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White Sox Mon Apr 16 2012

Pitching Carries Sox to Solid Start

Knock on some wood and cross your fingers - the White Sox have been playing some good baseball lately.

The White Sox barely missed stealing a sweep from the powerful Detroit Tigers Sunday afternoon at the Cell. Trailing by four runs in the bottom of the ninth, the Sox got a rally going and were able to get the tying run to the plate. Perhaps it wasn't meant to be - Tigers closer Jose Valverde buckled down and got Kosuke Fukudome to ground out, then Valverde K'd Dayan Viciedo to end the game. Viciedo, who hit a home run in the eighth, took some impressive hacks but couldn't connect. Detroit won their only game of the weekend series, 5-2.

But other than Sunday's game, the Sox have been playing well since their opening series in Texas. They beat the Indians twice, then took the first two games of the Tigers' series.

Pitching has been key for the Sox this past week, with the Sox getting quality starts from Chris Sale, Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd. Against Cleveland, Sale only allowed three hits in over six innings, and he only walked two. The run he gave up came in the sixth, when the Sox already had a four-run advantage.

As for Peavy, he was marvelous in Friday's game versus Detroit. In 6.2 innings, he gave up just two hits, one of them a home run Delmon Young that stayed fair down the left field line. Peavy did not allow a baserunner until the fourth, and he handled Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder effectively (inducing pop ups and ground outs). Peavy finished with eight strikeouts and just one walk.

(The Sox defense helped preserve the victory Friday. Dayan Viciedo made a diving catch on a liner to left field to end the Tigers' seventh - if he misplays it, two runners score and Detroit takes the lead. Then, with two on in the eighth, Alexei Ramirez made a diving stop on a grounder hit up the middle by Cabrera. He somehow flipped the ball with his glove to Gordon Beckham at second, and Beckham threw to first for the inning-ending double play.)

Floyd had a good outing Saturday, not allowing any runs in his six innings of work. Floyd stuck out Cabrera and Fielder three times in six combined plate appearances, and didn't allow them to get a hit. The defense helped out Floyd, turning three double plays (one a strikeout-throw out). Floyd got out of two bases loaded jams.

The bullpen was solid too, with only six earned runs allowed by relievers in the past week (Will Ohman had four of them). Hector Santiago picked up two fairly simple saves, while Addison Reed and Matt Thornton have looked good in set-up roles. Reed and Thornton have not allowed any runs and only six combined hits in 5.1 innings. When the Sox pulled their starters during their four game win streak, the bullpen didn't come close to blowing any games.

On the season, the Sox are top ten in four major pitching categories - fifth in opposing batting average (.215), sixth in WHIP (1.08), seventh in quality starts (5) and ninth in ERA (3.10). In six games against two strong hitting teams (Detroit and Texas), the most runs the Sox gave up in a game was five.

But while the pitching is taking care of business, the offense isn't quite there. That's not counting Paul Konerko, though. Konerko has gotten a hit in every game this season, and has a .387 batting average. He's seeing the ball well and crushing line drives - no cheap bloopers or fisters.

Meanwhile, the rest of the lineup has had their ups and downs. Alejandro De Aza has two home runs and two triples, yet has a .294 OBP - and he's the Sox leadoff hitter. Viciedo has hit two home runs, yet those account for his only two RBI. Adam Dunn has the second best OBP on the team, but he has struck out 13 times already.

The next week and a half will be a chance for the Sox to really improve their record - they have a four game home series with the Orioles this week, then they take off for the west coast, with trips to Seattle and Oakland. Surprisingly enough, those three teams have combined for a .500 record this season, but with a -7 run differential (Baltimore leads the three teams with a 0 differential).

Of course, hitting may not come easy - the Orioles are sixth in team ERA (2.84), while the Mariners are 15th (3.89) and the A's are seventh (2.90). Yet if the Sox pitching continues to carry the team, the Sox have shown they can piece together enough offense to win games.

 
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