Sunday, April 10, 2011
Posted: 3:24 p.m. Updated: 5:25 p.m.
By Brett Ballantini
CHICAGOApril hasnt been the kindest month to Chicago White Sox starter Gavin Floyd.
While hes had an occasional flash of greatness early, historically, the opening month of the season has been Floyds hardest-hit. Choose your measure over his 25 career games in the opening montha mere 1.27 KBB, a .360 OPB, .463 SLG, 118 OPS, 6.24 ERA, or 1.61 WHIPApril and Floyd arent close friends.
That is, until todays series finale vs. the Tamp Bay Rays, where Floyd spun simply his most spectacular April game yetand that includes a 2008 one-hitter vs. the Detroit Tigers. With eight innings pitched, eight strikeouts against four hits and a walk in earning the 6-1 win, Floyds first of the year, the young righthander was simply spectacular.
Watch: Ozzie on Floyd's brilliance
Its the best he threw the ball in a while, a playful White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. The last outing, he struggled in the first couple of innings. Then after that, he was greatall the way through today. He was aggressive, threw strikes, and his breaking ball was working. He kept the ball down and thats the key.
Floyd, with his customary compaction, boiled it down: You want to throw strikes, and just attack and try to get quick outs.
Using Bill James game score measure (which objectively adds points for things like strikeouts and outs recorded, subtracts for hits and runs), Floyd turned in an 79 on Sundaywhich is a significant uptick on his prior high, a 76 set back with that one-hitter on April 12, 2008.
Floyd is as straightforward a hurler as they come and is unlikely to have any use for sabermetrics, but undoubtedly his strong start will spur him through the rest of his cruelest month.
In support of Floyd was the Captain, Paul Konerko, who tapped out two longballs to carry the White Sox to a 6-1 win and helped spur the White Sox to a quick 5-0 lead through three.
But just because a pitcher is handed a win on a platter doesnt mean its easy for him to execute it, says the King.
Gavin was great but just because we gave him some early runs doesnt mean its easy, Konerko said. They have a team that likes to swing the bat, so when you have a lead of four or five runs it can turn really quick. So obviously Gavin was making quality pitches because they were still swinging the bat and he was keeping them from making good contact.
The White Sox have rocked their way through the first nine games of the season, piling up a 6-3 record that was one Friday ninth from 7-2. The club is batting .307, with a rowdy .485 slugging percentage and tidy .367 on-base.
Watch: Beckham says Floyd was awesome
The thing that comes out of today is were having fun out there, said Gordon Beckham, who homered in the Chicago 9s second at-bat. Obviously, we lost so many games last year early, it was miserable to come to the park. We show up to the park now and were excited to play, and were playing well. Everybodys swinging the bat well and the pitchings been great. Its a great starthow many games have we played? Nine. Well, thats good.
Konerko cited Beckham, along with leadoff man Juan Pierre (both of whom got off to insipid starts in 2010), as the stars of the 6-3 start.
The two guys at the top of the lineup, if I had to pick one thing, that would be it, he said. Right from the word go this year, theyve been getting on base, having good at-bats, and making it tough on the other team. That makes it easier for us guys in the middle, because when you get guys out there and its happening and you can tell theyre feeling good, you dont put a bunch of pressure on yourself in any one given situation Right from the get-go in Cleveland they got it going, and havent stopped yet.
PK came up big, Guillen said. The base hit by A.J. Pierzynski, pushing the lead to 5-0 with two outs was huge. It gave the team a lift. We have been playing good and swinging the bat good. Hopefully we can carry on.
How the rotation turns
It was the ballyhooed White Sox rotation that took the blame for the teams slow start, scuttling any real hope of a playoff berth. This year, the five hurlers seem to have gotten the message.
I think so, Guillen said. Its a nice competition, especially every time I start with Mark Buehrle. Everybody kind of struggled early, but they settled down and did a tremendous job. The starting rotation has been great. Thats the reason our bullpen is doing what they are doing right nowthe rotation has been throwing the ball very well. We expect that. We have good arms out there.
Floyd, the final starter of the core four to get his second start of the season, agrees.
Watch: Floyd knew he had to go out and do his job
Compared to last year, I guess its nicewe got off to a real good start in Cleveland and were just kind of rolling with it. Anytime you win a couple games, you feel good. You want to go out there, theres definitely momentum, and you push each other. We definitely feel they put a real good club together and everybody in the clubhouse thinks that, so I think we can do great things.
Long live the King
With his clouts in the first and fifth, Konerko not only helped up his offensive splits on the young season to .400.463.686 but notched his 28th career multihomer game. He also extended his hitting streak to 10 games (dating to the last game of 2010).
Watch: Konerko talks about his strong start
I felt good today, the Captain said. Ive been hitting some balls hard, but hooking the ball and kind of getting around some pitches that normally I would get up in the air and drive with some carry. I did that today.
Interestingly, Konerkos best offensive output of the season wasnt shaping up that way.
I really wasnt feeling good before the game, he said. Hitting coach Greg Walker actually grabbed me and gave me something in the cage. I have to give him some credit because before the game I didnt have a good feel. I was kind of a mess and he kind of gave me a tip and it seemed to click.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.