now stand at .500 with a 21-21 record and are in second place only 2 1/2 games behind the first place Indians.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get better after the Friday and Saturday wins, the Sox rose to the occasion this afternoon winning 6-0, the first time the North Siders have been shut out this season. The Sox pounded out three more home runs–back-to-back fourth inning blasts by Gordon Beckham and Adam Dunn and a fifth inning solo clout by Tyler Flowers–giving them eight for the series. Dunn and Beckham led the way with two apiece while Flowers,  A.J. Pierzynski, Dayan Viciedo and Paul Konerko hit one apiece.

Starters Philip Humber, John Danks and Jake Peavy did a terrific  job–combining for 19 innings, two earned runs only 11 hits and 13 strikeouts–and the bullpen, with the exception of Zach Stewart giving up four runs in the ninth yesterday when the game was already in hand, closed the door. Peavy, by the way, is now 5-1 with a 2.39 ERA.

Hopefully the winning streak continues as the Sox open a three-game series on Tuesday night against the Twins.

Peavy, Sox Go For Sweep and .500 Mark

The long ball.

That’s been the key factor for the White Sox in the first two games of the Crosstown Series. On Friday, it was Paul Konerko‘s two-run homer and Gordon Beckham‘s tie-breaking blast that proved to be the difference in the 3-2 victory over the Cubs. Last night, Dayan Viciedo, A.J. Pierzynski and Adam Dunn all went deep in the Sox’s impressive 7-4 triumph.

Today, the Sox are hoping for more of the same and have the added bonus of having Jake Peavy on the mound. A win would give the South Siders a satisfying sweep and put them at the .500 mark.

Sox Notes of Note: According to reports, veteran second baseman Orlando Hudson (below), recently released by the Padres, is on his way to the White Sox. Word is he will back up Beckham and play a little third base as well. While he played third in the minor leagues, Hudson has never played the position at the big league level. I don’t see a downside with the signing, even though Hudson has been with five teams since 2008 and has been going downhill fast. He’ll be making the major league minimum salary and if he doesn’t cut it, it won’t be hard to let him go. Look at it this way, as a backup he brings a positive veteran presence and he can’t be much worse at the plate than Brent Morel has been…The baseball gods must be on our side as it looks like Captain Konerko has escaped the Friday beaning without any long-term issues. It could have been so much worse.

A Big Win and Sweet Revenge

The Chicago media will undoubtedly turn today’s game into a celebration of Kerry Wood‘s career as he pitched for the last time and walked off the field to a Standing O. And Cub fans will eat it up. After all, they have to find something to cheer about about after more than a century without experiencing the ultimate baseball accomplishment.

Congratulations Kerry, but we Sox fans look at today much differently…

–It was a nice 3-2 victory with a fine start by Phil Humber and scoreless relief by Matt Thornton (Humber was charged with both runs), Nate Jones and new closer Addison Reed.

–It was a game where we got sweet revenge with cocky headhunter Jeff Samardzija, who hit Paul Konerko in the face with a pitch after Paulie clocked him with a two-run homer in his first time at bat. The payback came when Gordon Beckham touched what’s his name with an eighth-inning, solo blast that proved to be the difference.

So, while they’ll be lifting a glass (or 12) to Wood in Wrigleyville tonight, I’ll be grateful that Alex Rios‘s ninth inning  “lost in the sun” fly ball didn’t affect the outcome, happy for the beleaguered Beckham and pray that Paulie is OK.

Cubs Loom as Sox Wing Their Way Home From Cali

The quick two-game road trip to the left coast, between the pair of games against the Tigers last Monday and Tuesday and the upcoming weekend series at Wrigley beginning tomorrow, ended today in a split. At least the plane trip home will be a pleasant one.

Speaking of pleasant, the offense woke up in the 6-1 victory over the Angels. The red-hot A.J. Pierzynski pounded out three hits with two RBIs and four players had two hits apiece: Adam Dunn (2 RBIs), Paul Konerko (RBI), Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez. Dayan Viciedo, who is on a tear, added his sixth home run.

Chris Sale got credit for this fourth victory, pitching 5 1/3 innings. The only run he surrendered came on Albert Pujols third homer, his second in two days. Nate Jones (1 1/3 innings), Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain ( an inning apiece) closed the door the rest of the way with a scoreless 3 2/3.

Now, the Cubs.

After a Tough Loss, the Sox Try to Make the Best of a Brutal Schedule

Halfway through yesterday’s game, with the Sox leading 6-0, I started to think about what I was going to write about the Sox’s two-game sweep over the Tigers.

Then came the  top of the sixth inning and all I could think about is “Hold the Presses.”

Andy Dirks singles. Miguel Cabrera homers. Prince Fielder doubles. Alex Avila grounds out, Fielder to third. Brennan Boesch is hit by a pitch. Ryan Raburn homers. Jhonny Peralta walks. (Will Ohman replaces Jake Peavy). Pinch-hitter Delmon Young is hit by a pitch, Peralta to second. Austin Jackson homers. Dirks pops out. Cabrera lines out to center.

D-i-s-a-s-t-e-r.

Heading into the ninth trailing 10-6, The Sox did make it interesting. They scored twice and had runners on second and third with Dayan Viciedo representing the winning run at the plate. Tank hit a long drive to right that came within a few feet of sending Sox fans home happy. But it was not to be.

Now comes the fun part. After losing a tough game, the Sox entourage took the long flight to Cali to face the Angels in a two-game series, today and tomorrow. Then it’s back to Chicago to face the Media Darlings at Bartman Field. What were the schedule-makers thinking?

Sox Note of Note:  A.J. Pierzynski was on fire yesterday, going 5 for 5 with three RBIs and two runs scored.

Time to Win Again, He’s Had His Phil of Losing

I’d prefer to ignore the details of last night’s disappointing 5-0 shutout loss to the Royals and move on…the good news is that the Indians and Tigers both also lost and the White Sox remain just 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Tribe.

Since the Sox dropped to 16-18 on the season, today won’t get us to .500 or beyond. That’s what happens when you’re flirting with .500–a loss makes it harder to catch up.

Aside from getting back on the road to .500 and winning the rubber game of the series with K.C., today’s game is important as it relates to Philip Humber. Since his perfect game, he’s spiraled downward. With Jake Peavy pitching as well as anyone in baseball, Gavin Floyd performing as well as he ever has, John Danks rebounding in his last outing and Chris Sale with a whole bunch of promise in his initial starts, a resurgent Humber would round out a pretty potent staff. What we don’t need is a weak link.

So keep an eye on Humber and let’s hope the bats come alive for our 17th win.

A Parade of Heroes

As the White Sox inched closer to the .500 mark (16-17) with their impressive 5-0 victory over the Royals last night, they did it with a solid team effort, a dynamic we would love to continue.

Here are the main candidates for Player of the Game:

* Gavin Floyd, who recorded his third victory with 7 2/3 of shutout baseball. He allowed just five hits and two walks while striking out five as he lowered his ERA to 2.53.

* Adam Dunn, who gave the Sox an early 1-0 first innning lead with a towering homer, also doubled and walked twice as he ended his major league record of most consecutive games with a strikeout at 36. Dunn now has the same number of home runs he had ALL of last season (11), 26 RBIs and with a .257 batting average is hitting about 100 points higher than his final 2011 figure. Add a .401 on base percentage and a 1.030 OPS and can you say Comeback Player of the Year?

* Alex Rios, now batting .284, drove in the fourth and fifth Sox runs with his third triple of the season. While the Sox ultimately didn’t need the runs, the fact they were on the board made things much more relaxed when the Royals loaded the bases with one out in the eighth.

And a few Honorable Mentions

Alejandro De Aza continued his hot streak with a pair of hits, an RBI and a run scored…Gordon Beckham, making his own comeback, also had a couple of hits, an RBI and a run scored…Matt Thornton struck out K.C. phenom Eric Hosmer with the bases loaded in the eighth…Hector Santiago pitched a perfect ninth with a strikeout to end the game.

Sox Note of Note:  After a clean MRI, Chris Sale is back in the rotation. The new closer? Maybe Addison Reed, maybe a committee in the short term.

6 Random Thoughts on the Off-Day

This and that from SoxWorld following an impressive 8-1 victory over the Indians to split the four-game series after dropping the first two…

1. Alejandro De Aza is a terrific story. Signed by the Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 2001 and later drafted by the Marlins in the 2004 Rule 5 draft, it wasn’t until 2007 that he finally made his big league debut with Florida. He was selected off waivers by the White Sox after the 2008 season and 10 years after signing with L.A., De Aza became a regular last year, hitting .329 with a .400 on base percentage in 54 games from the leadoff spot. Based on his 2011 performance, the Sox felt he was ready to take over permanently–evidently they were right. So far this season he has been outstanding, As a result of his red-hot series in Cleveland his batting average has risen to .285 with a .369 on base percentage.

2. Adam Dunn continues his quest for “Comeback of the Year.” He connected with home run No. 10 last night, giving him 25 RBIs. Add that to an OPS of .970, all indications point to the fact that he is indeed “back.”

3. Paul Konerko keeps rolling along. He’s been so good and so consistent in his first 31 games that there’s a tendency to take him for granted. That, of course, would be a mistake. He’s got six homers and 18 RBIs along with a .345 batting average and a terrific 1.010 OPS.

4. Dayan Viciedo is due to break out anytime now–and, boy, would it be welcomed. If Viciedo can overcome his slow start (3 homers. 5 RBIs, .204 BA), it would mean so much to the offense. Let’s hope he snaps out of it soon.

5. Brent Morel has been struggling, to say the least. He has yet to hit a home run, has only four RBIs and is hitting a paltry .172. The skipper has shown his support for his starting third baseman, but if Morel doesn’t turn it around it’s inevitable a change will be made. There doesn’t seem to be a great alternative on the current roster (platoon of Escobar and Lillbridge?) and the likely choice at AAA Charlotte, Dallas McPherson, has been injured.

6. Jake Peavy‘s performance this season has been amazing. Don’t be surprised if he’s an All-Star and a candidate for his second Cy Young.

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