Call it a tale of two teams, a case of Jekyll and Hyde; call it whatever you want, just don’t be surprised when it happens. Sweep the Cleveland Indians, lose two out of three to slumping San Diego. Win a series at Dodger Stadium, get swept in Angel Stadium. Take two out of three from the division-leading Tigers, get swept by the streaking Royals. Being a White Sox fan this year feels a lot like a never-ending trip to Six Flags; it’s quite the roller coaster ride. The heart attack inducing outing on Wednesday by Ronald “I just mess with your emotions for fun” Bellisario notwithstanding, there were a lot of positive signs from the Giant’s trip to The Cell.
What was great about the mini-sweep wasn’t so much how many runs the Sox scored, but how the Sox scored them. Yes, Abreu hit his customary first inning homer Wednesday, while Dunn and Beckham got in on the long ball fun as well. We expect that out of them, though, as we should, given their capabilities. What was so exciting to watch was the White Sox executing with runners in scoring position and key players showing signs of life that had been mired in offensive slumps throughout much of the season. If these improvements can be sustained throughout the summer and fall, the team could wind up playing a longer season than expected, because scoring seven or eight runs per game can overcome a lot of poor pitching and/or defensive performances.
During the Royal’s visit last weekend, the Pale Hose batted .103 with runners in scoring position against a very pedestrian staff. The last two games against the defending champion Giants saw a refocused team tear into quality pitching at opportune times, boasting a .470 RISP. Contributing to the action were Dayan Viciedo and Tyler Flowers. Flowers singled in two runs with the bases loaded on Wednesday, and Viciedo went 3-8 in the series, including a two run bomb on Tuesday. While we can’t say that Flowers is officially out of his slump, only hitting 1-6 during the series, having that one hit come with two runners in scoring position is comforting.
Dayan Viciedo on the other hand, may be coming around. Viciedo began the 2014 campaign on a hot streak, hitting .348 in April, only to see that average drop to .229 in May. From June 1st – 15th, Tank batted a gut wrenching .083. However, his performance during the mini-sweep of the Giants gives Sox fans hope that he is turning it around for the second half of the month, and hopefully into the All-Star break. Despite many fans angst over Viciedo’s recent production, he seems to have the support of skipper Robin Ventura. Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun Times quoted Ventura after the game Tuesday noting that Tank, “… has that ability, and you’ve seen when he gets hot, he can carry a ball club.” Viciedo is well-known to be a streaky hitter and this season is proving to be no exception.
The White Sox other corner outfielder, Alejandro De Aza also seems to be working himself out of an early season funk this month. De Aza, who batted .173 through May 31st, has turned it around in June, batting .333 with an on base percentage of .410. Contributing to this improvement is his reduced amount of K/AB.
The next test comes in the form of an eleven game road trip. The unpredictable trio of Quintana, Noesi, and Rienzo get the call for the first three of four against the Twins in Minneapolis, while Danks will take the mound to close out the series. We are hoping for solid performances from the pitching staff, but if that doesn’t happen, we’ll be looking for the offense to build on their performances from early this week. Whatever the result, the only sure thing with this club is that there is no telling which team will show up the next game. It was an interesting home stand, but be sure to replenish your Pepto, because it probably won’t get any less interesting anytime soon.