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.

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jose Quintana and Miguel Gonzalez looked like a pair of pitchers who began their offseasons earlier to prep for the World Baseball Classic.

Both White Sox starting pitchers looked sharp as they made their spring debuts in a 7-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies at Camelback Ranch on Sunday afternoon. Team USA relievers David Robertson and Nate Jones also pitched a scoreless inning each in the win. Prospect Zack Burdi also pitched a scoreless ninth inning.

Gonzalez, who is on the Team Mexico roster, only allowed a single on a dropped pop up on the infield in two scoreless innings.

“I’m a little ahead of the game right now,” Gonzalez said. “I started a little earlier this year in the offseason to work out, thinking I wanted to go to the WBC and get ready for that. But I think the most important thing right now is getting ready for April 1 with the White Sox. That’s my goal, and you don’t get these opportunities every year. To represent Mexico, it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be great.”

Quintana, who will start for Colombia in their March 10 opener against the United States, allowed a run and a hit in two innings. He struck out one and hit a batter.

“I feel good,” Quintana said. “I think for the first day I feel comfortable. I hit the glove. I feel good. A couple of pitches spinning were good and I feel really good.”

[RELATED: Jim Thome on being a finalist for National Baseball Hall of Fame]

Robertson is throwing much earlier than normal in anticipation of his March 6 departure for Miami, where Team USA begins its tournament. The club’s closer normally wouldn’t appear in a game until the calendar turns to March. Robertson said he usually only needs 5-6 spring outings to get in shape for the regular season. Though he felt a little rusty, the right-hander was pleased with several changeups and fastballs he threw.

“I wouldn’t say it was smooth but I got through it,” Robertson said. “I had a few bad pitches that were just not competitive. … All in all I got through what seemed like a tough inning for a first outing.

“I’m excited. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to go down there and put the ‘USA’ across my chest and have a chance to win something for our country. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m excited to play with a group of guys I’ve been playing against my whole life.”

Eddie Alvarez had a three-run double for the White Sox while Tyler Saladino collected two hits in three trips. Catcher Roberto Pena went 2-for-2 with an RBI. 

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Normally upbeat and positive, Jim Thome can’t help but beam with pride when asked about his Hall of Fame candidacy.

Thome, who blasted 612 career home runs, including 134 with the White Sox, is eligible for induction for the first time in 2018. Even though he’s expected by many to one day be voted into Cooperstown, perhaps even in his first year, Thome said he’s merely honored to be on the ballot. Thome is joined on the ballot by Chipper Jones and former teammate Omar Vizquel, among others. Voting begins in December and the results will be announced next January.

“To even be on the ballot and thought of, it would be the greatest honor I think you could get,” Thome said. “Or if you get an opportunity to go into the greatest fraternity baseball has or created, it would be indescribable. How do you ever think as a kid or a high school player or even going through the minor leagues, that you’d play at the big leagues that long? And then to get an opportunity at the end of your career to be put on the ballot is so great.

“That would be the coolest moment ever.”

Thome – who is in White Sox camp as a special assistant to the general manager – provided plenty of big moments in a career that spanned 22 seasons. He hit 30 home runs in 12 of 13 seasons between 1996-2008, leading the league with 47 in 2003. The slugger was a five-time All-Star and produced 72.9 b-Wins Above Replacement.

[RELATED: Brett Lawrie trying to clear final hurdles]

Thome isn’t as superstitious about his candidacy as others previously have been. He won’t be the guy to bring up the topic, but the Peoria, Ill.-native doesn’t shy away from discussing it, either.

“It’s not something you talk a lot about,” Thome said. “We’re not going to bring it up. But when people do bring it up, there’s a sense of pride, a sense of ‘Wow, baseball has thought that highly to put you on the ballot.’ And the fact that there’s just this wonderful fraternity of incredible players that you could be a part of, if you’re chosen.”