Thoughts from here and there as the White Sox go for a sweep against the Mariners and their sixth victory in a row...
1. In years past when the Sox found themselves down by multiple runs in the early innings, the feeling was that the game was pretty much over. Not this year. A 3-0 deficit in the first inning? No problem. And so it was last night as the Sox came back to win, 5-4, to maintain their 2 1/2 game lead over Detroit.
2. The analysis of home plate umpire Lance Barrett's job performance last night was quite unanimous, at least with Hawk Harrelson, Steve Stone, the pitch tracking gizmo, Robin Ventura and A.J. Pierzynski. Then A.J. got tossed for barking at Barrett's calls, Robin uncharacteristically exploded and got tossed himself. These episodes can be exaggerated regarding their impact on the team, but in this case it seemed the players got a bit of a spark from the proceedings having never seen Ventura's "Mad Dog" side.
3. Dewayne Wise has credited Yankee hitting coach Kevin Long with helping make an adjustment in his swing that has resulted in an improvement in Wise's production. It shows the fine line between success and mediocrity in baseball and makes you wonder what kind of career DWise would have had if the flaw was detected years ago.
4. A.J. is just one of a group of potential free agents on the Sox roster--Kevin Youkilis, Jake Peavy, Francisco Liriano, Brett Myers among the others. The call on A.J., however, might prove to be the toughest decision.
Along with Paul Konerko he is one of two holdovers from 2005, a team leader who is having a career year and as durable a catcher as there is in baseball even at 35 (he'll be 36 in December). Then there's the issue of his replacement. Is Tyler Flowers ready? At the beginning of the season, I would have said a definite "no," but he's doing a solid job defensively and it appears he's making strikes offensively. Last night, for instance, after A.J. was thrown out of the game, Flowers homered and laid down a key bunt for a hit with two strikes. I'm still not convinced he's the answer, but I'm more open to the idea.
5. Even though they've always been tough on the Sox, this week's four-game series against the Orioles finds us traveling to Baltimore on much different terms. The O's are in third place only four games behind the division-leading Yankees and a half-game behind the second place Rays. At 69-57 their record is similar to our 70-55.
6. Oh yeah, and don't forget we go from Baltimore to a three-game series in Detroit, a place that's been a house of horrors for the Sox lately. And any baseball fan has to be looking forward to next Sunday's nationally-televised ESPN2 game that will pit Chris Sale vs. Justin Verlander.
7. Rosters will expand September 1 as a number of reinforcements will join the Sox from the farm system. Some will join earlier than others as the AAA Charlotte Knights are in the playoffs. No word on exactly who will be called up, but don't expect a game-changer in the bunch. It'll most likely be guys who have been up before and can provide some long relief, a stolen base or defensive help.
8. All that said, I wouldn't be surprised is Kenny Williams picked up a veteran infielder or outfielder before Sept. 1 to provide a little bit more quality off of the bench for the stretch drive.
9. What's been your favorite part of the 2012 Sox?
--The Ventura influence
--The individual Comebacks (Dunn, Rios, Peavy)
--The emergence of Sale
--The Baby Bunch in the bullpen
--The resilience to come back in games
10. My non-Sox note of the week: Having acquired Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, how long before the Dodger payroll reaches Yankee territory?
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Tags: A.J. Pierzynski, Adrian Gonzalez, Brett Myers, Carl Crawford, Chris Sale, Dewayne Wise, Dodgers, Francisco Liriano, Hawk Harrelson, Jake Peavy, Josh Beckett, Justin Verlander, Kenny Williams, Kevin Long, Kevin Youkilis, Lance Barret, Mariners, Orioles, Paul Konerko, Rays, Robin Ventura, Steve Stone, Tigers, Tyler Flowers, White Sox, Yankees