Perhaps the only thing as brutally swift as the White Sox sudden plunge into the offensive ineptitude and general despair that sparked a 7-game losing streak, was how immediately clear it was that they were out of it Thursday in Tampa. Juan Pierre bunted the 2nd pitch of the game (and the first too, but foul) down on the 3rd base line, our beloved friend Felipe Lopez flung the ball to his own right fielder and advanced Juan two extra bases, and an Omar Vizquel groundout plated him. Just like that, the White Sox had their first lead in 51 innings, and were done looking like roadkill. The swiftness with which this mountain climbed makes the last week even more perplexing.
After an entire series spent being the footnote to Tampa webgems, the
Sox sprayed 10 hits all across the rubber-covered outfield of Tropicana,
played competent–even helpful–defense, wriggled out of two-out jams,
and pretty much reversed every God-awful trend they had been stuck in,
if only for one night, and beat the Rays 9-2 to avoid a sweep.
only did the White Sox hitting come alive, but against my expectations,
it didn’t just come as a result of Carlos Quentin hitting 5 home runs
while everyone else went 0-4. The Sox got 2 RBI a piece from A.J.
Pierzynski and Omar Vizquel, Mark Teahen walked* and scored twice, and
Juan Pierre bunted for two hits.
The latter two might set precedents
that will could seem unwanted in coming weeks, and the role that
extremely out-of-sorts-in-2011 Rays starter Jeff Niemann played in
getting the White Sox out of their slump can’t be overstated, but jeez,
who cares? The White Sox had lost 7 in a row, the White Sox had lost 8
out of 9, the White Sox were under 2 runs a game for the past week. The
White Sox needed to start catching some big damn breaks, and they
needed them today.
A win is just one win, and it wouldn’t
be the biggest surprise to see the White Sox offense roll over and die
all over again on Friday night, especially up against Justin Verlander,
but this certainly has to help.
If ‘pressing’ is a real factor in
this sport–and Juan Pierre’s April in the field would certainly seem
to suggest that it could be–then removing the obligation to jump-start
the entire offense single-handedly could be of some use. If
overmanaging is a real issue–and when Ozzie is handing away outs when
he only has three left, it seems like it is–removing the notion that
Guillen “has to do something!” to snap the team out of it, and has to
rub his fingerprints on the offensive strategy in some visible way,
might do for some improved run efficiency.
Between Alex Rios’
sub-.500 OPS start, Adam Dunn’s power outage, and Gordon Beckham’s 3-33
slump** that earned him the night off Thursday, the lineup could still
use a fair bit of momentum. If only to see how good the Sox could be if
2008 Carlos Quentin had friends.
*(Mark Teahen’s ability to take a walk, far better than anyone else on
the team besides Dunn and Konerko, deserves it’s own post)
**(I bought low on my Batman-referencing sponsorship of Beckham’s
Baseball Reference page. His refusal to provide return on my investment
is starting to feel personal)