Like very special episodes of Blossom and Free Taco Day, the White Sox winning a game has become sort of an event. Sitting through temperatures that dipped to 39 degrees, and watching 16 year-olds use the same fake ID on the same beer vendor multiple times was a small price to pay to be able to hear the team's pulse sputter to life on Monday night..
Some people probably think it's weird to chest-bump their older sister every time after Alex Rios does something good. I don't. Arrgh, my sternum.
Long droughts filled with offensive horror make it tempting to pen the long-awaited "It's turning around!" piece when the offense scores more than 4 runs for the first time in a week and a half. Taking one step back from that, let's look at whether the M.O. that the Sox rode to a 6-2 win over Baltimore could ever be repeated again.
Ever? Like...once more this month? How about twice?
The White Sox cruised to the victory on the back of 2 HRs and 4 RBI from Paul Konerko, and a solo shot from Alex Rios. Not to suggest that the ball was carrying particularly well on the evening, but the first two blasts begged the "would this have gotten out anywhere else?" question.
Obviously Konerko won't homer twice every night (unless...), and Rios is certainly a decent chance to go dormant again this season, but for a low-OBP, high-power team, this is kinda the formula we're banking on. Orioles' pitching only recorded 7 ground ball outs total on the evening. Since most of the lineup can't outrun opposing defenses or draw walks, cranking it for the outfield of their bandbox ballpark and hoping for the best seems like a perfectly fine approach...up until they play in the pitcher-friendly parks of their divisional colleagues. But hey, maybe the Sox can get all their road games canceled.
The resurgent Mark Buehrle (6.2 IP, 0 R) figureheads (not an actual verb) up what has been a top 10 pitching staff in fWAR. While no starting rotation is equipped to make a '2.57 runs per game' team into a winner, everyone besies EJax--who is drastically overestimating how much we all miss Jason Bere--' has been pitching above-average consistently.
That said, Buehrle racked up the most unsustainable line in recent memory; tossing 6.2 IP shutout innings while doing an admirable job ignoring the humans dressed in gray and orange who were constantly surrounding him. 12 baserunners, on 4 walks and 8 hits (and few of them bleeders), which is enough to where you can say if he scatters these hits differently, then it would have been a save situation that Chris Sale was screwing up in the 9th inning.
The relationship with Burls has been long enough that citing his ability to 'get out when it matters' can't be scoffed at (0-10 with RISP can't be all Baltimore tanking, can it?), but he'll hard-pressed to post quality starts when his WHIP is closer to 2.00 than 1.50 unless he continues to get...
How Buehrle has carved out a career pitching to contact in a bandbox on teams full of aging players is a mystery, but Monday night bore out that the Sox have talented defenders scattered about in key positions.
Alexei Ramirez keyed two sorely needed double plays (when you have 12 baserunners, all outs are sorely needed), and Juan Pierre's diving catch down the left field line saved around two runs. Pretty much anything he can do to shake the boo birds off of him can only help, but the point is that when Murphy's Law isn't in effect, these are two talented defenders who can be relied on.
The bottom dropping out of the season has really taken the buzz out of the Mark Teahen reclamation project. Watching him in 2011 reveals how many of his struggles last season revolved around him playing hesitant. While you can still catch him double-clutching throws and he'll never be confused with the love child of Greg Nettles and Flo-Jo out there, he's minimizing mistakes by letting less balls play him. On a 7th inning screamer down the line, Teahen dived to his right on first move and got his glove on it, but had the ball dribble out on him, allowing Lee to reach first. Still, he had turned a double into a single. That'll do Mark, that'll do.
Of course, the Sox still can't throw out baserunners, and the game ended on a dropped third strike, but this is a positive post.
As the last three weeks have shown, nothing really matters if the Sox can't hit, so Rios' corpse rising from the ground and actually whacking two balls out of the infield is probably the most important development of the night. Still, the streaks of adequacy the Sox put together were a soothing tonic.
Speaking of tonics, I wanted to hype out the two worst teams in baseball meeting on Tuesday night in the Sox and Twins (My name? 'Battle of the Cellar Dwellers To See Who Has the Better Fellas'), but I drank too much at the Cell to stay awake much after getting home, and had to scramble to hammer out this.