When the Sox rattled off six straight wins against the dregs of the National League, it was prudent to approach it with cautious enthusiasm. They didn’t blow any of those teams out of the water. They did outplay them, but one could make the case — especially with regards to the Pirates — that the Sox just let the opponent underplay them.
Caution is a little harder to come by now.
The Sox used the same gameplan against a superior opponent, and the results were the same: three games, three excellent starts, three wins. It’s hard to not get excited when Pale Hose pitching faced lineups like these…
…and allowed five runs over three games*. With a DH. In warm weather. At U.S. Cellular Field.
(*No, Linebrink doesn’t count.)
Certainly there are still causes for concern. Look at those OBPs above, and then realize that, out of Thursday’s lineup, only Paul Konerko had a better OBP than the worst one the Braves threw out there. Alex Rios needed a third off day this week for some reason.
Andruw Jones had 397 homers on May 5. He’s still two away from 400 now, and has even fallen behind his 2009 pace in terms of overall production. Gordon Beckham probably needs a demotion to Triple-A. Mark Kotsay is approaching respectability at the plate, but has nothing on the basepaths. He was thrown out easily at third and at home this past week, raising his total to four.
Them’s a lot of reasons to wait for the other shoe to drop. But such is the power of Carlos Quentin, who has used facial hair to springboard back into middle-of-the-order form with 11 hits in his last 28 at-bats. If Jones were lighting it up instead of Quentin, we’d write it off as a fluke hot streak and brace for the letdown.
With Quentin, 2008 is still a recent memory, even if it is covered by scar tissue. It’s foolish to rely on him for an entire season, but he changes the landscape of the Sox lineup so greatly when he’s on that it’s too strong of a pull to ignore. When Quentin’s right, the Sox are only one hitter short, and hitters can be found at the deadline, especially when they don’t need to play a position.
And hell, if the pitching is this good, another bat might be overkill. All five starters — especially Gavin Floyd — are at the tops of their games, and so are the Big Three in the bullpen. That the Sox could absorb Sergio Santos’ reality check is one of many unthinkable aspects of this run, but they’ve been able to sidestep that issue by barely pitching him — and anybody else who isn’t a lockdown type.
Since the Sox started their tear on June 9, Santos, Tony Pena, Randy Williams and Scott Linebrink have thrown 6 2/3 innings combined. That’s over a 15-day period. Honestly, Kenny Williams may not have demoted Williams because he keeps forgetting he’s there.
If nothing else, this nine-game winning streak has proved that the Sox have just enough to win this thing, which sheds some light on what exactly Kenny Williams was thinking when he left the winter bringing a knife to a gunfight with the Rotating DH. The ends don’t justify the means yet, but we can now get an idea of what kind of performances the White Sox front office projected in terms of a run prevention/production balance when they called themselves contenders.
Now, Williams needs to get a bat. If he can find a left-handed power bat, whether thinking as small as Luke Scott or big as Prince Fielder, before the Sox start giving games back to the Twins, he then puts the onus on Ozzie Guillen and his team to perform.
Williams did the same thing in the winter when he let Guillen choose against a traditional DH, which many took to be an act of giving Guillen rope to hang himself. Giving him credible players to get the job done seems to be a more effective way to go about it.
Jayson Nix won’t be heading to Charlotte. Instead, he’ll join the Cleveland Indians’ cast of woefully ineffective “utility” infielders.
Say what you will — and some of you will, of course — about Nix, whose best tool was undermining the rest of his tools with confounding mistakes, but he could turn out to have a big part in the overall narrative of this season.
Nix filled in for Mark Teahen after Teahen broke a finger on his throwing hand against Tampa Bay on May 30, and ended up bailing out Jake Peavy with one of the most surprising grand slams I can remember.
If you want to count that game, the Sox are 16-6 since Teahen hit the DL, and that Nix slam is among many of the surprising ways they’ve been able to boost their production at third base in Teahen’s absence. Omar Vizquel is the most noteworthy fill-in, but even Dayan Viciedo is showing competence at third, handling a couple of chances on Thursday that registered a moderate score on the degree-of-difficulty chart.
Minor league roundup:
- Charlotte 5, Syracuse 2
- Lucas Harrell struck out six over 6 1/3 shutout innings in his best outing of the year. He allowed just three hits and a walk.
- Tyler Flowers went 1-for-4 with a double and an RBI. He struck out once.
- Jordan Danks went 0-for-3 with a strikeout and a sac bunt.
- Brent Morel drew two walks over four PAs.
- Chattanooga 7, Birmingham 3
- Brandon Hynick left after one batter in the first. He walked him.
- Christian Marrero went 1-for-4; C.J. Retherford wore the collar.
- Winston-Salem 7, Frederick 4
- Brandon Short and Jon Gilmore both went 2-for-5; Short hit a solo homer.
- Justin Greene hit a two-run shot, his only hit over four ABs.
- Nathan Jones was hit around for three runs on six hits and two walks over 3 2/3 innings. He did strike out five.
- Dan Remenowsky struck out four of the five batters he faced in a perfect night of work. He has 19 Ks to two walks over his last 11 innings, all scoreless.
- Santos Rodriguez allowed an unearned run over two innings. He walked two and struck out two.
- Kannapolis 4, Augusta 2
- Miguel Gonzalez went 1-for-3 with a double and a sac fly. He struck out once.
- Brady Shoemaker singled and was plunked in four trips to the plate.
- Cameron Bayne allowed two runs on nine hits and a walk over seven innings, striking out two.
- Elizabethton 5, Bristol 4
- Jose Martinez maintained his .500 with a 2-for-4 day, driving in a run. He also contributed an outfield assist.
- Tyler Saladino went 0-for-3 with an RBI in his debut.
- Rangel Ravelo and Dan Black each went 1-for-3, with Black doubling and walking.
- Josh Phegley, still playing partial games, went 0-for-2 with a walk.
- Spencer Arroyo struck out seven over six shutout innings, allowing four hits and a walk.
- Great Falls 6, Billings 3
- Steven Upchurch allowed two runs on five hits and two walks over seven innings, striking out three.
- Leighton Pangilinan went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a strikeout.
- Juan Silverio went 1-for-4 with a strikeout.