A piping hot Memorial Day weekend has transformed U.S. Cellular Field into a launching pad, the White Sox offense into a juggernaut, and yesterday it turned two of the AL's best starters into tomato cans.
So what real chance did struggling hurlers Gavin Floyd and Ubaldo Jimenez have?
Floyd continued the erratic pitching that marred his previous two starts, while Jimenez continued the erratic pitching that has marred the last four months of his career.
Gavin hit three batters and couldn't record an out in the 6th, whereas Jimenez walked four batters and was only allowed to face one batter before he was pulled in the 5th.
Each starter's struggles were centered around a crucial three-run homer; Gavin's being a hanging slider taken out by Johnny Damon to erase a 3-0 lead in the 2nd, whereas Ubaldo's was even more damaging.
After jumping out to an 0-2 count against Paul Konerko--the best hitter in the business right now--Jimenez labored for five more pitches before serving up a hanger for a three-run blast to break the 4-4 tie.
Indians reliever Jairo Asencio was brought in to put out the fire, but only brought gasoline, yielding back-to-back triples to Hudson and De Aza, and three more runs. From there on out it was academic.
White Sox 12, Indians 6
Paul Konerko - 2 for 4, HR, BB, 2 R, 4 RBI - He's in a bit of a groove right now.
Gordon Beckham - 4 for 4, 2B, BB, 2 R - Finally got rewarded for the increased amount of contact he's been able to generate.
Alexei Ramirez - 3 for 4, 2B, R, RBI - A ray of light, and a hint of power.
Alejandro De Aza - 2 for 4, 2 R, RBI, K - He's settled into this nice happy place of hitting .280 with a .360 OBP. That'll play.
Dayan Viciedo - 2 for 5, 2 RBI - He's back to being a contact machine of recent. Still swings foolishly at times, but makes recoveries mid at-bat.
Nate Jones - 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 K, 16 of 23 pitches for strikes - "Dominant relievers don't just fall in your lap!" Well....
It's hard to remember that this was a close game for four innings--which nearly accounted for two hours--as Jimenez and Floyd dueled to see which starter could earn the hook first.
Jimenez didn't win many battles Sunday, but he took this one.
After getting two quick outs, Ubaldo waltzed into trouble by allowing a single to Beckham and walking Adam Dunn to bring up Konerko. He got him down 0-2, but Paul Konerko has an OPS over 1.200 when he's down 0-2, and has a propensity for crushing elevated hanging sliders in any count.
The screaming line drive landed in the front row of the left field bleachers, and while Sox pitching was not up to its usual standards this weekend, the three run lead was enough to secure a sweep.
Things Would Be Different If...
Floyd wasn't a great deal better than his counterpart on this day, allowing 13 baserunners in 5+ innings, but he squeezed his way out of monster innings in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.
Three consecutive strikeouts got him out of the 2nd inning with no further damage after putting two runners on, and double plays defused rallies in the next two innings, including an inning-ender in the 4th with the bases loaded.
I criticized Floyd's lack of damage control earlier this week, but today he kept a bad start from becoming a disaster...so did a quick hook.
The best series of the season by a mile has the Sox within a win of first place, and while it's only May, there's some extra importance to this three-game set.
This season possessed diminished expectations and attendance has predictably reflected that. It's going to take a lot to generate enthusiasm about this group.
One way to accomplish that is to knock out big-time tests, such as showdowns with the division leaders. To do so at home, with an exciting offensive barrage makes it all the better.
Team Record: 26-22, .5 GB