I have always loved baseball, as a kid growing up it was the sport that shaped my childhood more so than any other and the game that I have grown most attached to now that I am nothing more than a washed-up, ex-athlete at the ripe old age of 26. However, each of those 26 years has been spent as an avid Chicago White Sox fan, something that is not always easy to do once you move out of the South Side community that embraces their team. This is a Cubs city, which I am ok with (but I am sure will be the topic of conversation for at least one post along the way here). I take solace in my team and look forward to each spring with “enthusiastic pessimism” that I think a lot of fellow Sox fans share with the start of each season. This season has not disappointed in providing its fair share of both those emotions. To the disappointment of seeing a lack of offensive production early in the season, only to bulldoze through June and July with a 25-5 record going into the all-star game, only to come back down to earth over the last 10 days dropping series to the O’s, Twin’s and Tigers. Which have all combined, brought us to this week’s 3-game set against those same Twin’s (a team that I have nothing but respect for from top to bottom, but a team that has caused me more frustration than an overly jealous girlfriend or when people dress their dogs in designer clothes).
I see this as being a big to moderately huge series for the Sox who currently sit 3 games back going into tonight’s game in MN. Here are a few things that I am interested in keeping an eye on over the next 3 games (both enthusiastically with some pessimism mixed in).
- The probable starting pitchers do not include the name Freddy Garcia. This is good. Although I have been pleasantly surprised with the production we have gotten out of Sweaty Freddy, it looks like the season has begun to wear on him a bit. Instead, left-hander John Danks (12-8, 3.19 ERA) will pitch in the series opener for the White Sox against Twins right-hander Scott Baker (10-9, 4.76. In Game 2 on Wednesday, White Sox right-hander Gavin Floyd (8-9, 3.70 ERA) will face left-hander Francisco Liriano (11-7, 3.26). And in the series finale Thursday, White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle (11-9, 4.05) will face right-hander Carl Pavano (15-7, 3.27). I think that having 3 innings-eaters like Danks, Floyd and Buehrle going in the series is huge help, mainly to try to spell our bullpen after a much needed off-day Monday also. With Putz and Thornton logging a lot of time, Pena having been scored on in his last 5 appearances and Bobby Jenks with a nagging back the real bright spots have been the young guys in Santos and Chris Sale who the Sox brought up earlier this month. Helping to save those arms has been something Danks, Floyd and Buehrle have done well as of late. John Danks, who after Freddy Garcia's short outing Tuesday, went 8 quality innings giving up 1 run on six hits while striking out 7 and walking 2 in Wednesday's victory against the Tigers. Gavin Floyd, who had been one of the best in the majors over the last few months, needs to get back to that form and get some revenge agains the Twins who dealt him his worst start since June 2 in his last start (surrendering six earned runs in a 6-1 loss to the Twins, topped off by a 3-run homer to Jason Kubel, who has made a name as one of the biggest Sox killers, in the 7th – a pitch I don’t think he should have even thrown to the Twins left-handed hitter as he had already thrown 120+ pitches at that point and Sale was warm in the Sox bullpen). Buehrle, is 24-17 vs. the Twins which is his highest win-loss total vs. a team, is an innings-eater by trade and needs to avoid the occasional 4 to 5 runs in the first couple innings before settling down.
- Although it is a small sample-set, I was happy to see Mark Teahen having good at bats with his return to the line-up against the Tigers after is 2 ½ months on the DL with a fractured finger. After not signing Jim Thome (who I will never speak ill of even if he hits 35 homers against the Sox in their remaining 2 series with the Twins because of the respect I have for him), the Sox not picking up a big left-handed bat at the trade deadline or to this point and Mark Kotsay having a rough go of it and not really being a DH the Sox need a little pop from the left side this series against Baker and Pavano. I am not saying that Teahen is the same as Thome, Dunn or Fielder in terms of left-handed pop, but he doesn’t need to be one of those guys with a month and a half left. He needs to get consistent at bats, give some guys some rest with his versatility in the field and maybe breathe some life into a team their own manager said didn’t look like they came to play on Sunday against the Tigers.
- Lastly, the Sox need a shot in the arm by taking 2 of 3 in this series to start getting on a little bit of a run. Over their last 10 the Sox are 3-7 while the Twins are 8-2, winning 7 of their last 8 games. It would be nice for the Sox to get a little bit of swagger back with upcoming series against the Yankees, 1 more set with the Twins and ending their season with series against Oakland, LAAAAA and Boston (teams the Sox have had their struggles against). Twins finish up against the rest of the AL Central which they have killed this year (31-17) and could probably stand to be cooled down a bit by dropping a series at home against the Sox.
I will try to end each post with a different quote from the biggest homer announcer in baseball, Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, starting with an appropriate one for the series that kicks off tonight – “Time to cinch it up and hunker down!"