Monthly Archives: June 2011

Squeaking out a series win. Or: The Bullpen Olympics and the Utility-Player Hoedown.

For all intents and purposes, the Chicago White Sox played themselves this week.

There were runners stranded everywhere, sporadic (at best) offense, and failure to execute in the clutch. The fact that the White Sox squeaked out 2 wins in the last 3 games is, again, a testament to our pitching – and possibly the random nature of the universe.

However, kudos to the bullpen. I’m pretty sure that when we went into this series, no one was going to expect Ohman to grab a loss, followed by wins for Bruney and Crain. The deciding run came in the 13th inning, the 9th inning, and the 10th inning in each of these games.

I had the Colorado feed for the first 2 games of this series. I’d bet good money that the people who work for Roots Sports in Colorado haven’t been watching the White Sox this year. Firstly, they seemed surprised when we didn’t score with runners in scoring position, they were impressed with the number of double plays that the Rockies were able to turn, and seemed to not realize that Juan Pierre has been struggling of late.

However, it turns out that Juan Pierre really likes playing in Colorado, going .500 for the series and missing a grand slam by about a foot below the top of the RF wall (seriously. Juan Pierre. there aren’t even words for the surrealness of this.) – but still managing to drive in three clutch RBIs today.

Also of note, we started the game with a Sunday afternoon lineup on a Thursday. Aside from Omar, who has historically hit very well against Aaron Cook, it seemed as though the rest of the lineup was pulled out of a hat – with Quentin, Konerko and AJ (who combined for all of our RBIs and 3/4 runs from the win yesterday) on the bench.

Jake Peavy had a relatively good outing, aside from the first inning, but certainly not as good as his relief appearance the other day. Juan Pierre likes playing in Colorado, but Adam Dunn went from striking out to grounding into 2 double plays. And, when we were down by 4-1 in the 7th, it seemed like the lack of offense had the writing on the wall. However, when we squeaked up to 4-2 (Gordon Beckham finally had a good offensive day), the regulars started sneaking into the lineup and the day started looking up.

    Original Line-Up –> Final Line-up

  • 1. Juan Pierre LF
  • 2. Omar Vizquel 3B –> Mark Teahen 3B
  • 3. Adam Dunn 1B –> Mark Teahen 1B –> Paul Konerko 1B
  • 4. Alex Rios CF
  • 5. Mark Teahen RF –> Brent Lillibridge RF
  • 6. Alexei Ramirez SS
  • 7. Ramon Castro C –> AJ Pierzynski C
  • 8. Gordon Beckham 2B
  • 9. Jake Peavy P –> (Carlos Quentin) –> Will Ohman –> (Brent Morel) –> Chris Sale –> Jesse Crain –> Sergio Santos

What it boiled down to in a nutshell was: We used everyone on our bench and by the end of the day, our lineup looked more like a Friday night line-up. This series started out with the bullpen olympics followed by the utility-player hoedown and somehow, we ended up scraping wins 2 out of 3 days.

It was weird and it was messy, but we’re scuffling right now, so I’ll take it.

Now, back to the North Side and, well, at least the Cubs went extra-innings today, too. But, someone should probably send bottle of Aleve, a case of Red Bull and a massage therapist over to the White Sox bullpen, just in case.

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Not much fun on the west coast today. Or: Another extra-inning disappointment extravaganza!

So, I’m worried that the Chicago White Sox pitching staff is going to stage a mutiny.

Another long, long, long, long low-scoring game with almost no offensive production. The pitching staff, from the top to the bottom, have been giving the Sox chance after chance after chance to win ballgames – not just today. But, over and over and over again. But, as usual, we found the White Sox in the middle of another 13-inning offensive meltdon with about 257 runners left on base and the bats going to sleep well before the 7th-inning stretch while breezing through the vast majority of the bullpen. Again.

Seriously. If I were a position player on this team, I would be sleeping with one eye open. And keeping myself alert for tar and feathers and flaming sticks. Somewhere, there is a stat about how many losses each team has when their starting pitcher gives them a quailty start. And, I bet the White Sox are winning.

At least no one else in the AL Central wants to win the division either (ie: the Indians, Tigers and Royals all lost today today, Minnesota being the only team with a W today). Giant pile of suck.

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There is no “I” in team. Or: It’s never dull on the South Side.

I ❤ the White Sox. They frustrate the snot out of me sometimes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love ’em.

And, today was certainly a day on the South Side.

When your starter leaves the game after 1 2/3 innings of work, you have at least 2 problems. One: your starter is injured. Two: You have to make it through at least another 7 and 1/3 innings.

When it happens on a day after your entire bullpen was used in an epic 14-inning rollercoaster (and, not to mention that your traditional “long man” is on the DL), you have a whole extra set of problems.

Well, Brian Bruney (DFA’ed by Washington last year, coincidentally) came out and pitched 2 1/3 and then Jake Peavy made his first career relief appearance. His previous 238 appearances in the big leagues had all been starts. Anyone who follows the White Sox knows that when he was about to come off the DL, Peavy offered to take a place in the bullpen, if they wanted to disband the 6-man rotation and they felt that he could help from the pen. He’s an amazing competitor and, obviously, a real team player.

“We manage and coach big games, bad games, close games. But [I won’t forget] this one, just because the way the team stuck together at that particular time,” Guillen said. “When Danks went down, everyone knew much we were struggling in the pen. We couldn’t use a couple guys and all of a sudden three guys came up and said I’m ready to go just in case you need me. That’s class act. As a team, I hope this thing takes off to the next level and we start playing better.”

“I think Peavy jinxed it,” Guillen said. “He went to my office before the game and said, ‘[If] you need me, I’ll be available.’ I said, ‘[If] we need you, we’re in trouble.’ Well sometimes you’ve got to be careful what you say. All these games I’ve been managing in my career, I think this one I’m not going to forget.”
(Click here to watch Ozzie talk about the awesome team spirit attitude today in his post-game press conference)

Serendipitously, AJ Pierzynski was sitting out today (giving his knees a rest after the 14 inning Friday game) and had to catch for Peavy while he was warming up in the bullpen. Professionals and competitors, they appeared to have forgotten about their disagreement during Peavy’s last start, so we obviously all should as well.

I haven’t given out a gold star in a while, but I think today definitely deserves a gold star.

Peavy was dealing. 7K, 1H, 0BB and 0R in 4 innings of relief. If he hadn’t hadn’t had to sit so long on the bench while we grabbed a couple of insurance runs in the 8th, he wanted to come out and pitch the 9th. We were happy for the insurance runs and, hey, it’s always nice to watch Santos deal out a 3-out save.

And, since we’re focusing on the positive today and ignoring the nagging negative stuff: Brent Lillibridge continued his streak of diving in the outfield to save runs for John Danks (even when he’s not in the game anymore). Rios and Morel went 3-for-4 and Ramon Castro continues to be the best back-up catcher in the American League (and, I’m biased and I don’t care).

So, one more chance to eek closer to .500 tomorrow. But, win or lose. I still love my boys.

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And, the benches were cleared. Or: 14 innings is a long, long ballgame.

So, last night we lost a heck of a fight in 14 innings. Ozzie said post-game that he couldn’t tell if they played well or if they played badly. In reality, there was probably a little bit of both. There were some flashes of utter brilliance, followed by the same old story of failure to execute. And, there was just some plain old bad luck. And, I think we all feel a little bit like Matt Thornton (see left). Last night and this morning.

The Good: Mark Teahen improbably tied the game in the bottom of the 9th with his first pinch hit home run (a 3 run bomb). And, then we tied it up in the bottom of the 10th on a wild pitch. And, then AJ Pierzynski (riding a bit of a hot streak himself) tied it up again in the bottom of the 11th with a solo HR. We were gritty and scrappy and that was fun to see.

The Bad: We had 2 men on with 1 man out in the first two innings and couldn’t score any of them. We had the bases loaded with one out and couldn’t get anyone across the plate. We had a very-poorly timed error in the top of the 14th inning that was the catalyst for the winning runs. We are still the guinea pig for everyone else’s running game. We used everyone on our bench and, not to mention, our entire bullpen did a few days worth of work and they’re all going to be exhausted today. Not a great thing on the first day back from an off-day. In fact, had we not lost it in the 14th, Phil Humber would have been our next reliever – making a reliever out of one of our 6 starters for the second time this year.

The Bad Luck: There was a close call that went our way when it didn’t really matter (but have you EVER seen Paul Konerko confront an umpire before? I think we probably won that call on the basis of Paulie being pissed off for the first time in recorded history.), there was a close call that didn’t go our way when it really mattered, and – for the first time in a long time- Adam Dunn hit a 2-run homer that would have completely changed the landscape of the game and it was robbed from over the outfield fence.

In conclusion: UGH. It was the battle of the blown saves, and we came out on top. Or bottom. Or, you know, on the losing end.

And, I’m trying not to think about the last time we did the 14-inning loss. It was a month ago in Toronto and Edwin Jackson got the loss (though, he certainly pitched better last night) and then Johnny Danks was up the next day and we got our read-ends whipped soundly by the Blue Jays (14-3, was it?).

I worry for our interleague streak right now. And, of course, the continuing quest for .500.

Edited early afternoon to add:
So, my pet theory that Johnny Danks refuses to pitch unless Brent Lillibridge is in the outfield continues to be substantiated. In Danks’ last three starts (ie: his first three wins of the season), Brent has made a highlight-worthy, run-saving catch. The CF layout against SEA, robbing Coco Crisp of an 8th inning HR against OAK, and knocking a would-be HR back into the park for a no-RBI double instead of a 2-run homer against ARI.

And, here we are today with #18 getting the start in LF. Granted, it’s probably b/c in the hit-parade that was last-night, Juan Pierre went 0-fer, but I like my theory, so I’m sticking with it.

My brain is a fun place to live, thanks for asking.

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2 out of 3 ain’t bad. Or: the inter-league streak is still alive.

Fortunately for the White Sox, and my sanity, they managed to grab the last two of the three games in the Cubs’ series.

Game 2 – First, there was some good pitching (we expect nothing less when Mark Buehrle is on the mound). And, then there was rain and wind. Lots and lots of rain and wind. The inability of the grounds-crew to get the tarp on the infield almost became the story of the game. I personally had a soft spot for Southpaw in his rain gear.

Well, we went to rain delay in typical White Sox style – with our starter left in one batter too long – and came back to the Cubs batting with one out and runners on first and third. So, in a surprise to no one who has watched any White Sox baseball this year, Jesse Crain started things off after the rain delay and continued to earn his paycheck, with an appearance by 2010 Matt Thornton and May 2011 Sergio Santos. Paul Konerko was on fire, continuing his HR barrage, but it was an incredibly well-timed sac fly after an epic battle at the plate by Brent Morel to try drive in the winning run. He’s never going to win a silver slugger, but he’s made remarkable progress this year in putting together some professional and timely at-bats. It’s nice to see. Paul Konerko can’t win ’em all for us.

Game 3 – Lots of stuff happened. Jake Peavy came off the DL. And, while he (self-admittedly) didn’t have his best stuff, he battled it out for the win (again, left in 2 batters too long. But, in Ozzie-land, we’re used to that.) AJ Pierzynski legged out a 2-RBI triple (his first triple in 2 years) and there’s been a happy little spark in Alexei Ramirez and Alex Rios’ bats.

Again, the bullpen was on fire – fine performances from Crain, Sale, Thornton and Santos. Brent Lillibridge came out of the game with 2 RBI and (as he said) the ball never went further than 5 feet. He got plunked with the bases loaded for the winning RBI. And, yeah, there was some sort of very-unsurprising fight between Jake Peavy and AJ Pierzynski (I know I was shocked – I never could have predicted the two of them butting heads) in the dugout.

But, really, the highlight of this entire game (for me) was some smart baserunning by AJ Pierzynski on Brent Lillibridge’s 4th inning suicide squeeze.

Who doesn’t love a well-executed suicide squeeze? Not even my defense-loving heart is immune to appreciating the beauty of the well-executed suicide. (As usual, click on the photo to watch the video.)

So, the White Sox squeaked out their 17th straight inter-league series victory and, next up, the Nationals come to town. For the second time this season, we get to take on a team the day after they have a managerial change. They’re on a hot streak right now. So, in spite of their manager quitting, I would be lying if I told you that I wasn’t worried about them.

Go Sox!

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Fun facts for a Tuesday afternoon. Or: Avoidance tactics-r-us!

At this blog, we do not talk about games where Gavin Floyd suffers a nuclear meltdown and gets left in the game to flounder. Therefore, we will continue to not talk about yesterday and focus on some fun, not-so-fun, and completely random statistical facts from ChiSox land. Also known as…

Things you were already thinking about the Chicago White Sox, but now you can back up with stats:

  • Carlos Quentin leads the majors in being hit-by-pitches (16). Danny Espinosa (WSH) is behind him with 12. And, in third, is BJ Upton (ARI) with 9. So far, seems like Quentin’s going to run away with this title again. It seems like he just plants himself in the batter’s box and holds his ground. If they’re going to miss that far inside, he’s going to take his base, thankyouverymuch. He’s a tough dude.
  • AJ Pierzynski and Alexei Ramirez are tied for 4th in MLB for GIDP (12), with Alex Rios not far behind tied for 8th (11). So, that feeling of deja vu you feel with 1-out and runners on 1st and 3rd? You’re probably not imagining it.
  • Juan Pierre is still tied for first in leading MLB in sacrifice hits (10). But, more surprising, Paul Konerko is tied for 2nd with sacrifice flies (6). I don’t know if I had appreciated that of Paul Konerko.
  • Paul Konerko’s a steady player on a wicked hot streak and Carlos Quentin has been more intermittently streaky so far this season, but averaged out throughout the season so far, they’re pretty close in plate appearances per home run. 13.3 for Paul, 14.7 for Carlos. I think it’s time for Carlos to get on another hot streak.
  • AJ Pierzynksi and Juan Pierre are the two hardest guys to strike out in MLB. Adam Dunn, unsurprisingly, is the easiest.
  • Will Ohman has the highest K/BB ratio of our pitchers. Seriously… who knew? Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd round up 2nd and 3rd.
  • There are only 5 qualified starting pitchers in MLB who get less run support than John Danks. Two of them are on the Angels. Halos fans can feel our pain.
  • Phil Humber is tied for the 4th best WHIP in MLB. Tied for 3rd in the AL. Phil Humber wants a raise next year.

Crosstown Classic v.2.0 this evening. I’m mentally preparing myself.

And, stocking up on chocolate.

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A couple in the win column. Or: Would Paul Konerko hit 80 home runs per season as a D-back?

Well, the White Sox ended their three-game losing streak over the last two games. And, I’ll get to that in a minute. But, first, it’s time to talk about a member of the White Sox I don’t talk about much.

Paul Konerko is having a ridiculously awesome June. Coming into this weekend, he was batting .404 for the month of June, with 6 extra-base hits and 14 RBIs.

The rumor mill was (loudly) whirling in the off-season and it seems like the D-Backs were interested in signing Arizona-native Paul Konerko as a free-agent.

After this weekend, they are probably wishing they’d tried just a little bit harder.

Being at home must really agree with him, as we watched him hit a HR in each of the three games in this series. He was just generally on fire. Ozzie originally had planned to sit Paul today and let Adam Dunn play 1B, but honestly, you could practically plug Adam Dunn in at third base and almost still be better off, just by keeping Paul in the game. Well, obviously, that isn’t what happened, but Adam gave a (mildly slumping) Carlos Quentin a day off in RF – a position he has at least played before, albeit 2 years ago with the Nationals.

There were a lot of fun highlights this weekend, but there were a few things to be particularly happy about.

Saturday – John Danks took a liner off his head – AND THEN CONTINUED PITCHING, GETTING THE WIN. Brent Lillibridge managed to catch (and subsequently drop) *another* home run (I think John Danks is going to start requesting Lillibridge in the OF when he pitches) and prevented the tying and go-ahead run from scoring. Paul Konerko hit his daily homer, but even more remarkable was the 3-run BOMB from Alex Rios. Felt like we’d been waiting for that one forever. And, then another great inning of work each by Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton.

Sunday – The typical Sunday afternoon lineup was in full effect. Phil Humber continued to pitch like our staff ace – making the case for a hefty raise next year – and both Juan Pierre and AJ Pierzynski seemed rejuvenated by sitting on the bench for the previous game. Mark Teahen did well at the hot corner (though, not a ton of pop in his bat) and Omar Vizquel was his usual productive self. Paul hit his daily home-run and, after Adam Dunn (0-for-3) struck out, so did Alex Rios. Again.

The real fun was the 8th inning. Singles by Juan Pierre and Omar. Ramirez drives in a run with a groundout. So, 1B is empty and they finally IBB Konerko. Bad idea. Brent Lillibridge (replacing Adam Dunn) singled, Rios reached on an error. So, the bases are loaded and AJ ripped his second double of the game and with the speed of Lillibridge and Rios behind Paul, all three of them scored. We haven’t had a five-run inning in nearly long enough. There was a little more drama than was strictly necessary (keeping Humber in one batter too long and a slight bullpen incident), but we managed to pull it out and, Santos (former Diamondback first round draft pick – as a shortstop) came in for the 9th and looked a lot more like himself than he did against Oakland.

So, the blue wristbands were in full effect on this Father’s Day.

And, it should also be mentioned that because of the “Home Run Challenge”, the 2 HRs by the boys in black (and blue!) donated a healthy 5 figures to prostate cancer research and awareness.

Great timing for those home runs all around, really… :)

Well, that was fun. Let’s do it again sometime.

Like, tomorrow. Let the Crosstown Cup begin!

(And, the quest for .500 continues!)

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