Notice that I said that it's getting close to time to be excited, and not actually the time yet; the team is still only 28-33 and while their struggles may have driven most Sox fans to desperation, desperation does not equate insanity.
Still the White Sox are officially rolling for perhaps the first time all season, with their 2-1 victory over the Cubs on Saturday, they have now won two consecutive series for just the second time all season.
But it's not just that the Sox are winning (though man-oh-man, it's good for them to finally be winning), but how they're winning; with excellent starting pitching, and an effective combination of power and small-ball. Makes you wonder if the Sox are still on the brink of trading everyone.
Perhaps the Sox are the obnoxious kid in college who despite fretting about a 10-page essay assignment for a whole week, still only gets around to starting it on 4am the morning it's due. That would explain why they seem to only be springing into action now; when the manager and GM are rumored to be fighting, that same GM has come out and said that changes need to be made, owner Jerry Reinsdorf has come out of his hovel to try to get everyone to calm the hell down, Jake Peavy has plainly stated he'd want out of a rebuilding situation, and the team has eclipsed the 60-game mark that Kenny Williams had set as the point in the season where he would decide if he needed to gut this under-performing squad like a fish.
But seeing as this season-high 4-game winning streak and stretch of excellent pitching has come right in time to lead the Sox to a victory in the first three-game set of the crosstown series with the Cubs, which I already took time to explain is the most important series of the season, the timing isn't too bad after all.
For all my complaints over the advancing age of the White Sox roster, this game was won by a collection of old fogies.
31 year-old Mark Buehrle pitched 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball for his 4th win of the year. Mark didn't have electric stuff, but it's hard to say that he ever has at any point in his career. As many times as Burls looked incredibly hittable in this game, he got out of jams with an uncharacteristic ability to rack up strikeouts. Mark used back-to-back strikeouts to get out of situations in the 2nd, 4th, and 6th. It would register as a fluke, except Mark wasn't blowing away guys with 100mph heat, he mainly relied on the soft, tailing nonsense he's floated his career on for a decade.
34 year-old Paul Konerko provided both RBI of the game on flare singles to right field, and went 3-4 against a pitcher in Carlos Silva who's been red hot, and was pretty darn good on Saturday. The most important hit came in the 7th, where Konerko battled through a 9-pitch at bat with two outs before muscling out a flare to right to score Juan Pierre. Konerko is all set to put the White Sox in a difficult position this off-season. 34 year-old power hitters are typically a pretty poor investment, but he's currently the 5th best hitter in baseball in terms of OPS.
32 year-old Pierre was in position to score only after pulling off the play of the game. The Cubs called a pitchout when Pierre attempted to steal second, and the throw from Geovanny Soto beat him by a mile, but Juan managed to duck Starlin Castro's tag by quickly tucking his left hand. The run proved to be the difference in the game as Bobby Jenks was his typical drama-inducing self, allowing the Cubs to score in the 9th. Juan's hitting numbers are still worse than an album of John Tesh covering Lady Gaga (.583 OPS), but he's also leading the league in steals, a talent that seems pretty valuable in one-run games like this. I could point out that Brent Lillibridge steals bases, can play the outfield, and has inexplicably been crushing the ball since his call-up, but that would be an insane, stathead-blogger thing to do.
The real story of course is Buehrle, and the starting pitching as a whole of recent. For the first time all season, every pitcher on the Sox starting staff is actually coming off a quality start. The Sox have won 4 out of 5 of these games, and the only one they lost was a result of Matt Thornton's arm falling out of its socket from overuse, splattering blood everywhere as the Detroit Tigers gleefully circled the bases. Sure the offense is still essentially just the backing band for the Rios & Konerko duo, but the '05 White Sox lineup wasn't exactly slugger after slugger; they got good pitching and defended well. Good pitching doesn't absolve everything, but it would certainly make the Sox contenders in the AL Central. The Tigers are sputtering, and the Twins are not dominant. They're only 7.5 games up on a Sox team that's played nowhere near it's potential so far. Hopefully now they might be scratching on the surface of it.