Just What We Needed – Twins 20, White Sox 1

I will never get tired of this picture (click on any of the images for the larger version):

Mrs. Mak had a friend with season tickets at US Cellular, but couldn’t make it to a weekday afternoon game. Since we both work a somewhat flexible schedule, the wife and I headed down to the south side to see if we could reverse the Twins luck and end a six-game losing streak.

First of all, we had GREAT seats. We were about six rows above the Sox dugout.

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Series Preview in Blog: Chicago White Sox

First off, we have to pay our respects to Palehose 9.  I first discovered Carl Skanberg’s comics doing this feature two years ago.  It was hilarious from the get-go, and I immediately bookmarked it and checked it obsessively.  Partly, it was that I live in Chicago, and so I was already familiar with all the story lines, but mostly it was that Carl was a brilliant cartoonist, and I’m legitimately bummed that I won’t be able to follow his strip the same way this year.  If you haven’t read any of the Palehose series, consider this my strongest recommendation – even if you don’t read any other links in any of these posts that I put up semi-consistently – go back and read Palehose 6, Palehose 7, and Palehose 8.  The Twins and White Sox seasons are so intertwined that I think Twins fans might enjoy these as much as South Siders.

My favorite from Palehose Seven.  And my favorite series from Palehose Eight – Part OnePart TwoPart Three.

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Sometimes I Feel Bad For The Guy

You know who I feel bad for? Nick Blackburn when he’s in Chicago.

He pitched pretty well, I thought, but he was let down by the offense, the defense, and the bullpen in this one as the Twins fell to the Chicago White Sox 6-1.

Buehrle was good on Sunday, the only hits the Twins got were a first inning single by Justin Morneau and a Delmon Young homerun (that I didn’t see off the bat because I was focusing the camera on the first baseman, expecting a groundout).  The only other offensive excitement was whether or not Mike Redmond would make it to first on a dropped third strike (he didn’t) and guessing whether or not Carlos Gomez would bunt (he did).

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Series Preview in Blog: Chicago White Sox

The White Sox hosted the Royals in some pretty cold conditions this week.  The opener was pushed back a day due to snow (headline writers had a field day).  Other than a three-run homer by Jim Thome, the White Sox bats were just as cold.  They lost 2 of 3 in the series and are currently one game behind the first-place Kansas City Royals.  Jermaine Dye had a good series with 5 singles, but if you discount Dye and Thome the Sox went 10 for 68 in the series (that’s like Twins-without-RISP bad).  Not the best results out of the box for a lineup that might contain too many hitters of a certain variety.  The Jim Thome homerun off of Kyle Farnsworth, in addition to salvaging Opening Day for the Sox, was tailor-made for a hilarious episode of The Dugout.  THIS STORY ONLY ENDS ONE WAY.

The White Sox have a few young players (Ramirez, Floyd, Danks) trying to follow up on good years last year.  No one would confuse this year’s edition of the White Sox for a team in the midst of a youth movement, and player development hasn’t really been one of the organization’s strengths, so it’s interesting to read about some prospects that have caught Sox fans interest.

I live in Chicago (and I’m going to Sunday’s game – it’s my way of celebrating Easter.  Here’s hoping the only eggs I find are put up on the scoreboard by Balckburn, am I right?) and I’ve really grown awfully tired of Sox and Cubs fans both.  And if they ever start discussing one another, forget it.  It’s good to know that I’m not alone.  At least occasionally Sox fans direct their dislikes in amusing directions (I link to that only for the title – it made me chuckle).


Dickey v. J. Contreras

Liriano v. B. Colon

Blackburn v. M. Buehrle

I just don’t like facing Buehrle.  Of course he’s pitching the game I’m going to, but what can I do?  If the weather is cold, at least we won’t be out in the elements for very long with his quick pace.  Buehrle had some stiffness in his arm during the spring, which may be a sign of him not being as young anymore.  The White Sox seem to think so as they made a point of suggesting Mark try some of this new-fangled “working out” thing in the offseason.

Contreras and Colon spent the spring in a “battle” for the fourth starter position.  The long and short of it is that neither of them inspire confidence.  It would seem they’re both nearing the end of their careers.  Perhaps the front office felt obligated to fill the AL Central quota for veteran starters?  With the Twins throwing everything out of alignment and not doing their usual part, they were probably just confused.

From the White Sox Opening Day, this is the correct way to “throw” out an opening pitch.  Hockey players rule! (I wonder if Beloit will let me do that when I get to throw out my own first pitch?)

Series Preview in Blog: Chicago White Sox (4/29-4/30)

Short post for a short series, the Twins play two against the White Sox to begin the week. The White Sox come into this game on a … well … it’s hard to explain, but they’re not on a winning streak, or a losing streak. We won’t be able to figure that one out until June 12, when the Sox and the Orioles resume the game that was postponed in the 12th inning yesterday due to weather. The Sox had won two out of three from the O’s thus far in the series, and they remain on top of the AL Central early in the season with a 14-10 record. An early AL Central lead is enough for some to try to sell this team as a contender this season (I can’t have a Sox series preview without a Palehose 8 link. It wouldn’t be right).

The Sox have been scoring a lot of runs, they lead the AL with 5.29 R/G, but they haven’t been doing it with the benefit of a great batting average. The Twins have the advantage in that category (.261 to .243 – lowest in the AL), but the rest of the line tips pretty heavily in the Sox favor (MIN – .261/.303/.361, CHI – .243/.336/.418). Chicago has got a lot of their offense from the long ball (AL-best 32 HR), but they’ve also found an unconventional way to score runs, the bases-loaded hit-by-pitch, perfectly executed several times by Carlos Quentin. The HBP is probably gritty enough to count as Ozzie’s much ballyhooed “small ball”, but almost all other vestiges of that strategy seem to have disappeared. Quentin has been off to a fantastic start this season, solidifying his place on the roster.

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Series Preview in Blog: Chicago White Sox (4/07-4/10)

They’ll be playing this series in my backyard, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make it to any of the games. Definitely not on Monday, but Wednesday or Thursday is a possibility. If I do go, of course I’ll file a full report.

The White Sox come into this series hot off a sweep of the Detroit Tigers, much like the Royals did before them. I have to say it’s awfully nice of Detroit to do their part to make these teams satisfied and complacent coming into their games against the Twins. This is the first series away from home for the Twins, who sit at 3-4 compared to the White Sox 4-2 mark which puts them atop the AL Central. That’s three series against division leading teams out of three so far this season, for anyone who’s keeping track.

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Series Preview in Blog: Chicago White Sox (Round 3)

Minnesota Twins (43-41) @ Chicago White Sox (37-45)

The Twins head into the All-Star break with four games in three games in Chicago. This series wraps up the current road trip, on which the Twins dropped to 3-4 when they lost 3 of 4 to the Yankees in New York. After an over .500 June (15-12), the Twins have stumbled out of the gate in July, starting off 1-4. The White Sox finish their seven game homestand with this weekend’s series. The previous series the Sox split 4 games with Baltimore after a successful 6-1 road trip through Tampa and Kansas City. The Sox remain in fourth place in the AL Central, 12.5 games back of the first place Indians, and 5 games behind the third place Twins. The Sox have struggled more at home than on the road, posting a 17-23 record in The Cell where they haven’t won a series since May 23 (they have split two series in that span). Meanwhile the Twins remain right around .500 on the road, with a record of 21-21.

While the Sox have certainly fallen short of their expectations this season, if they just had a little more grit they would probably be just fine, right? Grit or no grit, at least their manager still knows how to keep loose as they flail away. Still, when your team struggles like the White Sox have, it seems like every game is the same old story.

I thought it was interesting that Kenny Williams, the White Sox GM, will often consult with players before making roster moves. Not quite as surprising is that sometimes he wishes Ozzie would just shut up.

On Friday, the series kicks off with a double header which is a makeup game for the cancelled game in April. Since the other two games of the series were split betwixt the two teams, the Twins have a chance to win two series in one weekend (in a manner of speaking). Toward that goal, Scott Baker, fresh off two quality starts, will face Jon Garland (6-5, 3.15 ERA, 1.16 WHIP), who has posted a 1.91 ERA since June 1 in 6 starts. In the nightcap, Twins fans get their first look at a Matt Garza as a starting pitcher when he will start against Gavin Floyd, who was recently recalled from the minors and will also be making his first major league start this season. He made 15 minor league starts this season with a 7-3 record, a 3.10 ERA, 0.67 HR/9, 3.0 BB/9, and 7.7 K/9. For more, here’s a review of one of those 15 starts.

Saturday afternoon will pit Boof Bonser against Mark Buehrle (5-4, 3.26 ERA, 1.11 WHIP) who’s future has been the subject of intense speculation for quite a while now. This could be the last time the Twins have to face Buehrle in a White Sox uniform (picture from South Side Sox). As always, Mark has been an innings eater for the Sox. He has thrown more than seven innings in each of his last five starts (1.91 ERA in that span).

The Buehrle saga began with the Sox trying to negotiate a contract extension, but as the Sox struggled, and the deal didn’t get done, people began to speculate as to the possibility of a trade. The deal has been on and off a few times. The hang-up on the extension was apparently a no-trade clause, which Buehrle wanted, but the Sox were unwilling to give.

It’s always been a tough franchise to embrace, and even in the afterglow of immense success, the stone face always seems to make itself evident. … It often seems like the Sox organization is businesslike on good days, cold on bad days, and vengeful in the ugliest of times. And that’s why fans get so worked up when a guy like Buehrle is on the cusp of leaving, because he’s none of those things. Aaron Rowand’s presence is demanded on every message board, mailbag and call-in show for the exact same reasons.

-Sox Machine

Going into the All-Star break the Twins will send Carlos Silva to the mound to face Javier Vazquez (5-5, 3.70 ERA, 1.08 WHIP), who has been, in a word, inconsistent this season. But when he has been on, he has been very good. He has 6 starts this year where he has allowed 1 run or less (including two starts against the Twins).

The attentive reader has probably noticed that starting pitching is not the reason the Sox are currently under .500. The bullpen has been pretty shaky, which has given Sox fans a whole new way to interpret Win Expectancy.

Finally, if you have read either of the first two White Sox previews, you know I’m a fan of Palehose 7. Recently, it has been trying times over there as Ozzie Captain Hand has had to deal with the legend of Aaron Rowand.