Chicago White Sox: Los Angeles Dodgers
Here’s a quick look at the Chicago White Sox’s 5-4 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on Saturday.
How it happened: The White Sox allowed a four-run lead to slip away just as they did in Friday’s loss, but they were able to recover on Saturday. The White Sox squandered that advantage when the Dodgers responded with four runs in the third inning. The White Sox fought back to regain the lead when Alejandro De Aza drove in Alexei Ramirez in the fourth inning. Neither team would score again. Ramirez had two runs and two RBIs on the day. White Sox starter Philip Humber struggled again, allowing nine hits, four runs and two walks in five innings, but he did pick up the win. His ERA rose to 6.01. The White Sox’s bullpen held the Dodgers scoreless over the last four innings.
What it means: The White Sox snapped a three-game losing streak and now have a chance Sunday to win their first series since early June. They have lost their last three series. Their lead in the American League Central also grew to 1 ½ games over the Cleveland Indians. The Indians, who lost Saturday, have dropped four out of their last five games.
Outside the box: The White Sox possess the American League leaders in average (Paul Konerko), home runs (Adam Dunn), triples (Alex Rios), walks (Dunn), strikeouts (Dunn) and on-base percentage (Konerko).
Up next: The White Sox close out their three-game series with the Dodgers on Sunday before returning home. Jose Quintana (2-1, 1.98) will start for the White Sox, and Chris Capuano (8-2, 2.87) will go for the Dodgers.
As a team, the White Sox have struggled as of late. While they’ve been able to hold onto first place in the American League Central thanks to the Cleveland Indians’ own troubles, the White Sox have dropped seven of their last 10 games and lost their last three in a row. On Friday, they lost to the Dodgers 7-6 after previously leading 5-1.
Humber hasn’t been much help to the White Sox as of late either. He’s allowed five earned runs in three of his last four starts, and his ERA has risen to 5.92. He’s 2-4 on the season.
Here’s a look at the White Sox’s lineup against the Dodgers and their starter Chad Billingsley (4-4, 3.57) on Saturday:
1. Alejandro De Aza, CF
2. Gordon Beckham, 2B
3. Adam Dunn, LF
4. Paul Konerko, 1B
5. Alex Rios, RF
6. A.J. Pierzynski, C
7. Alexei Ramirez, SS
8. Orlando Hudson, 3B
9. Phil Humber, RHP
Here's a quick look at the Chicago White Sox's 7-6 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday:
HOW IT HAPPENED: A matchup of two of the game's best young left-handed starters in Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw got off to a shaky start for each. Adam Dunn continued his brilliance against Kershaw (7 for 11 with three homers and two doubles heading into the game) with a two-run home run in the first inning for a 2-0 White Sox lead. The Dodgers got to Sale in the first as well when Elian Herrera doubled home Dee Gordon. But the White Sox came back for more, scoring runs in four of the first five inning against Kershaw. Alex Rios' sixth home run of the season gave the Sox a 5-1 lead in the fifth inning. But the Dodgers put together a five-run sixth inning, chasing Sale after Juan Uribe's double scored Jerry Hairston Jr., and Ivan DeJesus Jr. delivered a pinch-hit RBI single to cut the lead to 5-3. Jesse Crain couldn't stem the tide, allowing three more runs to score for a 6-5 deficit. But Rios delivered another home run in the eighth inning to tie it at 6-6. Matt Thornton couldn't hold the Dodgers in the eighth, throwing a wild pitch that scored James Loney with the eventual winning run.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Sox have dropped eight of 12 since winning nine in a row. Rios was a bright spot for the Sox, hitting the ball hard in each at-bat with two leaving the park. He now has seven home runs on the season.
WHAT'S NEXT: The first-place teams continue their series at 9:10 p.m. CT Saturday. Philip Humber (2-4, 5.92 ERA) will be opposed by the Dodgers' Chad Billingsley (4-4, 3.57 ERA).
At 28 years old and after spending much of the previous five seasons in Triple-A, Bryan LaHair was a purportedly “known” quantity -- Quadruple-A bat, perhaps a fill-in first baseman. In his one brief shot at The Show in Seattle in 2008, he split time at first base with utilityman Miguel Cairo and Jose Lopez. He didn't shine, and it was back to Tacoma the next year. In short, he seemed a man doomed to a dim star on an obscure walk of fame to be named later, perhaps in Tacoma, maybe in Iowa.
He changed that in his sixth campaign in the Pacific Coast League, changing the minds of scouts and analysts alike with 28 homers and a 1.070 OPS. And this year, taken seriously for the first time, he's a 29-year-old getting his first real shot at everyday play in the major leagues ... and blowing the league away. He's third in the National League in slugging, fourth in OBP, and fourth in OPS. And all it took to bring him to Wrigleyville was a minor-league contract, after the Mariners let him slip away as a minor league free agent.
By simultaneously shredding expectations and opposing pitchers, LaHair is providing a fine example that players' career paths aren't simply a matter of forecasting off past performance. That works on the macro level, for most players. But whether as a matter of changing their game or finally getting opportunities they'd long deserved, a few past-prime players are making the most of their opportunities this season.
You can't quite come up with a full lineup's worth of these guys, but beyond LaHair, here's my off-the-cuff list of this season's other “surprise stars,” some of whom will belong in Kansas City as full-fledged All-Stars in a month's time.
C A.J. Ellis, Dodgers: Say what you will about catching always being in short supply -- and it isn't -- Ellis had to wait until this year to get a clean shot at a catching job. Now 31, he's pretty much the perfect example of an organizational soldier: He spent his first two full seasons after getting picked in the 18th round out of Austin Peay as a backup at High-A, caddying for Russell Martin and then Edwin Bellorin (once upon a time a well-regarded Venezuelan prospect).
Ellis finally became a regular in Double-A in 2006. From the start, he showed tremendous ability to get on base, but the Dodgers kept him at the same slow pace, as he spent two years in the Southern League and two years in the PCL before graduating to two years as a big-league backup. That sort of long-form apprenticeship that seemed certain to lock him into little more than membership in the International Brotherhood of Backup Backstops.
Perhaps only taken seriously as a starter as a matter of grudging last resort this past winter, when the market offered slim pickings as far as catching help, Ellis is second only to Yadier Molina among NL catchers in his production at the plate while throwing out 41 percent of opponents' steal attempts. Ellis might be this group's best bet beyond LaHair to be headed to Kansas City for the All-Star Game.
SS Mike Aviles, Red Sox: It has been a bumpy road for Aviles since his old-rookie debut as a 27-year-old with the Royals in 2008. In K.C., he had to contend with injuries and the idea that he wasn't really a shortstop. This year, shortstops are putting up the collectively lowest OPS (.678) or OPS+ (88), so Aviles' .711 OPS/90 OPS+ clip is just a wee bit above average, not shabby considering he's also doing fine at short according to advanced fielding metrics. Beyond buying time for Jose Iglesias, this has proven a relatively high-yield, low-expense gamble for the Sox: League-average shortstops usually cost millions on the market, but Boston got him for an organizational arm (Kendal Volz) and Yamaico Navarro, a utility player so interesting that K.C. flipped him to the Pirates, who have already ditched him in Indianapolis.
CF Alejandro De Aza, White Sox: If LaHair is the slugging surprise of the season, De Aza is the out-of-nowhere leadoff solution most teams need. Back in 2007, he got an opportunity with the Marlins, leading off on Opening Day, but injuries to first one ankle and then the other derailed that season and the next. In 2009, he gave the first indication that he wasn't just going to be a speed guy, slugging .506 for New Orleans; the Marlins were so impressed they let him slip away on a waiver claim by the White Sox. Finally getting a shot at everyday play as a 28-year-old in the one-hole, he's hitting .299/.381/.425 and he's holding his own in center. Juan Pierre never looked this good, but a crowd of quality center fielders in the American League will keep De Aza from All-Star status.
OF Gregor Blanco, Giants: Melky Cabrera isn't the only Giants outfielder having a season well beyond anything he's done before. A Braves prospect they lost interest in, he was dealt to the Royals, who dealt him to D.C. before the Nationals ditched him. All he's ever done is get on base; he just needed an opportunity. He got one when general manager Brian Sabean fished him off the discard pile this past winter. Pushing his way past Nate Schierholtz, Blanco has hit his way into everyday play in right field and the leadoff job with a .387 OBP as a 28-year-old journeyman. Blanco may rival Sabean's “discovery” of Andres Torres in 2009 before all's said and done.
RF Justin Maxwell, Astros: Nobody has doubted Maxwell's power or talent, but his ability to stay healthy has been an annual concern. The Nats decided they had better uses for his spot on the 40-man and traded him to the Yankees, but he spent more time on the disabled list in 2011 with a bum shoulder than he did in pinstripes. The talent-hungry Astros snagged the 28-year-old off waivers this spring, and he's been a free-talent find as a fourth outfielder, providing power against lefties and strong-armed defense.
SP Jerome Williams, Angels: Back in the day, Williams was a top prospect in the Giants organization, ranking in Baseball America's top 20 for all baseball. That all seemed merited after a fine 2003 rookie season in which he drew an NL Division Series start for them against the Marlins. It was almost unrelentingly downhill from there; he needed elbow surgery in 2004, got dealt to the Cubs in 2005, and then bouncing through the Nationals, Twins, A's (twice) and Dodgers organizations, as well as a stint in the independent leagues. After making a nice impression on the Angels down the stretch last season, the 30-year-old Williams is getting regular rotation work in the majors for the first time in seven years as their fifth starter. More of a finesse righty these days, he's been an exceptional salvage-project success, putting up eight quality starts in 10 turns, far better work than most teams reasonably expect from a No. 5.
Quite simply, what these guys reflect is that not all replacements are “replacement level.” Just when you think you know what a player is capable of, a happy few beyond their expected peak age of 27 have demonstrated the delightful capacity to surprise and exceed the modest expectations even their fans harbored for them. I don't know about you, but I like these kinds of surprises -- here's hoping we see more of the same from all of them.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Chris Sale was dominant throughout his second to last spring start, pitching six strong innings against the Dodgers on Thursday. Sale struck out seven Dodgers hitters without allowing a walk. Superstar Matt Kemp struck out swinging in all three at bats against the Sox’s southpaw.
“He was making a lot of people not have very good at bats today,” manager Robin Ventura said. “That’s the thing you notice more than anything.”
Sale is set to pitch the season’s fourth game against Cleveland on April 9 at Progressive Field.
“ I’m confident in myself getting deep in games,” Sale said. “I’m not worried about the innings right now maybe down the road when the innings pile up I will.”
Like many No. 1 draft picks, the Sox may limit Sale’s first season as a starter to around 150 innings .
Sale threw 86 pitches on Thursday, the team is likely to back him off of his pitch count in his final tune-up in Houston next Tuesday.
Thornton leading in the closer derby?
Lefthander Matt Thornton may have already won the closer’s role to begin the season. Thornton was used by Manager Robin Venture to finish Thursday’s 3-1 win over the Dodgers.
The eight-year veteran, for his part, is fine with any role.
“They can tell me Opening Day,” Thornton said. “It doesn’t matter to me, but they will figure that out soon enough.”
“I’m happy with all of them, we are just putting them in to get their innings and get their work but none of that means anything (about) where they are at today,” Ventura said. “At this point we have not totally concluded how we are going to do it.”
"I think I never really got into a solid game plan,'' Garland said. "Rod and I were never on the same page. I became a two-pitch pitcher.''
Read the entire story.
From an early arrival in spring training to three disabled list trips, it’s been anything but a normal ride during what Ramirez called his final year in Los Angeles with the Dodgers.
A timetable of events:
The Cactus League Kickoff Luncheon begins every spring training in Arizona, but the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Cincinnati Reds are boycotting with the White Sox, according to the Arizona Republic.
I asked Ozzie Guillen who was the greatest Venezuelan shortstop in baseball history.
Guillen went on to praise Aparicio as a pioneer for all of Latin American baseball and he said he hopes that the Hall of Famer will get more involved with the present team and organization in the future.
Personally, having seen both Aparicio and Vizquel play their entire careers, my choice would be "Little Louie." Vizquel is a wonderful player and his fielding percentage is 10 points higher than Aparicio's, but for me, Aparicio was the best defensive shortstop ever. Aparicio covered more ground and had a stronger arm than any of the other great shortstops in modern times, including Ozzie Smith, Derek Jeter and Vizquel.
I asked Aparicio, who was at the ballpark Thursday for a special commemoration of the 1959 American League Championship White Sox team, who was the better shortstop.
"I can't compare myself to nobody," Aparicio told me. "Everyone has his own personality and his own game. My game was running and defense. Vizquel has got the same in his game, and he's played longer than me. I'll tell you, he has my vote for the Hall of Fame."
Aparicio, of course, is being gracious. The former White Sox star was more than just a classic shortstop. He started a trend in baseball of base stealers that had been missing in the game since the dead ball era, which was from 1900-1921. Teams like the White Sox and Dodgers picked up on the philosophy of pitching, defense and speed as ways to compete with the other teams, which had more power in their lineups. Both of those franchises were able to use the philosophy of pitching, defense and speed from the mid-1950s all the way into the 1970s as a way of staying in the top echelon of teams.
Comparing eras and great players is an impossible task. However, saying that Luis Aparicio was the best ever to play shortstop isn't really a stretch.
The Sox had a perfect scenario with the beginning of summer, schools finally closed, and the NBA and NHL seasons finished. Interleague play, the allure of the great Dodgers franchise and Manny Ramirez, made this series seem like a slam dunk sellout. Unfortunately for the White Sox, a poor record and the combination of Manny on the suspended list and a "premiere ticket" price contributed to a horrendous attendance of 22,000 on what was a perfect summer evening for baseball.
For regular-season games at U.S. Cellular Field, a lower box seat costs $53. That same seat costs $57 for "prime games," which is the middle range for the Sox, and $67 for "premiere games" like the Dodgers series. That variance of $14 per seat affects ticket prices for seats around the entire ballpark.
The "premiere" games this season, or top-priced tickets, are for Opening Day, the Dodgers and Cubs series in June, the Yankees series in July, the Red Sox series in August, and "Elvis Night" on August 21, an extremely popular annual Sox event is a premiere night as well.
The White Sox's poor record right now is probably the No. 1 contributing factor to this unbelievably low turnout at the gate for the Dodgers series, so White Sox marketing should not be blamed for this. With the new Sox-Dodgers partnership sharing a spring training facility in Glendale, Ariz, the connection to the two clubs made this series all that more appealing. And when you throw in the fact that the White Sox and Dodgers played in the World Series exactly 50 years ago, you can see why the team looked at this as a premiere series.
Major League Baseball has a tiered ticket structure for most of the teams, but with an economy that's still in the dumper, MLB owners are fearful that fans will not show up at the ballparks when teams start to fall out of pennant races in late-July and early-August. This season might be a wake-up call for all teams to lower tickets prices for 2010 and beyond.