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White Sox Tue Jun 29 2010
I'm sorry, White Sox fans. I think it's my fault.
I was gone, you see, for the entire 11-game win streak, off getting married and honeymooning with my new bride. I didn't see the Sox sweep the Pirates or the Nationals or the Braves. I didn't see them beat the Cubs on Friday and Saturday -- but I did get back in time to catch Sunday's streak-ending loss.
Monday, it was my sad duty to preside over a 3-1 loss in the first of three games in Kansas City.
The pitching matchup looked like something of a mismatch at the start, with Mark Buehrle, part of a reborn Sox rotation, opposing Anthony Lerew, a 27-year-old former Braves prospect whom the Royals picked off the scrap heap after Tommy John surgery.
Lerew is only in the KC rotation because Luke Hochevar and Gil Meche are on the disabled list, but tonight, in his eighth major-league start, he kept the Sox off balance enough to earn his first career win.
The Royals began the night with a collective .281 batting average, second in baseball behind the Texas Rangers, but that translates into only average run production -- slightly better than the Sox -- because they lead the majors in singles. They're built more like the punchless Orioles or Mariners than the Yankees or Red Sox.
It's just not a lineup that scares anyone, but tonight it produced six singles and three walks in the first two innings. Buehrle stemmed the paper cuts, though, stranding three runners in the first and two in the second. Kansas City led 3-0, but it could have been a lot worse.
Carlos Quentin smacked a solo homer in the fourth, but Chicago never really got going overall. Their best scoring chances came in the final innings:
In the eighth, KC third baseman Alberto Callaspo fumbled a grounder and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt failed to turn a fairly basic double play, but Omar Vizquel popped up to strand two runners.
Shutdown closer Joakim Soria came on for the ninth inning, but Betancourt bungled a one-out ground ball, Quentin walked on a 3-2 pitch and A.J. Pierzynski got plunked on the leg to load the bases. But Soria buried pinch-hitter Mark Kotsay inside with a 2-1 cut fastball, breaking his bat on an infield pop-up. Alexei Ramirez worked the count to 3-2 but just missed a curveball, popping up as well for the final out.
So after consecutive losses, the Sox sit at 39-36, third in the AL Central, two games behind the Tigers, who leapfrogged the Twins into first place after winning in Minnesota tonight (despite Joel Zumaya's pitching elbow exploding again). Fifteen wins in 16 games put the Sox right where they're supposed to be, contending for a postseason spot.
They're not as good as their remarkable recent surge, but they're surely not as bad as they looked for the first third of the season. Let's see if this veteran bunch and their crazy manager have another playoff push in them.
I'll try not to jinx it.