Longballs doom Floyd, Sox drop opener

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Longballs doom Floyd, Sox drop opener

Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011Posted: 2:30 p.m. Updated: 6:59 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik
CLEVELAND For a pitcher that all too many fans are eager to deal away, Gavin Floyd is having another quiet, solid season as a starter for the Chicago White Sox.

Mondays doubleheader opener loss to the Cleveland Indians was a typical Floyd start: well-pitched, but falling just short of victory. Floyd gave up just seven hits in his 6 23 innings, largely offsetting those with seven strikeouts. But three of the hits longballs by Travis Hafner, Asdrubal Cabrera and Kosuke Fukudome accounted for four runs.

I thought they werent terrible pitches, Floyd said of the three that did all the damage. They just kind of got the right part of the bat on the ball. So you just take it for what it is. Im sure it could easily have been fly ball outs. Today, they werent."

Gavin threw the ball very good, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. He got hurt by the longballs, but a good outing for him. Obviously, he should be happy. He lost again, but he pitched well.

And against a typically sullen and abortive White Sox offense, thats all it takes.

Chicagos 4-3 featured just a few offensive highlights, including Adam Dunns pair of doubles, which marked his first consecutive multi-hit games all season long. Improbably, Alex Rios also had two hits, meaning that the two banes of the White Sox offense this season accounted for four of the teams seven hits.

The past couple of days, I had a game plan to just forget about trying to hit the ball out of the park and just get hits, said Dunn, who is penciled in to DH in game two as well. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt. But Im just trying to finish up as strong as I can, personally, and getting back to what I do.

Floyd reflects

With just one start remaining, Floyd took some time to reflect on his 2011, for better or worse.

I feel like I matured as a pitcher, he said after his 4-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday. I feel like I learned a lot, and obviously finishing healthy was one of my goals. I worked hard in the offseason and tried to be here for the team all season.

Floyds health is a bit of a straw man, as encouraging as it seems. Yes, he hasnt missed a start due to injury in 2011, but then, his workload was decreased by the six-man rotation (of course, that cant be held against him). He projects to finish the year at 185 innings over 30 starts, when in 2010 he was at 31 starts and 187 13. And although Floyd hasnt taken a huge step back from his career-best 2009 and 2010 campaigns and is still a terrific value for the White Sox, 2011 offers pause.

Even Floyd, who isnt given to advanced stats study, seems to sense the step back.

Obviously, it wasnt exactly statistically everything I wanted it to be, Floyd said. But I felt like I matured this year: Repeating pitches, being able to throw strikes on a consistent basis, mental focusespecially in tough situationsjust moving on from bad starts, and continuing to push and trying to win.

At first blush, Floyds 4.46 ERAa jump from the 4.06 and 4.08 of the past two seasonsis distressing, even in light of him leading the staff in wins with 12. But his saner ERA measure, xFIP, is somewhat in line with his previous campaigns (3.64 in 2009, 3.69 in 2010, 3.83 in 2011).

All that said, Floyds bargain price and solid performance makes him the third-best pitcher value on the White Sox and second starter, behind Phil Humber. And his evolving maturity and stamina as a pitcher makes him a crucial member of the 2012 rotation.

I havent had one problem yet physically, Floyd said. Obviously I have one more start, but I feel strong. I feel like my offseason regimen worked.

Canyoneros going off-roading

Dunn would be the first to admit that his recent hot streak is a matter of too little, too late. But its also a case of better late than never, no matter how much Dunn may want to erase 2011 from his permanent record.

His two doubles in Game 1 on Tuesday represented just his second game with two doubles this season (also May 14, at Oakland). He enjoyed his 12th multi-hit game of the season and his first consecutive such games in a White Sox uniform.

I want to go up and have good at-bats, he said. My year is what it is; like I said, Ill talk about this up until our last game, and then Ill never talk about 2011 again. It would be nice for us to kind of roll and finish strong and end on a positive note as you can.

Dunn was happy to see Fausto Carmona pop up on the pitching docket for this series, given his mastery of the sinkerballer.

It baffles me; hes got such good stuff, Dunn said of raising his average to .500 vs. the righty, with three doubles. It wouldnt surprise me if he comes back next year and has an unbelievable year. Hes as good as it gets.

But again, even the small measures of success Dunn had in 2011 will be erased as of Sept. 29, the first off-day of the rest of his life.

When this year is over, its overgood, bad, anythingits over. Thats the way Im doing it, he repeated. I dont know what Dr. Phil or anyone would say about it, but thats the way Im going to go about it. Its been obviously a hard season, not for me, but also my family and everyone thats associated with me. So I think everyone wants to put it behind them, too. So thats what were going to do.

Entering the nightcap of Tuesdays doubleheader, Dunn has raised his average to .168, with an OPS of .587. He currently sits at 164 strikeouts on the season.

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

Slumping White Sox get huge boost after Miguel Gonzalez 'defended his ground'

Slumping White Sox get huge boost after Miguel Gonzalez 'defended his ground'

Every factor but one suggested there was no way Rick Renteria would remove Miguel Gonzalez in the seventh inning on Monday afternoon.

Of course, Gonzalez didn’t know that.

But even as he walked to the mound with two on and no outs in the seventh and Wrigley Field roaring, Renteria didn’t have any intention of pulling Gonzalez.

Trades and injuries have given the White Sox manager even less wiggle room with which to work than the one-run lead Gonzalez was trying to protect. As long he was convinced his pitcher was game, Renteria would stay with Gonzalez. Gonzalez acquiesced and soon thereafter the White Sox were on their way to their first victory since July 8. The White Sox topped the Cubs 3-1 and in doing so snapped a nine-game losing streak.

“I just went in there to reaffirm that we were thinking the same way,” Renteria said. “He was thinking the same way. It was kind of easy.

“He said ‘I got this.’ He defended his ground.”

[Such a mighty wallop: How does Matt Davidson's mammoth home run stack up?]

Even though he had a front-row seat for the conversation, catcher Kevan Smith had little understanding of what transpired. The rookie said Renteria and Gonzalez spoke entirely in Spanish after Jon Jay and Javier Baez singled to open the bottom of the seventh inning. Smith heard Renteria mention to Gonzalez that lefty David Holmberg was ready to face switch hitter Ian Happ. Beyond that, all Smith heard from Gonzalez was ‘bueno’ and ‘listo,’ and Renteria was headed back to the visiting dugout.

But you don’t have to be a linguist to decipher what issues the White Sox pitching staff faces after a trying month.

Prior to Gonzalez pitching into the eighth, the White Sox hadn’t had a starter complete seven innings since June 16. An already overworked bullpen has also had to deal with season-ending injuries to Zach Putnam, Nate Jones and top relief prospect Zack Burdi. And those issues have been even further compounded by the trades of Jose Quintana, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle in the past 12 days.

So even though Gonzalez was on the verge of facing the top of the Cubs order a fourth time, Renteria had to stick with him so he could save top relievers Dan Jennings and Anthony Swarzak for later.

“I said ‘Just give me the ball,’ ” Gonzalez said. “ ’I’m OK. I’m fine. I’m feeling OK.’ Just walked away and I was able to get out of that jam. That was a big one.”

Smith was also happy with the decision. He liked how Gonzalez — who threw strikes on 73 of 105 pitches — had competed. Smith thought Gonzalez had great stuff and heard positive reviews from opposing hitters.

“(Gonzalez) had it,” Smith said. “The guys were coming up to the plate saying this guy has got some stuff today. It was a big moment to kind of prove that he can be a long guy, especially late in the game like that. Big pressure situation. Obviously it was getting pretty rowdy, but he stayed composed and pitched his way out of it.”

First was a five-pitch strikeout of Happ that ended with a swinging strike on a curveball. Jason Heyward then popped out to shallow center for the second out. Kris Bryant worked a five-pitch walk to load the bases. But Gonzalez jumped ahead of Anthony Rizzo in the count 1-2 before he got the star first baseman to fly out deep to center to strand the bases loaded.

Gonzalez returned in the eighth and retired one more hitter before he exited after a Kyle Schwarber single. The effort was plenty for Renteria and the White Sox, who also wiggled out of jams in the eighth and ninth inning.

“Sometimes you just don't have any other option,” Renteria said. “You just have to do what you have to do. They had a really good idea of how they wanted to attack those guys. …

“Miggy did a really nice job.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Sox win game one of Crosstown Series

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Sox win game one of Crosstown Series

Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun Times), David Haugh (Chicago Tribune) and Ben Finfer (ESPN Radio) join Kap to go over the exciting first game between the White Sox and the Cubs.

Plus, the latest on trade rumors linking Justin Verlander and Alex Avila to the Cubs. Do the Cubs really need to make another move?

Finally, the guys discuss whether Kyrie Irving asking for a trade out of Cleveland is the dumbest career choice, ever.