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White Sox Mon Apr 09 2012

Sox Fight Hard in Opening Weekend

My favorite moment of the White Sox opening weekend, where they lost two of three to the defending AL champion Texas Rangers, was a play from Friday's opener that probably was forgotten soon after the game.

With the Sox trailing by a run in the sixth, and with Alex Rios on first, Alexei Ramirez hit a single to right-center with two outs. Normally, the ball would move a runner a base or two, but Rios, who was running on the pitch, was waved home. Rios hustled hard, gritting his teeth while rounding third. He scored standing up as the throw was off-line, tying the game.

It was a nice effort play, and the Sox were rewarded for being bold. Even though they lost the game, 3-2, they can overachieve this season if they keep playing tough and aggressively.

But that wasn't all we saw this weekend in Texas.

  • Looks like we know who the closer is. Hector Santiago came in to finish the Sox win in the second game, getting Texas 1-2-3 for a save. A spectacular over-the-shoulder catch by Ramirez helped Santiago out. But, holding only a one-run lead to face the nine-one-two hitters in the Rangers lineup, Santiago needed only 11 pitches to get the job done. He was even able to retire Ian Kinsler, who reached base six times during the series, on a groundout.

  • Adam Dunn played well in the first two games before having an 0-fer in the third. He belted a towering home run to right field in the opener, and was able to draw three walks in the first two games. Yet, he did strike out once each game.

  • Matt Thornton was given a vote of confidence in Game 2. In the bottom of the eighth with the score tied, he got two quick outs before loading the bases. But even though Rangers' righty batter Mike Napoli hit .319 against lefties last year, manager Robin Ventura left Thornton in. Thornton threw three straight balls, worked the count back to 3-2, then got Napoli to ground out to third.

  • Addison Reed, a young righty in the Sox bullpen and potential closer, faced five Rangers in the series and retired them all.

  • Brent Morel had a dreadful opener, striking out all four times he came to the plate. Worse yet, he was batting in the No. 2 spot (he was dropped to the eighth spot for Game 2). Morel also botched a double play ball which led to the eventual game-winning run a few batters later in the sixth, and he committed an error in the eighth. Other than that, he was great.

  • Rios had the big hit of the weekend, hitting a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning of Game 2. It made the score 4-3 Sox, which came to be the final. He got all of a 93-mph belt-high fastball from Joe Nathan, and the ball cleared the fence in center field.

  • As for the Sunday night game, a nationally televised contest on ESPN, the Rangers simply took care of business. Texas is a really good ballclub, not surprising because they've been to the World Series the past two years. In Game 3, the Rangers pounded three home runs and beat the Sox fairly easily, 5-0.

Looking forward, the Sox can look at the bright side in losing the series to the Rangers. Though Texas is a talented team, the Chicago played them well in the first two games. The next two weeks don't seem daunting at all, with the Tigers being the only true challenge next weekend (the opening home series for the Sox). Other than Detroit, they will face Cleveland, Baltimore Seattle and Oakland - all teams that finished under .500 last year. If the Sox can play well and get a good first month, perhaps they can build enough momentum to sustain them for the first half of the season.

 
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