Right Wing Nut House

7/12/2010

FIRST PLACE AT THE BREAK? WHO WOULDA THUNK IT

Filed under: Sports, WHITE SOX — Rick Moran @ 8:43 am

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Carlos Quentin unloads a solo shot against Kansas City yesterday. The Sox won 15-5.

My Chicago White Sox must have been channeling Harry Houdini this past month, given the escape the team has made from destruction at the hands of GM Kenny Williams who was probably days away from breaking up the team and starting over.

That was June 8 when the hapless Pale Hose was 9.5 games behind the Minnesota Twins and 9 games under the .500 mark.

What has transpired since then is one of the most astonishing turn arounds in baseball history. In the last 30 games, the White Sox have won 30, lost 5, and find themselves at the All-Star game break in first place, 11 games over the .500 mark.. They have come all the way back from the dead and are dominating professional baseball as few teams have in the modern age.

How? They are playing the game the way it was drawn up to be played; outstanding starting pitching, good defense, and clutch hitting. Sox starters have an Earned Run Average of 2.23 over the last 30 games, while their team batting average has been a robust .288. They are getting hits with two outs and runners in scoring position and have started to crack home runs with regularity. Their bullpen has come around and now features an All-Star set up man (Matt Thornton), another set up hurler with 23 straight scoreless appearances (J.J. Putz), and a closer who hasn’t blown a save since May (Bobby Jenks).

Put that all together and you come up with an unbeatable team. Following an 11 game win streak in June, the Sox went on another tear at the beginning of July and go into the break with an 8 game winning streak.

All is not roses, however. Former NL Cy Young award winner and current Sox ace Jake Peavy went down with a torn muscle in his shoulder and will have season ending surgery this week. The kid they brought up from the minors to replace Peavy’s spot in the rotation - Daniel Hudson - didn’t fare too well yesterday. Handed an 8-1 lead by the offense, Hudson proceeded to stink up the joint by giving up 5 runs in less than 5 innings. He will apparently get another chance to show what he can do, but GM Williams will almost certainly be burning up the wires looking for an established starter before the trade deadline on July 31.

A word about Carlos Quentin. At age 27, the oft-injured right fielder has yet to play a full season in the majors. As recently as 3 weeks ago, he was hitting an anemic .190 with just 7 home runs. But after a “mystery adjustment” at the plate that he refuses to divulge, the young man has put up Ruthian numbers. He has raised his batting average to a more respectable .244 while hitting 12 homers and knocking in 30 runs in 22 games.

This past week, Quentin played just three games, limited by a knee bruise he got making a spectacular catch in the outfield. But in those three games, Quentin hit 6 home runs. One of the strongest players in baseball, Quentin looks like the MVP candidate of 2008 when he was leading the league in home runs and 2nd in runs batted in until breaking his wrist in early September. It appears that, barring injury, Carlos will soon be close to the American League offensive leaders if he continues hot.

Eventually, the White Sox will cool off. There are too many vagaries in baseball for such hot streaks to continue for an entire season. But there is little doubt that they will remain in contention for the Central Division title as long as their pitching holds out, and their timely hitting continues.

Oh…and did I mention the sweetest thing about this streak? The Cubbies are going in the opposite direction and have lost 50 games at the break. For a Sox fan, there is no more glorious affirmation that life is good than watching the Cubs flail about like minor leaguers on the diamond, finding new and inventive ways to lose games for their long suffering skipper Lou Pinella. It will be another “Wait Until Next Year” for clueless Cubs fans - making it 103 consecutive years without a World Series ring.

Such futility is awe inspiring.

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