I worked the late shift today at the Millennium Park Grill concession stand. It was a usual Friday: tourists, families, and concertgoers descended on the park and stretched out our closing time. Surprisingly, this turned out to be a boon for two reasons.
One, I would get more hours on the clock (which I desperately need; schoolbooks and Lollapalooza tickets ain't cheap).
Two, I would be able to catch most of the Sox-Twins opener at 7 PM.
Unfortunately for me, the Sox were playing Detroit at 6 PM. As such, I missed the first inning and a half. And by the time we finally packed up the stand, the Sox were down 5-4, courtesy of a Carlos Guillen home run.
AM radios don't work underground (as we all know), so I was forced to believe the awful, awful truth: the White Sox had lost.
After all, it was a road game against the Tigers. The Sox have been less than great on the road this year, and they were swept by Detroit on their last visit to Comerica Park. So what else was I to think?
More than just a throwback jersey
When I watch this year's edition of the Sox, I'm reminded of Richard Roeper's quote about his beloved 1977 "South Side Hitmen":
"They had barely any pitching. Their defense was sometimes frightening. But oh, could they swing the bats."
The 2008 Sox can pitch, but the guys who were solid in the first half seem to be losing their luster (see: Gavin Floyd, Boone Logan). Their defense, aside from the play of Orlando Cabrera, Alexei Ramirez, and Jermaine Dye, is another bobbled ball away from porous.
But oh my, can they swing the bats.
The Fighting Sox are seemingly set-up to stage late rallies and pound on teams when they least expect it. The big boppers are doing most of the damage at the moment, but with Crede and Ramirez hiding out in the bottom of the lineup, anything can happen at anytime with this team.
Winning ugly is still winning
The ChiSox did not play well tonight. They didn't play well against Texas, and they really didn't play that well against Kansas City. But here they sit, with a 4-3 record in their first seven games after the break and a three-and-a-half game lead over the Twinkies.
Granted, the Twins ran into a hot Yankees team during the week, and had to deal with the enigma that is Cliff Lee tonight, but the Sox have been winning enough to further cushion their cushion.
The defense has been betraying the team since at least the beginning of June. I was noticing that the Sox were committing errors at a faster pace; it seemed somewhere around two or three a game. However, they stayed in the lead due to a good top three in the rotation and a power-packed offense. That is where they stand today.
The Sox haven't been winning with style and grace, but even at 4-3 over the last week, they've been winning.
A late show
Hopefully, not all the wins will be in the later innings, but the Sox have shown a tendency to come through in the clutch. The two extra-inning efforts over the Royals in early June were key, as well as the payback win over C.J. Wilson and the Rangers on Wednesday.
Even the rallies that come up short, such as the one on the 13th in Texas or on Throwback Jersey Day this past Sunday, are confidence builders for a team. Those games give a ballclub a feeling of "okay, we've been here before" if they're trailing into the last three innings.
It's going to take more than just the Dynamic Duo of Jermaine Dye and Carlos Quentin to carry the team, though. As always, here's what the Sox need to continue their winning ways.
More drama in the OC
Orlando Cabrera is probably a one-and-done player for the black pinstripes. But as long as OC produces, I don't care. He's been hitting well out of the leadoff spot, he's a baserunning threat (which the Sox don't have otherwise), and he's an ace in the field.
'Lando and the Real A-Ram (I just keep hanging nicknames on this kid) have combined to make the Sox infield very solid for the last two months, and Nick Swisher is above average at first. As long as Cabrera continues to set the table, the Sox have a good shot at scoring.
The Terrific Tandem, the Dynamic Duo
By which I mean Carlos Quentin and Jermaine Dye. All season long, I've switched my tune back and forth: "Carlos Quentin is a beast." "Jermaine Dye is a beast." Well, they both are, and right now, they're both on for the White Sox. You need evidence?
How about CQ delivering a single with the Sox down to their last strike and then JD crushing a homer in cavernous Comerica Park with Todd "I'm Channeling Goose Gossage's Beard" Jones on the mound?
These guys are doing work, son. As the Hawk might say, they should be All-State in two states.
The best defense...is a good defense
Make plays. Period. I'm tired of seeing errors in the box score every time I buy the newspaper—and I only buy the paper if the Sox won the night before. I like Josh Fields, but I didn't like him botching a surefire double play in the fourth tonight.
He and the rest of the infield, Cabrera and Ramirez included, need to hold the errors down and keep the pitchers in a rhythm.
Pitching is a part of the defense as well, and the Sox pitching staff has fallen into a bit of a slump. Gavin Floyd battled tonight, but he hasn't looked great in his last few starts.
Javy has been out of it since the beginning of June, and Contreras is on the disabled list (take that however you like.) Combine that with the absence of Scott Linebrink and Boone Logan's climbing ERA, and you have a recipe for trouble.
D.J. Carrasco has been a nice addition to the roster, however. He's successfully put out two fires by my count and picked up the win tonight with a scoreless two-thirds of an inning, lowering his ERA to 1.64. Logan also struck out the only batter he faced. But it's getting to the point where arms get tired, so the pitchers have to dig deep.
And as the sock flies on...
As we finished cleaning equipment and preparing for tomorrow, my friend Nick came in with some unbelievable news. Apparently, the Sox had won 6-5, on a Jermaine Dye homer. The thought was almost impossible: the Sox, a comeback win on the road?
Lo and behold, it was more than a thought. These are the Fighting Sox, who go out and battle to the finish line every night. With some key guys doing the right things and a little bit of luck, they might just fight their way into October.
Welcome to baseball on the South Side of Chicago. Keep a bottle of Tums handy and enjoy the ride, Sox fans.
Until next time, keep waving the Pennant.