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White Sox Mon Jun 21 2010

White Sox: Rotation Lifts Team to .500

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Hold the ennui and put your pessimism back on the shelf:  the Chicago White Sox are at .500 for the first time since April 7th, the second day of the season, when they fell to the Cleveland Indians. It has been a long arduous journey but after beating the Washington Nationals 6-3 Sunday, the Good Guys finally shed themselves of a losing record. Some of the more cynical members of the White Sox blog  community, namely me, did not expect this turnaround to happen so quickly. Given that the Sox had failed to muster up any competence against even the last place and still falling Cleveland Indians, it didn't stand to reason they would be better against the National League's lesser ball clubs either ...but they were. The Sox have been clobbering their National League opponents after taking a series from the Detroit Tigers two weeks ago.

The White Sox are 12-6 in June so far. They have now taken four series in a row and have won six straight -- their longest streak of the season. The heart of their success has been where it should have been all season: their rotation. Over the last 12 games, the White Sox starting five have an earned run average of exactly 2.00. They have pitched for a combined total of 85.5 innings and only given up 19 runs since June 8th.

All concerns about Jake Peavy's shoulder were subdued when he threw a complete game shutout on Saturday against the Washington Nationals. He only gave up three hits, walked two and struck out seven.  He has settled in well over his last three starts, pitching at least seven innings in each with an ERA of 1.57 during that time. If Peavy really is going to pitch like his former Cy Young-winning self in 2010, there is still (gasp!) reason to be optimistic on the Southside, especially if the entire rotation keeps this momentum going.

Another hero on the mound during this stretch is closer Bobby Jenks. He tacked on five more saves since the Sox have started to roll and has now closed down 14 out of 15 opportunities. He has only donated six hits to his opponents in his last ten starts and only walked one. If the White Sox pitching staff keeps showing off this kind of dominance, they are just another solid hitter or two in the lineup from having more than a chance at the division. Of course, there are still the Paul Konerko trade rumors floating around, and Carlos Quentin only looked like he knew how to swing the bat while playing the pathetic Pittsburgh Pirates. If the Sox can still stay afloat, it would be nice to see general manager Kenny Williams on the "buy" side of any trade decisions rather than indulge himself in a veteran-shedding fire sale.

Unfortunately (there's always a downside in Chicago baseball, isn't there?), the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers have also been swatting down N.L. opponents flies during interleague play. The Sox still remain four games behind the Tigers and 5.5 behind the first place Twins. The Twinkies have recently taken sets from the Rockies and Phillies, both of whom are arguably better than any of the three teams the Sox just demolished. Difficulty of opponents aside though, this is the first time since the first week of the season in which Sox fans can assert interest in the playoffs without looking delusional.

Looking ahead, the Sox face the Atlanta Braves, who have been having their best season in almost a decade. Atlanta currently holds on to one of the best records in baseball (42-28) while residing in one of the toughest divisions. Like the Sox, they have a very strong rotation with Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson and Derek Lowe, and a reputable closer with Billy Wagner. Their team ERA is an impressive 3.71, sixth in the Majors. Unlike the Sox, they also have a strong lineup. The Braves have the tenth highest batting average in the MLB (.264) with five regular contributors hitting over .275. In short, they're not slouches like the Cubs, the Pirates or the Nationals. The Twins dropped two of three to the Braves recently. Here's hoping the White Sox have better luck. If they do, October isn't entirely out of the question.

 
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