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White Sox Fri Jun 17 2011

Sox Staggering After Another Twins Sweep

Thumbnail image for white sox.gifAfter getting swept in two games in Minnesota, the White Sox are 0-4 against the Twins this season -- they've lost 28 of their past 35 meetings -- and 5 1/2 games out of first place.

But the Twins' current 11-2 surge isn't the biggest of Chicago's problems. If the White Sox want to make a serious run in the AL Central, they'll need to fix some key issues.

It's no secret that the White Sox are struggling when it comes to producing runs with guys in scoring position. In Thursday's 1-0 loss, they left 12 men on base. They had a chance to score early in the second inning with Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski on first and third and only one out. They failed to score, and in the next inning Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer hit a solo home run, the only run of the game.

This seems to be a concerning trend. Not only do the White Sox have to worry about leaving men on base, they have to consider the confidence the other team gets from Chicago not scoring.

It's hard to place the blame on one person for their offensive struggles. Looking at the heart of the order, though, is the most obvious conclusion. Players like Konerko, Pierzynski and Carlos Quentin have been hitting well and getting on base, but Alex Rios and new import Adam Dunn haven't been getting runs in.

While Dunn has been playing better, the two have not produced nearly as much as they should. Dunn still is hitting .185, which is bad even by his low-average standards. Rios is 5 for his last 34 after Thursday's 0-for-4 performance. And Gordon Beckham hasn't been the answer, either.

The weather during the Minnesota series didn't help, with the Sox unable to get on the field for batting practice four straight days.

The team looks mentally beat down and frustrated even when they get hits. If players like Rios and Dunn don't step up more consistently and find their groove, the Sox will be stuck in an offensive rut for a while.

The Sox also have struggled to keep teams from running wild on the bases. Minnesota went 5-for-5 on steals Wednesday against Gavin Floyd and Pierzynski, including three by Cuddyer.

The alarming stat isn't that Cuddyer has stolen only 47 bases in parts of 11 seasons. It's that opposing runners are 15-for-15 on steals against Floyd this season. Often, Mark Buehrle and John Danks are the only Sox pitchers who seem capable of holding runners.

Minnesota played off that momentum and Chicago should take a hint. Juan Pierre, who had 68 stolen bases last year, only has 10 this season and one in June. Of course, even if Pierre manages to bring that number up, it will be irrelevant if hitters behind him can't produce.

The White Sox may be out of sync offensively, but they're showing more consistency with their pitching. Buehrle gave another solid performance Thursday, minus the solo home run.

The Sox bullpen is also strong, leading the American League with 8.63 strikeouts per nine innings. Sergio Santos, an Ozzie Guillen favorite, has found his groove and the staff overall has a good mix of experience and young talent.

Still, as they head west for a weekend series in Arizona, the White Sox look mentally exhausted. Getting wins against teams with losing records is necessary for Chicago to be serious contenders. This season, the team is 12-19 against teams with losing records.

While the Twins may be an exception and Chicago's kryptonite, the sweep was another confidence blow to the beginning of the Sox road trip.

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