It's easy to see why the Pirates are struggling. Erm...uh...let me start that again.
It's easy to see why the Pirates are hurtling at the speed of sound toward the epicenter of eternal baseball damnation. They have two good hitters, and zero scary ones, their pitching staff can't overpower anyone (26th in the league in strikeout rate), and they play worse defense than the 1919 White Sox did in the World Series (3rd most errors in the league).
Watching this hapless, destitute tragedy of a baseball team for three days was harrowing. I am now thoroughly in favor of revenue sharing and a hard salary cap, if only for the children of Pittsburgh; even if they don't ever see a playoff game, so that they could maybe witness a game in August that has some playoff implications.
Breath-taking sports poverty aside, the White Sox did well in this series. They certainly didn't blow the Pirates out, and definitely had a few interesting moments, but looked in control and outclassed the Bucs throughout, trailing for one measly half inning the entire series.
Mark Buehrle's 7.1 IP, 2 ER effort Thursday night extended the run of quality starts by the White Sox staff to 8 out of the last 9. For the second-straight night, Ozzie Guillen let the starter go out for the eight inning when he probably shouldn't have, but ultimately the 3-run rally the Pirates launched in the 8th that made every White Sox fan have to stare into the abominable abyss of the possibility of blowing a late lead to the Pirates and snapping their 10-game losing streak was Sergio Santos' fault, not Ozzie's. Sergio came in the game and showed why J.J Putz should probably be the No.1 late-inning right-handed reliever instead of him, but at least Ozzie can recognize when the kid has reverted back to "I'm a converted middle infielder, and I don't know what I'm doing!" mode, pulling him for Matt Thornton before the inning became irretrievable. Thornton squashed the crisis with urgency of a FEMA employee, but the game's over, the Sox won, they're out of Pittsburgh, three wins...let's get the hell out of here before something rubs off on us.
The White Sox have been waiting all year for a hot streak, and this is hopefully only the first of a few. Anyone looking to discount this game's meaning only needs to refer the three times this season the Sox have been beaten by Mitch Talbot of the Cleveland Indians.
The White Sox offense, while still mired in a contest with the Sox defense to see which is truly the team's weakness, is showing signs of progress. Not big, garish, pink neon signs, but small hastily made paper signs. Quentin, Pierre, Beckham, and Pierzynski all still have averages well below starting quality, but Alexei Ramirez has emerged from the pack. Through Wednesday, Ramirez has an .880 OPS in the last 28 days, once again fulfilling the popular theory that in the early months of the season Alexei tends not to hit because he is simply freezing to death. Better yet, every starter in the Sox lineup had a hit Thursday night except for Alex Rios, who can afford an off game.
This weekend brings the Nationals, a team that is certainly better this year than they have been in a long time, but is still 5 games under .500, and the losers of three straight. Strasburg will be a mountain to climb on Friday to say the least, but two very beatable starters take the hill after that.
6.5 games out is a long way, and the Tigers are suddenly just as hot as the White Sox, but it's a hell of thing to be discussing the standings again.