The White Sox bats finally busted out of their collective slump Thursday night to avoid a four-game sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays, battering Jeff Niemann in a 9-2 victory.
Paul Konerko had three hits and drove in two runs, Juan Pierre scored three runs and Carlos Quentin and Adam Dunn each had a hit and an RBI.
Gordon Beckham was given the night off and manager Ozzie Guillen said he’ll likely be dropped in the lineup while he figures things out, so it is yet to be seen where Beckham is at in his slump.
Gavin Floyd turned in a pretty decent performance to give the Sox a chance, but a run in the first inning and four more in the third really helped him settle into his groove.
With the bats heating up, the team heads to Detroit for a three-game set against the Tigers, who sit at 9-10 (3rd in the Central) and just lost DH Victor Martinez to the 15-day DL.
Southside Showdown teamed up with the folks over at Motor City Bengals to provide further insight into the series:
Probable starting pitchers:
Friday, April 22
CWS – Mark Buehrle (1-1, 4.50 ERA) – Buehrle is just as likely to give up four or five runs and a dozen hits as he is to toss a two-hit shutout. You never know which version of him you’ll get on a given night, but if he can keep the banged up Tigers offense off-balance, he can get the White Sox off to a good start in the series.
DET – Justin Verlander (1-2, 3.14) – Verlander has pitched well enough to win all four of his starts but has only received enough run support to get into the win column once. Dustin Moseley (0-4, 1.40) is not shedding any tears for Verlander, who is always a threat to mow down a lineup as susceptible to the strikeout as the White Sox are.
Saturday, April 23
CWS – Edwin Jackson (2-1, 3.51) – If Velo’s slider is sharp, he’s nearly unhittable. His walks have been down tremendously under the tutelage of pitching coach Don Cooper, and he’s known to rise to the occasion against his former teams.
DET – Brad Penny (0-2, 8.44) – Walks and high pitch counts have been tough on Penny, but it’s not like facing the Yankees, Orioles and Rangers hitters made things any easier for him. Regardless, a potentially hot White Sox lineup isn’t the cure.
Sunday, April 24
John Danks (0-2, 3.00) – Danks has pitched well enough to be 3-0 but has fallen victim to horrendous bullpen work and horrendous offense. As long as he stays in the strike zone and keeps the ball down he’ll be in great shape.
Max Scherzer (3-0, 4.30) – Scherzer was battered by the Yankees (I think there’s a club he can join) but his offense bailed him out. Beyond that, he’s been very consistent and probably pretty close to what Tigers fans thought he might be this season. As long as Scherzer doesn’t deal out too many free passes, he can succeed.
Tigers writer James R. Chipman (JayRC) and I (TM) exchanged three questions apiece to create a six-pack of midwestern goodness to delve deeper into the series. Here’s what we came up with:
TM - The prolonged slumps of Carlos Quentin, Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn appear to be dissipating. How will the Tigers pitching staff keep the Sox offense at bay if those bats heat up?
JAYRC – The White Sox traditionally play Detroit tough, so I expect the members of your three headed monster to bring their A-Game. All three are very talented and can change a game with one swing of the bat. The key to limiting their damage is to take care of the table setters. Naturally, If Detroit can stay away from facing guys like Konerko, Dunn and Quentin with runners aboard they will have a much greater shot at limiting the damage.
TM – Can the Detroit bullpen carry the load if Brad Penny or Max Scherzer can’t go deep into their starts?
On the other hand, Brad Penny has been pretty inconsistent. Just when you think he has turned a corner the carousel starts up and Detroit finds themselves in trouble.
The bullpen doesn’t worry me that much though this season. Perry has just returned from the DL and Schlereth, Benoit and Valverde have been nearly untouchable. Outside of one bad outing even Brayan Villarreal has been impressive.
TM – With Victor Martinez out, is there enough protection in the Tigers lineup to make the White Sox pitch to Miguel Cabrera?
JAYRC – Nope, it is beyond me why teams still pitch to Miggy. On Wednesday with a base open Seattle chose to pitch to Cabrera and he drove in a run. Detroit went on to win that game by one run–I’m just sayin’. With Ordoñez off to a cool start, hobbled by the pesky injury and V-Mart on the DL the lineup is pretty pedestrian. A lot of pressure will now be placed on guys like Boesch and Raburn to produce. Even though V-Mart wasnt exactly tearing the cover off the ball, his presence will be missed.
JAYRC – Sergio Santos is a reliever of yours that I have been keeping a close eye on. Chris Sale and Matt Thornton have been struggling a bit out of the gate. How long do you think before Santos is considered for the closer role?
TM - Coming into spring training, Ozzie Guillen and the coaching staff were looking for Santos to work on his control. Santos? On Feb. 17 when pitchers and catchers showed up, he told reporters his eye was on the closer role (if it was available). The kid is determined and he’s been mowing hitters down all month, unlike everyone else in the bullpen. He’ll get his opportunities this season. Jesse Crain may get a few shots before Santos does, as the veteran righty, but I expect the kid to contend for 9th inning duties. Still, I don’t expect Guillen to commit to a permanent closer until the August or September, given what has happened in the first couple weeks.
JAYRC – Jake Peavy continues to be hindered with injuries. How concerned are you and do you believe that Peavy will stay healthy enough to contribute this season?
TM – It’s a great concern at this point. Up through the middle of March, everyone around the organization felt Peavy was ahead of schedule, and even had a shot at breaking camp with the team. The unfortunate aspect of the whole situation is that no surgery like this had been done before, so any timetables that were given were pure speculation. I don’t think it will take until July (one year, the original timetable) for Peavy to get back on the field, but you can’t help but wonder if he really will be the San Diego Peavy when he returns. The guy is a pure competitor and he wants the ball in his hand, which can be a blessing when he’s healthy, but a giant road block when he’s trying to get back on the field. He clearly jumped the gun in his rehabilitation and the team is paying for it now. He’ll be able to contribute, but at what level? Your guess is as good as mine.
JAYRC – How concerned are you with your sluggish start? What do you feel is the key for Chicago to get back on track?
TM – Given the 24-33 start last year — with an inferior team, mind you — I’m not at all concerned about the slow start. Guillen had his key players playing more in spring training in order to have them more seasoned when April rolled around, and it worked for the first few games, but early-season slumps have shocked the the organization. The starting pitching has been doing its job, and the whole offense won’t slump at the same time for extended periods very often, so this is just an abnormality that will soon be worked out. The key to getting back on track is just getting guys to stop pressing. Gordon Beckham and Carlos Quentin are the keys to the offense. If they can calm down and just play within themselves, the team will be very well off.
Prediction – With the lineup settling back into its groove, the first game of the series is crucial to both teams. If the White Sox can’t get to Verlander, that may set the tone for the entire series, but Ozzie’s veteran hitters don’t miss many mistakes, and Brad Penny has been prone to making too many so far this year. The White Sox will take two out of three and head to Yankee Stadium tied with Detroit for third place at 10-12.