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White Sox's offense in attack mode

4/2/2011

CLEVELAND – Like hot sauce, that simultaneously pleases as it burns, the White Sox offense has been lighting up the scoreboard while pummeling Indians pitching.

Unlike hot sauce, this stuff can’t be bottled up and taken back home.

A day after scoring 15 runs in their first game of the season, the White Sox dialed it back some Saturday in an 8-3 victory over the Indians. That’s 23 runs in two games to start the 2011 season, or 11.5 per contest.

“Everybody's swinging the bat pretty good and they feel comfortable,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “The main thing about baseball is to try to keep it as long as you can when you're hitting well. Make sure you stay on the same path and make sure you don't change anything.”

Saying it is a whole lot easier than doing it, though, and probably nobody knows that better than Carlos Quentin. There is an extremely long way to go, but after two games anyway, he has resembled the hitter that was on an MVP run in 2008 until a self-inflicted injury ended his season with a month to go.

Batting out of the No. 6 hole has seemed to agree with Quentin, who is 5-for-8 (.625) in the early going with four extra-base hits (three doubles and a home run).

“In ’08 Carlos ran it from the first day to the last day; he’s capable of doing it,” hitting coach Greg Walker said. “Obviously he’s not going to hit .800, but when he’s right he’s one of the most dynamic players in the game. There are not many better than him when he’s swinging it good.”

For the Indians, the good news was that nobody was here to see it. The crowd of 9,853 was the lowest in Jacobs Field/Progressive Field history. Indians starters have been shelled to the tune of a 15.83 ERA after two games.

After the way the White Sox wrapped up spring training struggling to score runs, an offensive show like this wasn’t anticipated.

“It felt we just kind of lost focus a little bit and guys were tired and ready to get out of there,” Walker said. “Then we went to Winston Salem and had that game [a 3-0 shutout against their Single-A affiliate]. You start to be a little bit concerned but you just looked back and say ‘We know we’re a good offensive team and five days ago everybody on the team was hot.’ I felt good coming into the season.”

Part of the reason everybody was confident in the club’s offensive potential was Guillen’s plan to have the Opening Day lineup play together for the last 10 days of the spring.

“I liked the way we went about it,” Walker said. “There are some times when you ask veteran players to play a lot in spring training and they might not like it but there was no complaints. They all prepared and we just have a long way to go to keep it up.”

Memo to future free agents: The White Sox will probably be doing this in spring trainings to come, as long as Guillen is the manager, so if that isn’t your speed you’d probably be best to go somewhere else.

Perhaps more than anything, nobody seems overanxious at the plate.

“I think right now, nobody's trying to pull the ball,” Guillen said. “Everybody's staying in the middle of the field and I don't think anybody's trying to do too much with the ball. This team is going to strike out a lot. The hitters we have there, they're a heavy strikeout team. But I think right now, they're not helping the pitchers by swinging at bad pitches. They're making them throw the ball over the plate and I think that's why we're seeing the ball so well.”

For guys like Mark Buehrle and Edwin Jackson, the run support increases their margin for error and both have sued that to win their first starts of the season.

“Definitely you take advantage of it, while it’s here,” Jackson said. “It’s always hard for the offense to continue to be productive the whole season like that. Who wouldn’t mind it? You are getting early runs and you have a chance to establish yourself and get comfortable early in the game.”