After topping the Tigers 5-1 Saturday, the White Sox have won four in a row, are 5-2 on the season, and in 1st place in the AL Central. If the excitement over this development seems a bit over the top for 7 games into the season, consider the last two Aprils.
In 2011, the Sox were 4-3 after their first 7, but that 7th game was the Matt Thornton-Juan Pierre drop-bloodletting disaster loss against Tampa, and it led to a 10-18 month.
In 2010, the Sox were 3-4 after their first 7 games, but the 7th contest was the Mark Teahen Superhero game, where he hit a game-tying HR in the 9th, and a go-ahead triple in the 11th. I don’t think people had a full grasp on how uncontrollably amazing that night was at the time, and the team finishing the month 9-14 didn’t serve to boost excitement any further.
That this hot start has involved beating the Tigers, taking a game from Texas, and looking streets ahead of a Cleveland team that was picked to finish ahead in the division, only serves further the excitement of the 3.10 ERA the pitching staff has thrown up. And this is with 4 games against the Baltimore Orioles are coming up!
To throw some cold water on the enthusiasm, the Baltimore Orioles are currently in 1st place too. That almost ruins everything, doesn’t it? We know the Orioles are doomed to pain and suffering, it was only very possible that the White Sox were in the same boat for the year.
Sox fans, you’re in first place after 7 games. Apologize to no one for being excited it. #whitesox
— White Sox Off Day (@WhiteSoxOffDay) April 14, 2012
But that’s still applicable right now, especially in light of the horror of last season. There’s also a lot to figure out about this team and how they’ll proceed going forward, even while they’re winning. Take Saturday for example.
Gavin Floyd got through 6 innings of shutout ball against a great offense. He struck out 6–half of those coming against the Fielder-Cabrera combination–and had his cutter and curve working exceptionally well all day.
He also deployed an odd strategy of not throwing anything hittable, ever, at any point. Floyd kept his fastball outside the strike zone at a rather absurd percentage (12 of 31 four-seamers for strikes is like, low, dude), and it’s anyone’s guess as to whether it was intentional or not since he plunked three batters and walked three more. It’s a pretty good strategy to stay well clear of a powerful, aggressive lineup, but also a style that could have easily gone very wrong.
It certainly almost did, Tyler Flowers did commendable work behind the plate to keep Floyd without a wild pitch–and commendable work hitting a 423 foot home run–and Floyd needed a huge strikeout of Alex Avila with a 1-2 cutter to end the 6th inning, after inexplicably walking Delmon Young to load the bases. It was a fun outing for Floyd, but hardly offers information for how he’ll look in his next start. He could also look the same in the next start, and give up 4 runs.
The Sox scoring was propped up with solo HRs from Ramirez (who has to wake up at some point), Flowers (for whom the long ball is his primary skill as a player), and Konerko (who is owed tribute in the form of fastballs to hammer from time to time). They also received a triple from De Aza (who vacillates between strikeout/on-base issues and looking amazing), along with doubles from Morel and Dunn.
There’s certainly potential here, but with Dunn striking out 40% of the time, Morel showing no hint of the guy from September–even his double was sliced the opposite way on an inside fastball, and Beckham trapped in the 9 slot for another year, there’s an “in progress” feel to affairs, which is only right, as we’re 7 games in.
Nothing means anything yet, so there’s no harm in getting totally amped, either. In a season where the Sox are supposed to finally crash and drive their fans away in droves, they’ve not only stalled it for a week, but maybe added some of that early season “We can do this!” enthusiasm that leads to impassioned and impulsive decisions, like ticket purchases, celebratory drinks, and mid-season trades for aging hitters.