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It’s too early to talk about whether this will be Jim Thome’s final season on the South Side. It isn’t too early to say that, if it’s indeed his swan song, the Gentleman Masher is doing a splendid job of re-writing his reputation.
Before his fateful tater off Nick Blackburn in Game 163, Thome, to many, embodied Everything That’s Wrong With The White Sox. He was an old, slow low-average hitter with nice numbers that never seemed to count. Said critics often held Thome’s walks against him because he runs the bases like a 4-year-old with a pituitary condition.
He can’t get much smaller. Or faster. Or younger (but what if he did!). However, he has made improvement to the one thing in his power, and now it’s awfully hard to rip his sense of the moment.
Thome’s three-run opposite-field blast off Darren Oliver in Wednesday’s 6-2 victory over the Angels adds to his collection of game-changing hits this season — especially when factoring in his game-tying homer in his previous at-bat.
You may remember it started in the eighth inning on Opening Day off Kyle Farnsworth, when Thome bellowed, “THIS STORY ONLY ENDS ONE WAY,” and hamfisted a fastball just left of center to turn a one-run deficit into a two-run lead.
Since then, a sampling:
April 12: Breaks a 1-1 tie with a two-run shot off Blackburn in the sixth inning. The Sox win 6-1.
May 18: Down 2-0 in the eighth inning in Toronto, Thome ties it with a two-out homer off Jesse Carlson. Unfortunately, since it’s Toronto, the Sox still lose, 3-2.
June 1: Thome unties a 2-2 game in the eighth with a three-run homer off Santiago Casilla. Sox win 6-2.
June 10: Thome crushes a solo shot off Justin Verlander for the game’s first run in the seventh inning. Sox end up losing 2-1.
July 17: Thome doubles up the clutch, hitting a three-run homer with the score tied at 3 in the fifth inning. When the Orioles rally back to close it to 6-5, Thome responds with a grand slam. Sox win 12-8.
That doesn’t count a handful other games where he narrowed deficits or provided some much needed breathing room.
A couple of numbers further explain why Thome has made more of an ostentatious difference:
- High-leverage: .302/.456/.755 with seven homers in 68 PA.
- 2 outs, RISP: .303/.465/667 in 43 PA.
It’s not like Thome needed to prove his value, because it’s not his fault that three-true-outcomes baseball just isn’t all that much fun to watch. Still, it’s a pleasant turn of events to change the perception of a guy whose style took too long to be embraced by a significant chunk of the White Sox fan base.
Gavin Floyd has similarly reinvented himself into the most consistent pitcher on a pretty good staff. That’s something Phillies officials probably never saw coming when they traded him to the White Sox three-plus years ago.
To be fair, I don’t think many people on the Sox’s side counted on Floyd taking to The Cell — especially for a guy with the reputation of a flyballer. After his strong eight innings against Los Angeles:
It appeared that his performance at home could be fluky, considering he held hitters to a .209 average last season. That’s, like, Pedro-Martinez-In-His-Peak good. After watching him slash the tires of the league’s second-best offense, making him 5-0 with a 1.69 in his last eight starts at U.S. Cellular Field… well, maybe he just likes to sleep in his own bed.
Minor league roundup:
- Mobile 9, Birmingham 5
- John Shelby went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a walk and an RBI. He also added an outfield assist.
- C.J. Retherford doubled twice, walked and drove in two runs.
- Christian Marrero went 2-for-5 with a double.
- Dayan Viciedo went 1-for-5 with an RBI; Jordan Danks had the night off.
- Kannapolis 5, West Virginia 3
- Kenneth Williams Jr. went 3-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI.
- Jared Mitchell walked once in four plate appearances, and stole his second base.
- Daniel Black went 1-for-4, Josh Phegley 1-for-3.
- Australian James Albury allowed three runs on nine hits (two homers) over seven innings, walking one and striking out six.
- Drew O’Neil and Dan Remenowsky each pitched one perfect inning, striking out one.
- Billings 6, Great Falls 3
- Nicholis Ciolli, Ryan Hamme and Jordan Cheatham each had two hits.
- Joucer Martinez could record only two outs, allowing three hits and hitting a batter. All runs came around to score.
- Gregory Johnson pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out three while allowing just one hit.
- Charlotte OFF
- Winston-Salem vs. Wilmington PPD
- Bristol vs. Kingsport PPD
Note: Word on the street is that Dan Hudson was promoted to Charlotte, taking the place of Brian Omogrosso, who is out for the season with a torn labrum.