But not too much. Jayson Nix is still probably too terrible to even be referred to as a replacement-quality player, and Jake Peavy is still terrible to the point of looking overmatched.
And the White Sox are still paying him 15 million dollars.
I had all the hopes in the world of the White Sox earning a split in this series...until the end of Saturday night, when the best starter on the team in John Danks went down in flames, and the ChiSox would need to earn a win against James Shields and his sub-3.00 ERA, while hopefully receiving a strong effort from Jake and the Fat Pitch.
So if I was told that the Sox would win this game when the answer to question of "Did Peavy get things on track?" was "Hell to the no", I would probably be fairly skeptical, and even more so if I was told that Jake's line would be 5 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. Steve Stone commented multiple times that Jake Peavy didn't have a slider Sunday afternoon, which seemed troubling seeing as that's his go-to breaking pitch, his strikeout pitch, the pitch that sets up his fastball to a great degree, and the pitch that people usually refer to when they say that Jake has 'electric stuff'. Some pitchers are good enough to thrive off using only a fastball and a change-up in combination. Jake Peavy is evidently not.
Which is a shame seeing as there is no way of knowing when Jake will magically start being able to throw a competent slider again, and he's bound to continue to get a start once every five games regardless. Mark Buehrle regularly goes through periods of getting tagged, Gavin Floyd has the composure of a hummingbird (and has had good starts his last two outings), Freddy Garcia is battling despite being washed up, but what on Earth is Jake's excuse? He's healthy, he seems plenty confident, yet he's been mired in a pretty long period of not having his stuff. Even his control problems from earlier this season are essentially gone (he walked no one on Sunday). What's going on is that Jake Peavy, who twice led the league in strikeouts, suddenly can't miss any bats. The 15 million dollar man has given up 9 more earned runs than anyone else in the American League. Worse yet, the guy in 2nd place is Gavin Floyd. Jake Peavy turned 29 this Memorial Day, so it doesn't stand to reason that he would experience a sudden loss of the ability to pitch. Career norms for veterans are most often cited to argue that a jump in production is a fluke, but they can also be used to rationalize that a guy with the track record of Jake Peavy can't possibly keep stinking this bad for this long. Then again, there's a reason that GMs don't like to give long-term contracts to pitchers. They get injured, they lose velocity, or maybe they just lose their edge for a position where the line between being dominant and being Jim Parque is razor-thin. Sooooo, yeah, maybe the Sox wasted 15 million dollars, and maybe not. Jake has made it pretty unclear.
It's hard to justify this game not being a fluke on the level of Friday night's victory given that the White Sox got 5 RBIs from Jayson Nix and Omar Vizquel. Also Juan Pierre made a leaping catch of what may have been a 2-run, game-tying home run by B.J. Upton to end the 7th inning, but only after it deflected off a fan's glove in the left field bleachers and the umpires ignored it. I mean, did no else think it was weird that Juan leaped and made a catch at the wall when he's only 4 feet tall? It seems like the umps should have known something was up.
The parts of the game that actually seemed to be following reliable trends were Alex Rios having a 3-hit, 2-RBI game, Jake Peavy pitching bad enough to make me long for the glory days of Jon Garland, Carlos Quentin going 0-3, and Matt Thornton being worked into the ground. Rios is playing so well that he might have actually made the All-Star team even if every team wasn't allotted at least one representative. As the only player on the team hitting over .265, I'm constantly waiting for Alex to start treating the rest of the team with open contempt.
The Jake and Jon Garland comparison feels apt, as Jon also alternated between periods where his sinker didn't work and the ball flew out of the park, and long stretches of time where he seemed like one of the 10 best pitchers in the league. Even creepier, Jon Garland is pitching great for the Padres now, while Jake is dreadful for the Sox. Needless to say, if Jake Peavy turns out to be the second-coming of Jon Garland, I'd be very, very disappointed. Unless it also involved winning a World Series. Matt Thornton is probably a lock to pitch another 70 innings out of the bullpen this season, and he should be, as despite that long drive he allowed to Upton, he's having his best season yet. His strikeout rate is up, his WHIP is a superhuman 0.706, and hitters have only managed a .145 BA against him. Anytime, is a great time for Matt Thornton. I don't know what's up with Carlos Quentin, but between him, the bottoming out Andruw Jones, and Mark Kotsay, deciding who plays Right Field and DH has to be about as exciting for Ozzie Guillen as a ride through the Tunnel O' Love with Joe West.
Yet even if the Sox seemingly won Sunday's game on the back's of the untalented (Jayson Nix), and the geriatric (Omar Vizquel), at least they did it somehow. The South Siders lucked out immensely when James Shields, owner of a 5-3 record and 2.99 ERA coming, inexplicably hit a wall in the 6th inning. He stopped being able to spot any of his pitches, leading him to load the bases with no one out with Jayson Nix. As many times as the White Sox have completely blown situations like this all season, it made it seem like a much bigger accomplishment when Nix worked the count full, forcing Shields to try to groove a fastball down the heart of the plate to avoid a bases loaded walk. At that moment, a reserve hitter who had not shown any of the power he had last season, who couldn't keep anything in fair territory, who existed in Sox fans conceptions only as "That guy who ruined that Angels game", took a mistake pitch by a top-level starter way out to left field to break a 3-3 tie against the best team in baseball. It may not turn the season around, and it may just wind up being a story Jayson tells when he's working at a Taco Bell in Fresno 17 months from now, but when it happened, it certainly seemed pretty special.