13 Things: The highlights of 2011

541089.jpg

13 Things: The highlights of 2011

Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011Posted: 7:45 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik
CLEVELAND - With the Chicago White Sox desperately striving to finish even as well .500 this season, you could certainly say that there have been as many highlights as lowlights in this All-In season that ended up flatulent and deflated. But in the interest of staring at the sun instead of getting soggy in the rain, heres a look at the top 13 moments of the 2011, All-In turned Well-Were-Here season.

And the list is made all the more appropriate by the top spot on the list, which took place almost six months ago in this very spot.

1. April 1: White Sox 16, Indians 10 -- Offense hits the ground running

Just four innings into the 2011 season, the White Sox had jumped out to a 14-0 lead on the Cleveland Indians, who would become the darlings of the American League before dropping back down to .500. The Pale Hose offense was terrible in the Cactus League, but 11 hits and 10 runs off of presumptive Wahoos ace Fausto Carmona made it look like the White Sox would coast to the Central title. Adam Dunn and Carlos Quentin would combine to go 5-for-9 with two homersnine RBIs and six Sox had two or more hits.

As we now know, this outburst would turn out to be the biggest April Fools joke in White Sox history. But for one day two, actually, as the next Wahoo trouncing, 8-3, kept the Pale Hose a half-game ahead of everyone in the Central at least the team was in fulfilling its promise, bolstered by the highest-octane offense in baseball.

2. April 25: White Sox 2, Yankees 1 -- Heroes Humber and Lillibridge

Opening the White Soxs visit to the Bronx began with the White Sox flailing at 8-14 and GM Ken Williams flying into town after being grumbled at by any number of furious fans while he awaited his plane at OHare to assure that all was calm at White Sox central.

In just his fourth start for the White Sox, Phil Humber took a no-hitter one out into the sixth inning and still managed to be upstaged. Thats because defensive substitution Brent Lillibridge made back-to-back brilliant plays in the ninth, the first on a run back to the wall to rob Alex Rodriguez of extra bases, then the clincher on a diving catch parallel to the ground, extinguishing Robinson Canos bid to win the game.

I found my closer, a smiling Ozzie Guillen said postgame. Lillibridge.

3. April 7: White Sox 6, Rays 1 -- Velo perfection

There was a time when I felt Edwin Jackson would, in a salary drive year, become the ace of the White Sox staff. That certainly didnt happen, as Velo was just as exasperating a hurler as ever. But he did win his first two starts and spun a gem of a game in the White Sox home opener, with eight innings of four-hit, 13-strikeout ball. His game score of 82 would be the fourth-highest all year.

4. May 11: White Sox 6, Angels 4 (10) -- Wild pitch offense

In perhaps the most hilarious comeback of the season, L.A. reliever Kevin Jepsen provided the White Sox the eventual game-winning run in the top of the 10th by airmailing the first pitch of an intentional walk 10 feet over the head of catcher Hank Conger, scoring Alexei Ramirez from third.

In mockery of the White Sox awful performance driving in runners from third base, this improbable win gave berth to the wildpitchoffense hashtag on Twitter, one that sadly was never killed off by the White Sox actually gaining proficiency in clutch hitting this season.
5. July 4: White Sox 5, Royals 4 -- Balk-off win

Its a joke waiting to be written: What was more rare this season, a clutch Dunn homer or a winning run coming home on a balk? The answer might end in a tie, as two white buffalos were bagged in this comeback win. The first came off the bat of Dunn, a towering fly of a home run that landed just beyond reach in right-center, as Sox maniacs hoped against hope that his .171 average would soon swell as the nights heated up. Meanwhile, after Dunns dinger gave the White Sox the lead in the eighth, but that advantage dissipated as K.C. went ham on Sergio Santos in the ninth. That set the stage for A.J. Pierzynski, who was operating at peak feist on third base, annoying reliever Aaron Crow to such an extent that he jerked his shoulder subtly as Dunn stood at the plate, forcing home the Campbell Soup kid with the game-winner.

6. August 28: White Sox 9, Mariners 3 -- The power of youth

The weirdest saga of this sad season took an interesting turn in Seattle, when Dayan Viciedo made his debut some two months later than anticipated, finally getting the call to aid Chicagos withered offense after hed put himself in the International League MVP discussion for his ball murdering at Charlotte. All Viciedo did was crush a liner out to right-center in near Dick Allen-esque fashion. That three-run blast woud prove to be enough for Gavin Floyd, but later on catcher Tyler Flowers pounded out a grand slam, making this rare laugher of a win fully fueled by the Knight Sox.

7. August 27: White Sox 3, Mariners 0 -- Danks tosses a gem

Just one day earlier, another erstwhile Pale Hose ace, John Danks, threw a gem of a game in defeating Ms rookie hurler Micheal Pieda, giving up just three hits while whiffing 10 and earning a season-high to that point game score of 90. The win also raised the streaking Dankss record to 6-9 sadly the closest hed get to .500 from that point on.
8. April 12: White Sox 6, As 5 (10) -- Alexeis game-winner

With just 15 home runs tied with his lowest-ever major league output there hasnt been much occasion for mister Homer Hands to show off his joy at a killer clout. But early in the season, things looked different, especially in the 11th game of the season, when Ramirez not only hit his second career game-ending homer, but hit two, for his first career multi-homer game. The decider came with two outs in the bottom of the 10th, and raised the White Sox to 7-4. Believe it or not, it was the last and only time the team would be three games over .500.

9. September 5: White Sox 4, Twins 0 -- Stewart chases perfection

The doubleheader vs. the Twins was billed as a possible battle between two young hurlers for the fifth rotation spot for the White Sox in the seasons final month, and Humber had already spun a gem in a Game 1 win. But rookie Zach Stewart raised the ante by taking a perfect game into the eighth inning, where Danny Valencia spoiled the bit with an oppo double. It would prove the only at-bat marring Stewarts brilliant outing, as he finished with a White Sox season-best 94 game score and a one-hitter en route to a 4-0 win.

10. May 30: White Sox 7, Red Sox 3 -- Peavy fuels a sweep

Sometimes for better, sometimes worse, but Jake Peavy usually garners an unusual amount of attention with his every start. And per game score, the Bulldog had three better starts in his truncated season. But none may have been more important that his 7-3 win at Boston, which would fuel a three-game streak and further entrench the Pale Hoses domination at Fenway. The game was perhaps more notable for the Chicago offense jumping all over Bosox ace Jon Lester, but whatever the root cause, this win temporarily staved off the free-fall the White Sox were in danger of falling into with the season just two months gone.

11. May 24: White Sox 8, Rangers 6 -- Q triples his fun

Quentin is infamously hot and cold, but a slugger cant get much hotter in a single game than crushing three homers in a single contest, even if that contest ends at 1:27 a.m. the next day. Indeed, not even tornado-force wins, delaying the game three hours and forcing various methods of evacuation from Rangers Ballpark, could deter Quentin, who had his most productive day in a 24-homer, 77-RBI campaign in this soggy victory deep in the heart of. And of curious sidenote, Tony Pea got his final White Sox victory in relief of Peavy in the win.

12. June 30: White Sox 6, Rockies 4 (10) -- Pierre kick starts

Guillen is known to shake his tiny fist at his naysayers, particularly those of us who might lean on dastardly stats to determine who should play and who should sit, or who should stay and who should go. The manager placed Juan Pierre beloved left fielder straight in the line of fire over the Viciedo debate, but was vindicated to some degree by his beloved left fielder when his rebound began. Although he has undoubtedly lost a step on the basepaths and a great deal of confidence in the field, offensively Pierre equaled his solid 2010 in this campaign as well. And that all basically started with a game-winning single to knock off Colorado in extras and help fuel Chicagos run back to .500.

13. June 7: White Sox 5, Mariners 1 -- Sox start to hit

In a season full of false offensive starts, this was another. After knocking off hot rookie Pieda in the series opener in Seattle, Chicago chased ace Felix Hernandez with a 6-1 win. To a man and including the slumping Dunn and Gordon Beckham the White Sox felt their offense was beginning to crest and that promise would be delivered soon.

It ended up a season of empty promises, but these choice moments from 2011 prove that all wasnt pain and heartache on the South Side.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

Road Ahead: How many wins will Jose Quintana end up with this season?

Road Ahead: How many wins will Jose Quintana end up with this season?

CSN's Chuck Garfien and Bill Melton break down the upcoming schedule in this week's Honda Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland & NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

After a 6-2 homestand, the White Sox got swept by the Detroit Tigers.

The White Sox will head to Minnesota for a four-game series and then head back to Chicago for another three-game series against the Tigers.

[SHOP: Get your White Sox gear right here]

Jose Quintana — who's searching for win No. 12 — and Carlos Rodon — who's 3-0 in his last five outings with a 1.47 ERA — are scheduled to get the first two games of the series.

With 30 games left, how many wins will Quintana finish the season with?

Chuck Garfien and Bill Melton share their thoughts.

See what they had to say in the video above.

Chris Sale pitches well but Tigers top White Sox late again

usatsi_9509327.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Chris Sale pitches well but Tigers top White Sox late again

DETROIT — The Detroit Tigers did it to the White Sox yet again.

For a third straight day, the White Sox grabbed an early lead. For a third straight day, the Tigers rallied back to win.

Tyler Collins’ pinch-hit sac fly in the bottom of the ninth inning off David Robertson sent the White Sox to a 3-2 defeat in front of 32,465 at Comerica Park. The victory completed a series sweep for the Tigers, who won eight of the teams’ nine meetings in Detroit this season. Chris Sale earned a no decision despite limiting the Tigers to two runs in eight innings.

“I don’t come here for the experience, I come here to win games and it didn’t happen,” Sale said. “It’s tough. It’s unfortunate. Ran into a little bit of bad luck there. That’s a good team. That’s what good teams do, they find ways to win. Certainly did that.”

Even in their two previous losses, the White Sox looked similar to the team that on Sunday completed a 6-3 homestand by taking three of four from the Seattle Mariners.

Sale had the White Sox in the thick of things again on Wednesday as he outdueled Justin Verlander for seven innings. But shortly after Sale struck out Victor Martinez for a second straight time, J.D. Martinez managed to get enough of a 1-1 changeup to dump it into left field for a two-out, game-tying single in the bottom of the eighth.

Rookie JaCoby Jones led off the ninth inning with a double off Robertson and advanced to third on a fly out to the wall by Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Collins’ fly ball to left was deep enough for Jones easily to score the winning run when Avisail Garcia bounced his throw home.

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

“It’s tough,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “We were playing pretty good baseball, but these guys have been sniffing us (out) at the end. We played fairly well early on, but with the lineup they have, it’s a pretty deep lineup that’s hard to contain.”

Sale used the double play as an effective tool early to get out of some potential trouble spots. One in the first inning erased a leadoff single by Ian Kinsler and Sale ended the second inning with a 6-4-3 off Saltalamacchia’s bat with two aboard. Sale also induced a double play to end the fourth inning after he walked Justin Upton.

Later in the game, Sale turned to his slider with great impact. After he didn’t strike out any of the first 20 hitters he faced, Sale struck out five of the next seven, including Victor Martinez to end the fifth inning with two on.

With the White Sox up 2-1, Sale nearly got out of a difficult eighth-inning jam.

Kinsler led off with a double to center and moved to third on a sac bunt. Sale struck out Victor Martinez but J.D. Martinez came through.

“With two outs already, you’re trying to make him hit your pitch and (Sale) did that,” catcher Alex Avila said. “He threw a really nice changeup off the plate away. Eighth of an inch and it’s a weak ground ball to short. Got to give them credit, he hit a good pitch as well. That was definitely tough. We’ve had two tough losses.”

Verlander was equally tough aside from a pair of fourth-inning mistakes.

Verlander continued a strong season with seven sharp innings as he limited the White Sox to three hits, walked none and struck out nine.

The White Sox jumped ahead of Verlander in the fourth inning when Jose Abreu and Avila belted back-to-back solo homers. But Verlander retired the last 10 hitters he faced and the White Sox were on their way to a third straight difficult defeat.

“I love winning, but it’s hard to hang your head when you play your ass off and so did they,” Avila said. “They happened to come out on top. We’ve had a few tough losses this year, but guys are playing hard. Just unfortunate they were able to get one extra one across.”

As he nears White Sox record, Todd Frazier is focused on improvement

As he nears White Sox record, Todd Frazier is focused on improvement

DETROIT -- Todd Frazier is close to a franchise record for home runs hit by a third baseman and he’s pleased with that aspect of his game. But the White Sox third baseman said Wednesday morning that his focus over the final month of the season is on ways he can improve for next season.

Frazier temporarily gave the White Sox the lead on Tuesday when he homered for the 33rd time, 32 of which have come with him at the hot corner (he also hit one as a first baseman).

With 31 games to go, Frazier is sure to pass both Robin Ventura, who hit 32 of 34 homers in 1996 while playing third base, and Bill Melton, who belted 33 at the hot corner in 1971.

But Frazier’s attention will mostly be tuned to adapting to the American League, which he has found trying at times.

“It has been different,” Frazier said. “I think (Justin) Morneau said it best the other day — National League there’s a lot more hitters, so they’re going to try and tinker a lot more with spots. For me I guess it was a little tough to adjust to that and finally figure out that they’re not always going to throw me strikes with a count that’s in my favor. Bottom line is you’ve got to look for your pitch and stay with it the whole time and eventually, once it comes, you can’t miss it.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

There was an expectation the batting average of Frazier — a career .257 hitter before 2016 — would suffer some as he transitioned to the AL.

ZIPS projected Frazier’s average would drop to .239 this season.

Through 536 plate appearances, Frazier is hitting .214/.295/.452 this season with 33 homers and 83 RBIs. But he has struggled even more within the AL Central. Frazier entered Wednesday hitting .158/.229/.372 with 11 homers and 92 strikeouts in 201 plate appearances against AL Central foes.

“He’s seen a lot of these guys in our division,” Ventura said. “But there is a lot of good pitching in the American League, especially in the Central that you have to figure out.”

Frazier intends to do that and he’d like to find some success over the last month of games off which to build. Acquired in a three-team trade from Cincinnati last December, Frazier is under team control through 2017. Even though he has been strong with his glove and his home run production is on par with what the White Sox hoped for, Frazier knows there’s work to be done.

“A lot of times this year I did miss a lot of those pitches, but it’s something to learn from and something, look at some video and figure out some things I need to work on for next year,” Frazier said. “There’s always room for change.”