by Mike DePilla
Sunday, August 9, 2009
A terrible afternoon for the White Sox.
Instead of capping off an impressive homestand that featured series wins against two of the AL's hottest teams, the Sox dropped a series to one of the league's worst and now leave for a west coast road trip momentum-less and with a severely weakened bullpen.
With the bullpen in dire need of a day off, I was really hoping Jose Contreras could give the club a huge boost by going at least 7 innings today and holding the Indians in check. And after three innings it looked like he might do just that. He was crisp with his pitches, getting ahead in the count and keeping the Tribe off the board.
Then came the 5th inning, when, to use a Bears/Rex Grossman analogy, "Bad Jose" took the mound instead of "Good Jose." He continued to get ahead of most if the hitters, but couldn't put them away. Three hits, two walks and four runs later, Contreras departed mid-inning, leaving 4.1 innings to be covered by an already over-taxed 'pen.
The fact that, after being spotted a 3-run lead, Contreras couldn't even last 5 innings, struggling or not, is very disappointing. It stopped dead any momentum the Sox were trying to build into the stretch drive of the season. I'm not saying he had to dominate, but geez, he could have at least eaten a few innings.
If the Sox were going to lose this game, at the very very very least they should have had Contreras take one for the team and pitch into the 7th or 8th inning. To overuse your exhausted bullpen is bad enough. To do that and still lose the game makes it even worse.
What do the Sox relievers have left after throwing 10.0 innings over the past two days? There is now a ton of pressure on Gavin Floyd to go deep into tomorrow night's game against the Mariners.
The Sox are 24-27, 3 games under .500, against the rest of the AL Central, including 2-8 in their last 10 Central games. In a division that features the lowly Royals and the fire-sale Indians, it is embarrassing that a contender like the Sox cannot clean up.
By comparison, the Tigers are 25-19 and the Twins 22-16 vs. the rest of the division. The White Sox are not going to win the AL Central unless they change that trend.
In a close playoff race, it's the little things like all this that make all the difference. They're going to have to play well against the division. They'll need to somehow at least marginally improve their God-awful defense (maybe by putting Alex Rios in centerfield? More on that tomorrow).
They will have to avoid playing down to their opponents' level and win games they are supposed to against teams like the Indians. And they'll need to stop phoning it in on get away day- the Sox have now lost the final game in each of their last five series.
Going back to April, the Sox have won the first two games of a home series six times. They are 0-for-6 in completing the sweep in the third games.
Granted, the most important thing in those cases is winning the series. But every game counts, and if this divsion race ends up being as tight in October as it appears to be now, they're going to wish they completed at least a couple of those sweeps. And not lost a home series to the Indians.
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