Sox torrid run ends at nine

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Sox torrid run ends at nine

All good things have to come to an end. The Sox weren't going to win every game from now through early October. On Saturday, a team finally bested the White Sox, losing to Seattle 10-8 in extra innings, the team's first defeat since May 22.

When the Sox nine-game winning streak began the next day, a 21-22 record stared them in the face. Cleveland was up 3 12 games in the AL Central, and the momentum the Sox built up against the Cubs the weekend before was halted by Minnesota blasting Gavin Floyd for nine runs in 3 23 innings. It felt like a Twins-Sox game from years past, in which the Sox couldn't solve their pesky rivals to the north.

The sweep of the Cubs was forgotten as doom and gloom prevailed. The Twins, with all their talent deficiencies, had blown the Sox to bits, and it seemed like some were expecting more of the same in the next two games.

Chris Sale played the role of the stopper, throwing seven shutout innings on May 23. Alex Rios and Paul Konerko belted home runs, which ultimately were the beginnings of outstanding offensive stretches for both players. The Sox won 6-0. They didn't lose again until today.

In between, the Sox played their best stretch of baseball since the summer of 2010, when they won 11 in a row from June 15 through June 26. By the All-Star break, the Sox were in first, erasing a slow start that saw the team fall nine games below .500 on June 8.

After a comeback win over Minnesota on May 24, the Sox faced a showdown with Cleveland. A series win would move the Sox within 2 12 games of Cleveland, and while standings really don't matter this early in the season, that the Sox would at least be hanging around first place would've been an improvement over 2011.

Instead, the Sox went ahead and swept Cleveland, scoring 35 runs to support some shaky starting pitching. It was a team-wide effort, but Konerko led the charge. At the end of the series, Konerko was fielding questions about whether he could hit .400 this year. He rocketed into the MVP discussion, with Texas' Josh Hamilton seemingly his only barrier as the calendar turned to June.

But Rios, Adam Dunn, Gordon Beckham and Dayan Viciedo all picked up the slack. Viciedo in particular has been white-hot, raising his OPS from the mid-.500s to over .800. Dunn continues to mash the ball, hitting his 17th home run Friday. He hit 11 home runs in the month of May alone, equaling his entire 2011 longball total.

The Sox offense carried this streak, totaling 72 runs over nine games -- an average of eight per contest. The Sox scored four or more runs in eight of the nine games, and in the only one they failed to do so, it didn't matter. Sale struck out 15 in that Memorial Day contest, so it didn't matter that the only offensive output was a two-run blast by Dunn.

On the final night of the streak, Beckham hit a pair of home runs. Both came off Felix Hernandez, who hasn't had an ERA above 3.50 since 2007. It was his first multi-homer game of his career.

Saturday, though, saw the streak end. Seattle out-lasted the Sox in a dozen innings, with the Sox giving up a late lead and getting it back on a blast by Viciedo. But Addison Reed couldn't keep the Mariners at bay in his second inning of work, and Seattle scored twice to secure a victory.

When the dust settled, the Sox went from 3 12 games out of first to up on Cleveland. They went from divisional afterthought to legitimate contender.

At least for now. Four months separate the White Sox from the end of the season, but thanks to this nine-game stretch, their season outlook has changed. There's real excitement about the Sox, even if attendance numbers don't show it yet.

And if the streak is a sign of good play to come, that excitement and interest will last long into the fall.

Avisail Garcia tweaks hamstring late in White Sox loss

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Avisail Garcia tweaks hamstring late in White Sox loss

BALTIMORE — Avisail Garcia could be the latest member of the White Sox afflicted by an injury.

The White Sox designated hitter tweaked his right hamstring late in Friday’s 6-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles and will be re-evaluated Saturday. Earlier in the day, the White Sox placed reliever Daniel Webb on the 15-day disabled list with a right elbow flexor inflammation. That comes after catcher Alex Avila and Kevan Smith also went on the DL earlier in the week.

“He looked like he twinged something in his hammy,” manager Robin Ventura said. “But everybody seems to be having something, so we’ll re evaluate and see him tomorrow.”

Garcia tweaked his right leg on the final play of the game as he tried to avoid the tag of Orioles first baseman Chris Davis. An injury couldn’t come at a worse time for Garcia, who tripled in a run in the second inning to keep a hot streak alive. Garcia is 8-for-18 on the road trip with four RBIs and has raised his average from .135 to .214.

Uncharacteristic mistakes on defense hurt White Sox in 6-3 loss vs. O's

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Uncharacteristic mistakes on defense hurt White Sox in 6-3 loss vs. O's

BALTIMORE — The White Sox haven’t given away many games this season, but Friday’s effort flooded the memory banks with ghosts of errors past.

Whereas sloppy play was omnipresent in 2015, clean baseball has been king for the White Sox and their hot start this season. But the White Sox defense hurt Carlos Rodon with two errors in the fifth inning and Nolan Reimold’s three-run home run got him later as the Baltimore Orioles sent the White Sox to a 6-3 loss in front of 19,912 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Reimold’s seventh-inning, opposite-field homer off Rodon broke a 3-all tie and led to a second straight White Sox loss. The White Sox are 3-2 on their seven-game trip with Mat Latos and Chris Sale scheduled to start their final two games.

“We just didn’t play good defense behind him,” manager Robin Ventura said. “We didn’t glove it very well, which is uncharacteristic of us. Bad night with the glove.”

The White Sox entered Friday’s game third in the majors in Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating, according to fangraphs.com.

While defensive metrics are hardly perfect, they at least give an indication of just how good the White Sox defense has been this season.

Last season, the White Sox were at or near the bottom among all 30 teams in both measures.

But this year’s sure-handed group has turned things around.

The steady play has been there on a consistent basis since spring training. The White Sox have made both routine and spectacular plays alike. Giving away outs and making pitchers work harder is a thing of the past.

Yet the defense sidetracked Rodon’s gem in the fifth inning Friday night and he never fully recovered.

While Rodon pointed to a leadoff walk he issued to Adam Jones in the fifth as the cause of his troubles, he did more than enough to get out of the frame with a 1-0 White Sox lead intact. With Jones aboard, Rodon induced a potential double play ball, but second baseman Brett Lawrie booted it and the Orioles had runners on the corners with no outs. Todd Frazier eliminated Jones on a rundown on the next play, however, as the runner got too far off the bag on J.J. Hardy’s grounder to third. But Baltimore kept the rally alive with an infield single by Reimold to load the bases and a two-run single by Jonathan Schoop.

Rodon looked like he got out of the jam again when he induced another grounder off Joey Rickard’s bat. But Jimmy Rollins slipped on his relay throw, which went into the stands and allowed the Orioles to pull ahead 3-1. The lead may have been larger had it not been for a perfect throw home by Adam Eaton to nail Rickard on Manny Machado’s two-out single.

“There’s not much you can do,” Rodon said. “When you walk the leadoff guy, that’s on me. It can’t happen. It’s a different inning if I don’t walk that leadoff guy. Say I get him out, and it’s a different, 1-2-3 inning. Those guys are trying as hard as they can. Those are the best players out there.”

Both Rodon and the White Sox offense responded nicely after the fifth.

The White Sox scored runs in the sixth and seventh innings as Jose Abreu singled in a run and Lawrie homered off Orioles reliever Brad Brach to tie it. The White Sox could have had more, but Jones thwarted a sixth-inning rally when he raced in to catch Melky Cabrera’s bases-loaded liner and fired a perfect one-hop throw home to nail Rollins for the final out.

Rodon then needed only eight pitches to get through the middle of Baltimore’s lineup in the sixth. But the Orioles jumped on him in the seventh with singles by Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy. Reimold then drove a first-pitch fastball from Rodon out to put the Orioles ahead for good.

The left-handed had been on cruise control for the game’s first four innings, using a strong slider to efficiently keep the Orioles under wraps. Rodon needed 55 pitches and had only allowed an opposite-field single as the White Sox led 1-0.

While alarmists might be concerned the team’s hot start is mirage and more sloppy play is on the way, Frazier said not to worry. The third baseman believes the White Sox had an off night on a sloppy field and clean play will once again reign supreme.

“It happens,” Frazier said. “Nothing you can do about it. We came back and tied it up. Rodon pitched a hell of a game, just that one inning. Things could have a different way here or there, but those mistakes will happen. We’re still good defensively, no problems there.

“It’s just the way it goes.”

Robin Ventura used blowout loss to rest key White Sox

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Robin Ventura used blowout loss to rest key White Sox

BALTIMORE — One of the few positives to Thursday night’s blowout loss to the Baltimore Orioles is it offered Robin Ventura a chance to rest several players.

With the White Sox down by eight runs, Todd Frazier, Jose Abreu and Jimmy Rollins all exited a cold, windy and miserable contest two innings early. For Frazier, it was the first two innings he hasn’t played all season out of 205. Even though it’s only two innings, Ventura thinks it was a nice breather for a team in the middle of a span with 19 games in 19 days.

“The way we’re playing, you just try to get them off their feet,” Ventura said. “If I had more guys to do that with I probably would have. But you’re trying to get those guys out of there. If it would happen again, you’d get (Brett) Lawrie or someone like that out of there. You’re just hoping it helps them somewhat. It doesn’t sound like a lot, two innings. But in a game like that, it helps. It’s a little sticky out there. It’s just a way to get them out of the game and they feel like they get somewhat of a break.”

Frazier likes that the rest got some plate appearances for his teammates. Otherwise, he’d rather be out there. But Frazier gets that it’s important for Ventura to find playing time for Carlos Sanchez, Tyler Saladino and Jerry Sands.

He also admitted he didn’t mind sitting the final six outs of a contest where the temperature at first pitch was 48 degrees.

“It's different in the American League — you might go a month without hitting it seems like,” Frazier said. “To get guys in there that need at-bats, that’s probably the best thing that comes out of it. You don’t ever want to be out of the game, but it was a cold day. Robin understands it was damp and there’s just a right time to get them in there.”