Heading into the All-Star break, July is a perfect time for a battle of division deaders, albeit two very different divisions with two very different sets of circumstances.
Two-time defending American League Champions, Texas came to town sporting the league’s best record and plenty of confidence in their ability to power through the Sox and the rest of the AL again this year. The story coming in was supposed to be about Texas’ lineup, but with the recent addition of Kevin Youkilis at 3rd base, it’s the White Sox who are suddenly the offensive juggernaut. Taking nothing away from the Rangers, because they still have the league’s best lineup (and a first place team as Manager Ron Washington pointed out after the sweep was complete), but Robin Ventura has surprisingly assembled the right kind of lineup in a short amount of time in the South Side dugout. DeAza’s coming into his own leading off the order. Youkilis now overflows the 2 spot with veteran savvy and timely hitting. Adam Dunn/Paul Konerko has the potential to be the most productive 3-4 in the league. Batting 5th, Alex Rios has regained the form for which he was signed. The newly anointed most snubbed All-Star catcher, A.J Pierzynski has come into his own, and he wants to make a name for himself among White Sox greats when it’s all said and done. He’s got it in him batting 6th. Dayan Viciedo, Alexei Ramirez, and Gordon Beckham have been inconsistent at best, but if the three of them can regularly get it together at the bottom of the order, we’re looking at a force to be reckoned with all year. That being said…
Game 1 was evidence of that force. 19-2?!?! After a highly touted pitching bill of Sale vs. Oswalt, it was Sale who shut down the MLB’s #1 offense while Oswalt simply got rocked…maybe right into retirement. The Sox jumped all over Ole Roy early, plating 7 runs in the first 2 innings-including a 2-run shot by Youkilis in his first plate appearance at home as a member of the White Sox. They never looked back after an explosive 9 run 5th inning put them up 16-0. They finished with a season high 19 runs, and they tied their season high in hits with 21. The crowd at The Cell was extra energized by the 4th of July looming overnight, and the buzz was felt throughout the deceptively not sold out crowd. Plenty of Rangers’ fans made their way to Chicago for this series, but they were promptly quieted and sent home to the Lone Star State lonely and baffled at the beat down administered on the South Side.
Game 2 saw a return to small ball for Sox, Hamilton being Hamilton for Rangers, A.J. plowing over his counterpart (but not Ron Washington, unfortunately), and some back and forth scoring. Oh, and Kevin Youkilis continuing to welcome himself to town-this time with a game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the 10th to go along with some sparkling defensive plays at the hot corner. We’re going to like this guy. We’re really, really going to like him. Thanks for providing us with the 4th of July fireworks, Youk.
Game 3 Smelling blood and sensing sweep, the Sox sent newly promoted Jose Quintana to the mound to face off against Matt Harrison. Fans waiting for some semblance of a pitching duel got one in game 3, and Kevin Youkilis delivered another game winner, this time a 6th inning blast to put the Sox up 2-1 for good. Quintana has pitched extraordinarily well since joining the Sox’ staff. Subtract the start against the Yankees, who spurned him, and he’s done nothing but dominate. Yesterday’s performance was just what the doctor ordered: a quickly worked game by Quintana in the sweltering heat, and another Sox W. Winner, winner, chicken dinner.
I know it’s just one series sweep, but I can’t help but notice that the way this team is put together right now reeks of a contender. They’ve got a perfect blend of youth and veteran leadership, accentuated by the acquisition of Youk. The change of scenery does wonders for certain veterans, and the scenery at The Cell seems to agree with The Greek God of Walk. To say the man accomplished is a vast understatement, and his experience in big games, ability to produce and play defense, and overall attitude toward the game will do wonders for the predominantly young club.
No one expected much from the White Sox this year. Sometimes, going under the radar brings out the best in teams. Don’t forget that all this first place ball has been played minus John Danks from the rotation. I have a feeling the best is yet to come this year, folks. And what better way to celebrate a successful first half of the season than with a bomb-ass tailgate party with us tomorrow. See you in Lot A at 12 PM...