In most--well, all really--opening series, fans learn little about the identity of their team. However, it becomes a lot harder to discern even a coherent initial impression from a team that flies around between extreme amounts of dominance in some areas (hitting the ball), and withering incompetence in others (pitching after the 6th inning). In all likelihood, the White Sox will not average 8 runs a game, nor will Will Ohman throw 110 innings out of the bullpen and rack up a double-digit ERA, but the White Sox are 2-1, and that's not bad.
It's actually pretty great, and as much as I may have felt that they should have swept an inferior team Sunday when they had their best pitcher on the hill, but Chuck Garfien on CSN pointed out that 3-0 would have been the team's best start since 1992. Well then.
The Series: The Sox bludgeoned their way to 15-10 and 8-3 victories in the first two games against the Indians with a wave of power hitting. They clubbed 10 extra-base hits in the two contests, speaheaded by Adam Dunn and Carlos Quentin combining for 8-15 with 2 HR, 4 doubles, 5 runs, and an astounding though inherently circumstantial 12 RBI. It was truly a good time to be a plodding masher derided for your batting average.
In the finale, the Indians and Sox decided to actually to trot out their best starters for a lark, and a pitcher's duel broke out in response. Danks looked especially sharp in striking out eight hitters in six innings, and Justin Masterson's groundball tendencies were a much needed tonic to a Sox lineup that had been blasting the ball throughout the air the past two days, though who knows how well Masterson would have faired if Alexei Ramirez hadn't bunted into a triple play.
It was 1-0 Chicago in the 6th with two outs when Danks' command left Cleveland and drove home early. He allowed solid contact to three straight hitters from there, most notably a two-run homer to Orlando Cabrera of all friggin' people. The bullpen fumbled it from there, and then kicked it some more for good measure.
Interesting to note that after drawing 41,721 fans (who swiftly departed for Opening Day), the Indians set record low for attendance in Progressive Field the next two games with sub-9,000 totals. The Cavs are playing the Knicks tonight, so uh...let's just assume everyone was preparing for that.
Bullpen Concerns: One of the prevailing themes, other than unmitigated offensive evisceration of the first two games, was bullpen members looking shaky in their first time out. Will Ohman was tagged for two home runs in his first outing, Pena racked up an 18.00 ERA for his one inning of work, Chris Sale allowed two hits before recording a strikeout, Santos had mixed control and allowed three baserunners, Jesse Crain needed 34 pitches to get through an inning, and Thornton allowed an RBI single and walked a batter before settling in.
Opening jitters are usually something that can be forgiven, which is probably why so much malice will be directed at Will Ohman, who after struggling on Friday, came into a 2-1 ballgame on Sunday and shut the door...on the wrong team. He allowed two runs in the 7th, then--in an awe-inspiring display of generosity--was allowed to come out for the 8th, allowed a single that would eventually score before getting a fielder's choice. Phil Humber replaced him and was even worse, and what was once a one-run game was no longer a save situation.
Stats are going to be unfairly unpretty to Ohman (2 IP, 6 ER), but what's of greater concern is that the LOOGY not only seems ineffective against lefties, but is not being used as a LOOGY either. Perhaps it's too soon for a "WHY THE HELL ISN'T JESSE CRAIN THE GUY IN THIS SITUATION" rant, but it's worth noting that Ohman can be as bad as he wants as the last guy out of the pen--a bad contract for sure, but not paralyzing. If Ozzie starts feeling obligated by that contract to do more than just try him out early-season to see if he's got anything, then the Linebrink comparisons will really begin.
Offensive MVP: Adam Dunn banished all pangs of buyer's remorse in the right field bullpen of Progressive Field on riday, and while he's certainly a shiny new toy in the lineup, an old goody is glittering too. Carlos Quentin looks locked in to start the season, having reached base twice in every game so far. It can be easy to forget during the long stretches where he isn't, that CQ locked in is a pretty terrifying offensive player, and easily the best No. 6 hitter in the league. It's tantalizing to think about how if he somehow returned to his 2008 form, or even produced his 2008 5-month totals over an entire season, the Sox would be outmatched offensively by no team.
Looking ahead: The White Sox have a day off before continuing the "Let's not slip and break our necks while visiting the Division cellar" tour in Kansas City for two games. Now, when Wilson Betemit, Jeff Francouer, and Melky Cabrera are in their lineup and Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer aren't, seems like the better time to catch some rays in KC than later this year, though a team based around the home run is always tempting fate in Kaufman Stadium. For the first game, the Royals have decided that "We see you skipping your abysmal 5th starter and will raise you Luke Hochevar". Well played, sirs.