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White Sox Mon Sep 24 2012
So much for Alex Rios's takeout slide becoming some sort of momentum turning point for the White Sox season.
The Sox followed up last Monday's thriller with a 1-5 stretch in Kansas City and Los Angeles, with five consecutive losses. The causes for the losses varied, from bad baserunning to rally-starting walks, from leaving guys on base to sloppy fielding.
The weekend, the Sox never got into a groove on offense. Not only did the Angels rack up nine 1-2-3 innings (with three additional 1-2-3 innings with a double play), but the Sox mustered only five runs. Two were solo home runs, and three could be categorized as "too little, too late."
The big theme is not bringing runs in. Over the past six games, the Sox are 3-for-42 (!) with runners in scoring position. This included a late Adam Dunn strikeout on Friday (two on, two out, down four in the eighth), the team going 0-for-3 Saturday in the seventh with runners on second and third with no outs, and the team leaving the bases loaded in the first with one out on Sunday.
As for the pitching, Gavin Floyd pitched really well on Sunday, and the relievers combined for only one earned run over the weekend, but it came down to a few bad innings. Jake Peavy was victimized by two could-have-been-an-out 2-RBI singles by Albert Pujols, who hit a blooper, and Torii Hunter, who sent a chopper through the hole. Jose Quintana left some hittable pitches cross the plate and yielded four runs in the first on Saturday. And on Sunday, Floyd went five strong innings before imploding, allowing a Pujols double and Kendrys Morales home run bring in four in the sixth.
The Sox lead in the AL Central is down to one game. But, as bad as they have played the week, and as lousy they've been on the road in the second half (15-24), the Sox are in a position they've thrived in this year - coming back home with the standings extremely close.
The Sox were down 1.5 games after a sweep in Detroit in July, but Chicago came home and swept the Twins to even up the division. The Royals took three straight from the Sox in KC in mid-July, and the Sox came back to their park to sweep the Yankees and Mariners at the Cell. Just a few weeks ago, the Tigers tied up the AL Central after a series in Motown, but the Sox came home and split six games against the Twins and Royals, creating two games of breathing room atop the division.
This Sox team is a close-knit, emotional bunch, which is great when they pull together and grow mustaches or dress up like golfers, but not so great when things aren't going as well. On important road trips this year, they have clammed up, going tight and getting into funks. There have been a few times over the last two months where these sweeps and losing streaks should have submarined the season; yet the team has pulled together and rallied at home. They can feed off the energy of the crowd and have their fill of longballs on the South Side.
Fortunately for Chicago, the Tigers have had their fits of ineptitude recently too - with a chance to take a one-game lead in the division, Detroit lost both parts of a doubleheader against the Twins on Sunday. The Sox can only rely on those breaks for so long; this week they'll be back at Sox Park, with visits from the Indians and Rays. It's time for them to make their biggest postseason push yet.