The plan worked.
The White Sox spent the weekend rehabilitating their offense and egos in sunny Minneapolis/St. Paul, and waited for Detroit to have an outbreak of defensive miscues that would undermine their superior talent level.
It took the whole weekend, but it happened. A hellacious 5th inning of infield defense put two extra Indians runs on the board, and Jose Valverede blew the lead in the 9th. Even Carlos Santana's game-trying triple included a dropped ball from Don Kelly...although it came when he slammed into a wall.
With that, the AL Central lead is two games, and Monday's showdown against a team the Sox have a 5-12 record against no longer has division control at stake. That's important.
The White Sox need a big finishing kick, but it's better that it be one with prior precedent. The claims of "They just need to sweep this road series against [division leader] and they'll be right back in it" rang pretty hollow the last few years.
But if the White Sox are going to banish a division contender to realm of sorrow, they should call back to when they did it earlier in the year--at the end of May against Cleveland.
It's not a perfect example--Cleveland was a fake contender sporting a negative run differential at the time, and they would briefly re-take 1st place in mid-June--but the Memorial Day Weekend 35-16 sweep of the Indians featured the Sox at their most unbeatable, highlighted by three big bats who have since gone into hibernation...until perhaps now.
- Adam Dunn - 3 for 12, HR, 2B, 3 BB, 2 RBI, 4 R, 7 K
- Paul Konerko - 7 for 12, HR, 3 2B, 2 BB, 6 RBI, 5 R, 0 K
- Dayan Viciedo - 7 for 13, 2 HR, BB, 9 RBI, 4 R, 0 K
- Adam Dunn - 4 for 7, HR, 2B, 2 BB, 2 RBI, 2 R, K
- Paul Konerko - 2 for 11, HR, BB, 3 RBI, 2 R, K
- Dayan Viciedo - 3 for 8, HR, 2B, 3 BB, 5 RBI, 2 R, K
- Adam Dunn - .190/.315/.439
- Paul Konerko - .262/.326/.393
- Dayan Viciedo - .247/.287/.387
Dunn was in three-true-outcome fever in May, but hitting for too much power for all his strikeouts to matter. Viciedo was a house of fire, and mixing high-contact with all his free-swinging, and Konerko was invincible.
Since then, Dunn's power came back to more realistic levels, Viciedo's been a wild-swinging, uncoordinated mess, and Konerko has seen his power completely evaporate as murmurs of wrist issues have crept up.
In the meantime, offensive explosions from Alex Rios, A.J. Pierzynski, Kevin Youkilis, and Dewayne Wise pixie dust have tided the White Sox over since the halcyon days, but the best version of themselves came with these three leading the charge. So, did they show anything to get excited about?
Adam Dunn had a four-game hitting streak going (no small feat for him) before missing seven games with an injury, and extended it with four hits to one strikeout this weekend. That put his batting average over .210 for the first time since the beginning of August. He's clearly in an extended stretch of seeing the ball well, but whether or not he can stay on the field is his test over the final five series. Just Dunn's presence at the #3 spot against Detroit sure beats Dewayne Wise.
Nothing about Konerko's statistics, and certainly not his demeanor, indicates progress has come. However, on Saturday, he turned on a 93 mph inside heater and golfed it over the left field wall just like old, fastball-killing times. The weekend also featured deep outs to center and right in a very spacious ballpark, so there's room to dream about his return to U.S. Cellular Field.
Viciedo had a darn productive weekend for looking bad most of the time. He walked three times in the first two games, which would seem like a revelation for Dayan, but came against two pitchers who were churning out balls at will. His huge Sunday came against a left-hander--he has absurd platoon splits--who threw in the 88-90 mph range that Viciedo's long swing loves.
With all those qualifiers in place, he got around on a high fastball and ripped it to left field with a tight, compact swing in what seemed like the first time since...maybe one of those days in May.
Back when the weather was fine, the runs came easy, and no one had time to worry about a team from Detroit.