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White Sox Fri Apr 20 2012

Sox Go Down Both Swinging and Looking

Your opinion of Thursday's White Sox game is shaped by how you think of the strikeout. If you think, "Eh, it's just another way to make an out," then the 5-3 loss to Baltimore to close the four-game series wasn't a big deal.

On the other hand, if you think the strikeout is the worst way to make an out, then the loss was a tough one to swallow. There were strikeouts galore at The Cell on the overcast afternoon. Of course, the K's were only coming for one side.

The White Sox struck out 16 times -- 10 times against starter Jason Hammel, then twice each against Baltimore relievers Matt Lindstrom, Pedro Stropp and Jim Johnson. Brent Lillibridge, Alex Rios and Dayan Viciedo each struck out three times (Viciedo looking all three times), with Alejandro De Aza, Adam Dunn and Tyler Flowers each chipping in with two K's apiece.

The strikeouts came in big spots, too. In the third, with the bases loaded and one out, Viciedo and Flowers went down on strikes consecutively to end what could have been a big inning. Chicago already scored two runs to tie the game in that frame, but messed up the chance to get a lead.

In the eighth, down 5-3 and Rios on second, Viciedo and Flowers again struck out back-to-back to end the inning. Then, in the ninth, with the same score, bases loaded and two outs, Rios struck out looking on a curveball outside, not even attempting to run to first as the ball got away from the O's catcher.

Strikeouts in these spots were the worst thing that could have happened, especially because none of the Baltimore pitchers were Bob Gibson or Aroldis Chapman. Lindstrom had the highest K/9 ratio of the four Orioles pitchers Thursday, and 9.53 is good but not great. By not getting a bat on the ball, the Sox didn't even make the Orioles' defense work for tough outs. And with the two aforementioned Viciedo strikeouts, plays like a sacrifice fly or even a ground ball to the hole could have manufactured a run.

Gavin Floyd was alright Thursday, allowing five runs in six innings. The biggest mistake was giving up a home run to left by Adam "Not Pacman" Jones. Can't fault him too much, because Jones was productive this series - a game tying home run Monday night, a double and a run Wednesday, and a double, home run, and three RBI Thursday.

As for the other three games, the Sox looked good Wednesday, winning 8-1. Jake Peavy went seven innings and only allowed one run, and Adam Dunn chipped in with a 3 RBI double. Tuesday was a little different, as John Danks recorded a quality start by going seven innings and only giving up three runs, but that was all the O's needed for a victory. Baltimore's bullpen, in 3.2 innings of work, allowed only one hit and preserved a 3-2 lead.

Monday was a tough loss for Chicago. Leading 4-2 in the ninth, Hector Santiago blew a save by giving up two solo home runs to Nolan Reimold and Adam Jones. With the Jones home run, Santiago gave him a fastball right down the middle, and Jones immediately knew the ball was headed to the seats - he flipped the bat, and Hawk Harrelson gravely said "That ball is gone." In the tenth, De Aza missed catching a lead off fly ball, and Zach Stewart allowed six runs for a 10-4 loss.

Yet other than in the opener, the Sox bullpen did not allow a run against Baltimore. And removing Jones and the tenth inning of Game 1, Sox pitching was effective. The offense seems to be the problem. Well, at least the non-Paul Konerko, non-AJ Pierzynski offense.

Konerko and Pierzynski both had a splendid series, going a combined 12 for 26, with four walks to one strikeout and seven RBI. Pierzynski even had two home runs. The rest of the White Sox offense, however? They went 22 for 109 (.202 batting average), with 13 walks, a whopping 40 strikeouts, 10 RBI and one home run.

The Sox need to get their bats going, and luckily for them, the will not see King Felix Hernandez during their trip to Seattle. Instead, they will face Hector Noesi, Blake Beaven and Kevin Millwood. Assuming the Sox pitching success continues (they even have a little margin for error, because the Mariners are 26th in on-base percentage), the ChiSox offense will decide what they will do in the Pacific Northwest. If they start hitting, they will be fine; if the strikeouts rack up and no one other than Konerko and Pierzynski does anything at the plate, Chicago could easily be looking at a 6-9 start to the season.

 
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