Sunday, July 11, 2010
Can Sox keep rolling into October?
By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- The White Sox’s sixth perfect homestand in club history was completed Sunday.
The sixth time the White Sox have hit four home runs in an inning went down in the third against the Kansas City Royals.
Sox pitcher Daniel Hudson didn't last long enough to get the win in his first major-league start this season.
An eight-game win streak leading into the All-Star break, the longest to end a first half in franchise history, was punctuated with a convincing 15-5 victory.
Yet among all of it, the most important accomplishment for the White Sox was their move into sole possession of first place for the first time since May 1 … of 2009.
With 25 victories in their last 30 games, the White Sox not only have shown they can get hot, but that they can maintain their winning ways for an extended period.
So here’s the real question: If the White Sox can play this well for a month, shouldn’t they be able to repeat the formula, earn a playoff spot and make a deep postseason run?
“I second-guessed myself and asked my staff if [the early-season struggles] were that bad,” manager Ozzie Guillen said, in an attempt to dodge the question. “Every day I believe coming to this ballpark we have a chance to win. That’s what we are doing right now.”
But should this team now expect to make noise late into October?
“We built this ballclub to be a playoff team,” Guillen said. “I don’t know if we are going to be because [there are] a lot of good teams out there. But right now, the way we should be playing from now on, we are going to compete. Will we be in the playoffs or not? Only God knows the situation. We are going to show up every day to make that happen, at least give the team a chance to be there.”
Guillen apparently still needs more convincing that his team really is this good. Either that, or he doesn’t want to offend teams around the league. Yeah, right. He apparently needs more convincing.
For White Sox fans, and the coaching staff for that matter, what’s not to like about how the club stormed into the All-Star break?
On Sunday they showered a rookie pitcher, making his first start of the season, with a ton of runs. When Daniel Hudson started giving them back, all the offense did was pile on more with a five-run sixth inning and a two-run seventh.
Carlos Quentin had his third multi-homer game of the week, and he even missed three games with a sore knee. Quentin wasn’t an All-Star snub, he just spent the past few days making it look like he was, heading into the break with 19 home runs and 61 RBI.
Hudson didn’t get the victory after pitching just four-plus innings, but the run support was a clear sign of team unity that the players insist was always there, even when April and May looked like a disaster.
“We have great guys on this team,” A.J. Pierzynski said. “Nobody will ever question the guys we have on this team. We get along great. Everybody said, ‘What’s wrong with that team?’ We all got along great and we all thought if we can get this thing going and turned around, we like where we’re headed.
“So far it’s been a lot of fun this last month-and-a-half. We just need to keep it going these next two months and things will end up good. But it’s a long way to go and we’ll just see what happens.”
There was no need to ask anybody if the break was coming at a bad time. Of course it is. Do basketball coaches call a timeout for their squad in the middle of a 10-0 run? Do football coaches insist on stopping the action when their team is storming downfield?
Not only is it an awkward time to be going on the All-Star break, there is the 10-game trip to open the second half, at outposts like Minnesota, Seattle and Oakland that haven’t been kind to previous White Sox teams.
If the White Sox can continue to win through all of that, maybe then Guillen will stop playing nice and say what he really feels about his club and its postseason chances.
“It's a good note to end on in the first half,” Juan Pierre said. “I heard the fans saying, ‘First-place White Sox,’ but the key is to have them yelling that at the end of September. But it's good to always get a break like this. I kind of wish we could keep rolling, but guys can relax knowing we still have a lot of work ahead of us. It's a good way to end it.”
BY THE NUMBERS
The five earned runs White Sox starter Daniel Hudson gave up in four-plus innings was the most for a White Sox starter since John Danks gave up six on June 27 against the Cubs. Asked after the game if he thought Hudson should get another start, Guillen said he would like to see that.
“Those games can kind of hurt you sometimes, when you don't have good command and you're up in the zone a lot and you're not throwing your off-speed for strikes and all you've got is a fastball. Sometimes the score dictates them being more aggressive and that's how they were today. I left some fastballs up in the last couple innings and they crushed them,” –- Daniel Hudson
Matt Thornton and Paul Konerko will participate in Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Anaheim, Calif. John Danks (8-7, 3.29 ERA) was named the starter for the White Sox’s second-half opener Thursday at Minnesota.