Deciding to use a week as a split for which to examine a baseball season was always flawed. It's impossible to conclude on anything as a real trend in that time, and the next week (especially this season) always seeks to prove that momentum doesn't exist.
This past week for the White Sox is an almost preposterous example. For four games in Chicago, the White Sox were burnt alive by the New York Yankees, the type of team they'd be expected to not embarrass themselves in front of should they actually perform a miracle and make the playoffs.
It was pretty clear that the Sox were dead; the offense was still hopelessly enfeebled, a six game losing streak had knocked them 6.5 games back (shouting distance at best), and top it off, Alex Rios was actually dead...though oddly still jogging around.
The subsequent weekend in Minnesota was...different. Most expressly, the White Sox swept the Twins because they obliterated a poor-hitting team to the tune of one earned run over the course of three games, even tossing rookie Zach Stewart between stalwart efforts by Jake Peavy and Mark Buehrle, and still getting fine results.
18 runs and 6 dingers over three games constitutes an offensive explosion, especially given some of the contributors, and while they remain 5.5 games back and they'll need to beat teams far better than the Twins to drag themselves back into the race, there's optimism around the White Sox and their fan base again.
Despite the fact that the fan base has presumably watched the team all season.
How awful the Yankees series was shouldn't be overlooked
Sure, it already got it's own post, but the meekness of the White Sox offense during those four games was really remarkable, and will be easy to point to if the playoff bid falls short.
A 4-hit night from Alejandro De Aza, a 3-run bomb by Carlos Quentin and unusually good night hitting with runners in scoring position (6 for 14) prompted a 7-run outburst on Wednesday night. Unfortunately, the flurry was triggered by the Yankees jumping out to a 13-1 lead.
Other than that, the South Siders managed 4 runs in 3 games, gave the likes of Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes their best outings of the season (or in Nova's case, his career), and failed to muster anything of consequence on a struggling C.C. Sabathia until Adam Dunn was handed a possibility to change his stars in the 8th inning, and was promptly waylaid with a modicum of effort.
Predictably, the Yankee series wasn't kind on the ERA's of the starting rotation. They're one of the best offenses in baseball, and transitioned well to playing in a preposterously hitter-friendly bandbox thanks to all their time playing in New Yankee Stadium--a preposterously hitter-friendly bandbox.
Really, it was only fitting that Gavin Floyd followed up his start against Boston last Friday that displayed what he can achieve when he has everything working, by allowing 10 runs in 2.1 innings to show how far into the depths of hell he can descend when the opposite is true.
For the fourth straight start now, Philip Humber looked like a reasonably decent pitcher who will struggle on occasion due to a below-average strikeout rate. It feels silly to call him an aberration at this point given that his ERA and FIP are exactly equal. But he looks more like a back of the rotation guy and less like an essential member by the day.
Which curiously times up with Zach Stewart being called up for a spot start on Saturday. The results were great (6 1/3 IP, 1 ER), the method was questionable (2 Ks, only 3 swinging strikes), and the stated reason for throwing a half-decent prospect a start of "We want to take a look at him" does not compute.
If Peavy is actually fine--and two of his best starts of the season suggest he is--and the six-man rotation isn't coming back, the White Sox have potential bullpen arms in the minors with more exciting performance records. Then again, the White Sox appraisal of Stewart generally seems to be a tick above the field. They're not wrong yet.
Alejandro De Aza has started 7 games since being called up, and appeared in 3 others. He's played fine defense despite getting juggled around the outfield, added an insurance run Saturday night with aggressive baserunning, and has an OPS of .704. Yup, he's a living, breathing, human being.
Clearly, it would take something rash to change Alex Rios from the guy who brain-cramped a Mark Teixiera liner into a 2-run triple into someone worth starting.
Rios--being sentient and all--has realized as much and taken to trying to significantly alter his batting stance mid-season. The results have been too absurd to believe; Rios went 5-9 with 3 extra-base hits over the weekend...and some of them didn't even go to left field!
While we're at it, Brent Lillibridge was handed two surprise starts on Saturday and Sunday, homered in each game, and didn't strike out all week. What the s***?! Is everyone making adjustments now?
Adam Dunn: 3-21, 1 HR, 8 K, 2 BB, .503 OPS. So, no.
It's just a week, or in Rios and Lillibridge's case--two days, but even having a few outfielders riding hot streaks would be a help.
The baseball season is a long, rough one. All the traveling, bumps and bruises, muscle strains, and sleeping on hotel luxury linens accumulates and wears down even the best of athletes.
Given that, a 7-game week including a four game set in Baltimore before bouncing back home to face Kansas City should be taxing.
OR, these are two teams with a combined record of 93-132, and it really isn't going to get much easier than this.
Tags: Adam Dunn, Alejandro De Aza, Alex Rios, Baltimore Orioles, baseball, Brent Lillibridge, c.c. sabathia, Carlos Quentin, ivan nova, Jake Peavy, Kansas City Royals, Mark Buehrle, mark teixiera, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, phil hughes, philip humber, White Sox, zach stewart