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One advantage baseball has over every other sport is the regular-season series.
Any disappointment stemming from Mark Buehrle’s startling lack of perfection (seriously, what gives?) in the White Sox’s 8-5 loss to the Yankees is quickly erased by the idea that the Sox took three of four from the best team in baseball.
Think about it this way — before the Sox were swept by Minnesota, the were two games ahead of the Twins in the standings, and two games behind the Tigers. One week later, the Sox are 1 1/2 games ahead of Twins, and 1 1/2 games behind the Tigers.
It’s almost like the Sox never had to make the trip to the Metrodome. They basically made up for the sweep by picking up three wins against the Yankees. That’s three more wins than Minnesota have against the Yankees this year, as the Twins went 0-7 against the Bombers.
As the old saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, beat the teams they can’t beat.
The Sox have roughly four weeks before the next and probable final visit to the Metrodome (barring another 163rd game), and about three weeks to make some serious hay. They end August with trips to the Bronx, Boston and Minneapolis, but leading up to that massive road spell, the Sox have three-game series:
- at home against the Angels (and they’ll miss Jered Weaver, who beat Minnesota on Sunday).
- at home against Cleveland.
- on the road against Seattle.
- on the road against Oakland.
- at home against Kansas City.
- at home against Baltimore.
Making matters more favorable, the Sox have an off day in each of the next three weeks. There’s no doubt that last week is a killer, but if you wedge the three tall orders in between the lesser teams, there’s nothing to it. Really, August is a normal month arranged out of order.
Of course, that line of reasoning only works if the Sox take advantage of this six-series stretch. Lumping in the Angels might be unfair, but the Sox have played them .500 or better in each of the last three seasons, and are missing their nemesis to boot. They should be able to take care of business at home.
The reasons for optimism are plentiful, and the whole discussion starts with a certain James Gordon Beckham.
Here’s how well he’s playing: I sorely underestimated Beckham’s readiness … and my response to his promotion was generally optimistic. Thanks to my site outage, I’m sorely overdue in praising his awesomeness.
Since starting his career 2-for-28, Beckham is hitting .355/.415/.561 (177 plate appearances). Yet it isn’t what Beckham is hitting that’s so special — it’s how he’s doing it.
Sunday against the Yankees, Beckham set the tone for success against C.C. Sabathia by taking a fastball down the right-field line for a ground-rule double. Most of the Sox’s biggest hits went the other way, including Scott Podsednik’s double and both halves of Jermaine Dye and Jim Thome’s back-to-back action.
Beckham was a left-center gap away from going every direction on Sunday. Along with the double down the right-field line, he ripped a single over third base, hit another ground-rule double to right-center and hit a pair of groundouts to second and first. The last one came on his first-ever experience against Mariano Rivera, and he made great contact. It just happened to be right at Mark Teixeira, who is a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman.
Beckham’s having the kind of impact I thought might be possible next year. Though he’s not close to qualifying for the batting title yet, Beckham is already second on the Sox in doubles with 17.
Another way to summarize just how much Beckham is mashing: Through his first 52 games, Evan Longoria — like Beckham, a 22-year-old rookie — hit .250/.329/.451. Beckham’s at .311/.374/.486.
That’s not to say Beckham’s on the Longoria track and will be a 2010 MVP candidate. He’s certainly not in Longoria’s league defensively, and it’s entirely possible American League pitchers will figure out Beckham’s weaknesses. All I can say is that if there’s a hole in his strike zone, I’m not seeing it. Instead of whiffing on pitches he can’t square up, he’s spoiling them.
The offensive turnaround isn’t entirely Beckham’s doing. Two other positions have been seized in recent weeks.
Beckham’s play is nearly overshadowing Chris Getz’s resurgence. Fortunately, Getz has that sterling 15-for-16 record on the basepaths to fall back on.
Since June 29, Getz is hitting .363/.406/.523. We can safely say that this doesn’t represent a new standard of performance, but Getz is now defending the inside corner after pitchers jammed him mercilessly for the better part of two months.
He also patched up the leaky defense. He may not be Maz, but he’s not Danny Richar, either. Hell, he stood as tall as anybody in turning a key double play for Buehrle on Sunday, even with Johnny Damon at his feet.
As for Carlos Quentin — he’s not feeling around anymore, folks. The uptempo, major-key rock music at Beckham’s non-denominational megachurch reflects the Sox’s pleasantly well-rounded approach of late, but it’s great to see Quentin wreaking havoc with Old Testament-grade vengeance. He’s swatting, not reaching.
At the end of June, the Sox had holes at second, third and center. One month later, shortstop is the only present issue, and Alexei Ramirez is slated for a Wednesday return.
Of course, staying healthy remains the key for Getz and Quentin. Getz is the better bet, but even he’s proven to be rather fragile thus far in his career. We’re only talking about the immediate future, however, and the Sox are short on excuses for the next couple of weeks.
Minor league roundup:
- Louisville 8, Charlotte 5
- Cole Armstrong doubled, homered and drove in three.
- Josh Fields went 0-for-4.
- Justin Cassel allowed just a hit over 3 2/3 innings of relief, striking out three.
- The recently promoted Fernando Hernandez pitched a scoreless inning.
- Birmingham 10, Mobile 8
- Christian Marrero homered twice and drove in four.
- Dayan Viciedo raised his average to .280 with a 2-for-4, three-RBI day.
- Jordan Danks doubled, and C.J. Retherford went 2-for-4.
- Charlie Shirek was roughed up: 4 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 0 K.
- Sergio Santos allowed two runs over his first two-thirds of an inning in Double-A on three hits and two walks.
- Kannapolis 6, Lake County 5 (10 innings)
- Joe Serafin struck out seven over four innings in his Kanny debut. He allowed just a run on two hits, but walked four.
- Brandon Short went 2-for-4 with a triple; Eduardo Escobar went 2-for-4 with a double.
- Kyle Shelton doubled, homered and drove in three.
- Dan Remenowsky picked up the win, but blew the save with an unusually rough outing: 2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 2 K.
- Danville 2, Bristol 1
- Andre Rienzo allowed two runs on seven hits over six innings. No walks, three K’s.
- Miguel Gonzalez went 1-for-2 with two walks and the lone run scored.
- Great Falls 7, Missoula 2
- Robert Cummings went 2-for-4 with a double and three RBI.
- Matt Wickswat struck out six over 5 1/3 innings, allowing the two runs on six hits.
Winston-Salem vs. Potomac PPD