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White Sox Fri Sep 14 2012
The weather and the threat of storms cancelled the series finale between the Sox and Tigers on Thursday night, a matchup between the aces -- Justin Verlander and Chris Sale. Though it could have been spectacular television (that no one would have seen because the Bears were on), the Sox dodge another series-ending game where Detroit could have tied up the division. The game will be rescheduled for Monday afternoon, after the Sox have completed a weekend set in Minnesota.
Though the Sox took the opener versus Detroit in a thrilling fashion, with mania ensuing in the stands after Alex Rios' and AJ Pierzynski's back-to-back home runs, Chicago couldn't bring home either of the next two contests. The Tigers yet again gained some more games on the Sox' behalf, and now stand one game behind in the AL Central.
And really, the Sox didn't even put up much of a fight in the losses. In the second game, a 5-3 win for Detroit, Doug Fister looked like Danny Almonte on the hill. He pitched seven innings, allowed two hits (both solo home runs), and retired the last 14 Sox batters he faced. The tall righty overpowered the opposition, getting Sox hitters to chase his big curveball low, and mixing in some unexpected fastballs for strikeouts. Jake Peavy, meanwhile, had to put in work: he was relieved after 117 pitches in only the sixth inning, and his only weak inning gave the Tigers the lead (homers by Austin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera).
In the third game, the wheels came off of Gavin Floyd's first start since late August. No pitcher could tame the Tigers, as they racked up 14 hits on the evening and five Sox pitchers allowed an earned run. Detroit jumped out to an seven run lead and took it home 8-6.
Other thoughts from this week:
• Much has been said about the Kevin Youkilis trade, and he's had a good effect on the team on offense and in the clubhouse. He's also someone you want on your team for a pennant run. These are the upsides, but the downside is that he's not fluid on defense. Youk is not rangy. The Tigers started their fifth inning rally on Wednesday when Youkilis couldn't get a glove on a one-hopper off the bat of Brandon Boesch. Youkilis only had to move a step to his left, his glove side, and the ball went right over his glove. It hasn't been the first time Youkilis has missed a tough-yet-makeable play in Sox pinstripes.
But hey, the guy hit two homers in the same game, for four RBIs. So naturally the good in Youk's game outweighs the not so good, but we'll see at least one more Youkilis defensive lapse come into play in September.
• Speaking of Youkilis' home runs, the Sox socked a few long ones this series -- seven for 12 RBIs. And this is with Adam Dunn out of the lineup. While hitting home runs is obviously a good thing, a reliance on them is bad. The Sox have shown this season that they'll swing for the fences, not draw many walks and be content with singles. If it wasn't for the aggressiveness of third base coach Joe McEwing, it would be station to station baseball on the South Side. Which is fine, and has worked well for the Sox in 2012. But, if those bats go silent, or if the opposing ballparks the rest of the year -- Minnesota, Kansas City, Anaheim -- neutralize the power hitters, the Sox will have some problems. They will have to manufacture runs, which is something they haven't done very well this season -- I don't know how many times they stranded someone at third (or the bases loaded, even) with zero or one out.
• September call-ups in baseball are weird. Could you imagine if the Bulls roster expanded to 20 players in mid-March, and D-Leaguers regularly got playing time with the starters, and were on the floor during crunch time? It would be a profoundly different game, right? For whatever reason, baseball still does the 40-man roster in September, which is also in the midst of the playoff chase.
This allows managers to do more substituting (like last Tuesday, when almost the whole starting lineup was removed in the blowout against the Twins), and situational strategy increases. Robin Ventura loves to do the righty-lefty matchups; Leyson Septimo has been used exclusively to face one lefty batter, then leave the game. Ventura didn't do too much of that earlier in the season.
The Sox have experienced both the good and the bad of the call-up season. Sox fans have seen more Orlando Hudson (whom I call the Oh No-Dog), Jose Lopez, Ray Olmedo and Dan Johnson (who's been okay this month, but still) than they would have liked. Conversely, some of the extra arms are coming up clutch - Donnie Veal and Brian Omogrosso have been good this month. Perhaps they will be valuable to the Sox these next few weeks. I mean, it's not like they're the only inexperienced pitchers on the team.
• After Monday, the Sox will be done with playing the Tigers in the regular season this year. I'm sure that is a huge relief for the South Siders -- they played well against just about everyone else, but the Tigers have owned them this half. It's the opposite for the Tigers. Beating up on the White Sox (8-1 after the all-star break) is the main reason they're still in the chase.
Next week, the Sox can X all the Tigers games off their schedule, kick back, relax a little, loosen u— what's that? They have to play the Royals later this week? Oh.