by Mike DePilla
When your hottest hitter is scratched from the lineup, your bullpen is forced to throw eight innings and you still manage to beat Jered Weaver, who came into the game with a career 0.52 ERA against you in five starts, and then win the next night despite making five errors in the field, you know things are going your way.
Indeed the Sox have looked impressive in taking five of their last six games against the AL West-leading Rangers and Angels, lifting the team to its high water mark of the season at 45-38, 7 games over .500 and ahead of the Twins in the AL Central. And beating Weaver, considering how dominant he has been against the Sox, is downright shocking.
Unfortunately, there's that little thing about losing their ace starting pitcher for the rest of the season. Jake Peavy's latissimus dorsi muscle pull (the muscle is allegedly completely detached from the bone in his back) definitely put a damper on an otherwise brilliant week for the Sox, but it's hard for me to say I didn't see something like this coming. Considering his injury-filled past, his fluid build ups this year, the jockeying for extra days' rest between starts and his inefficient pregame warm up routine, it was really only a matter of time until Peavy landed on the DL with some kind of ailment.
And while he's been pitching lights out recently, there really was no way he could go a whole season just grunting his way to dominance despite obvious physical limitations. In short: there was a fall coming, and the fact that it came last night isn't just a freak thing. I even get the feeling the Sox organization had this kind of sense of resignation about him as well.
I don't know if he altered his approach because of the rain delay, but Peavy's pregame routine on Tuesday last night took about as long as Andruw Jones'. (That is to say, it was short.)
After the tarp came off the field, many position players were out running within minutes. Weaver had been stretching and throwing for quite a while before Peavy finally made his way to the warning track by the leftfield bullpen. Peavy threw a couple of long tosses, then rushed a couple of pitches in the bullpen before walking back to the dugout. I don't think even Sweaty Freddy would have need to wipe his forehead after that kind of brief warm up.
Maybe that was a clue Peavy wasn't feeling well, but he didn't show any effects in an efficient 1st inning, where his fastball topped out at 93-94. Nonetheless, when he grimaced in pain after a pitch in the 2nd, I wasn't surprised.
Losing him for the season is a tough pill to swallow. If Freddy Garcia maintains his smoke and mirrors act and Dan Hudson performs up to his minor league track record, the Sox starting staff, while without its fiery leader, should be good enough to compete. Obviously, a bat needs to be acquired. (This injury ostensibly takes Hudson off the table in any potential trades for an impact bat, which might be a good thing in the long run.)
But the thought that the next time we see Jake Peavy throw a pitch in a White Sox uniform might be in spring training 2011 is a very sad one.
A few random notes:
*I'm glad to see Bobby Jenks back in action at the end of the flat out shutdown bullpen. However if there was ever a time when he had lost weight and become more svelte, it isn't now. The gut is there, but as long as the stuff is as well, it's all good. And how great is the Sox bullpen?
*AJ Pierzynski looks just terrible at the dish night now; this is the worst I can ever remember seeing him. He's completely lost and needs to be dropped in line up. Maybe swapped with...
*... Dayan Viciedo can hang some frozen ropes! He can't make great plays at third, but he hasn't really been awful. (Hey, compared to Mark Teahen I bet Carlos Lee could hack it at third base and look respectable to Sox fans.) He's both hitting and fielding better than I expected, which is great to see. Maybe I just had low expectations, but he's been a pleasant surprise so far. I hope he continues to use the whole field and keeps up the producing- he's still without a walk and pitches will begin exploiting him out of the zone if they discover he'll swing (and over-swing) at anything.
*If he's not going to play, Gordon Beckham needs to go down to AAA to get his head and his swing straight. This certainly isn't a new idea, JJ at White Sox Examiner has talked about sending Beckham down for two weeks now. The production of Brent Lillibridge, last night's DH (and you though it was weird to see "DH" next to Omar Vizquel's name earlier this year!) has been a boon, and it looks likes he's turned a corner form his Willie Mays Hayes small-guy-homer-happy approach of last year. That said, I don't think the Sox should count on him to hold down the starting job at second base.
It is cool however that Lillibridge has only four less RBIs than Juan Pierre in 300 less at bats!
*The Sox suffered two rain delays Tuesday night: a natural one (Mother Nature) and a human one (Tony Pena). Yes, with Steve Trachel retired, Tony Pena might well be the new Human Rain Delay. If he were a golfer playing a public course in Chicago, the ranger would have a field day staying on his ass. He just brings the whole game to a standstill on the mound, especially when there are runners on base.
Of course, it is tolerable when he's not giving up runs. Hey, he can take as long as he wants if he's going to pitch four crucial innings of one-run ball to pick up the W. But man is he slow. I was timing him between pitches, and with a runner on base he averages aout 18-24 seconds from his mitt to the catcher's, getting up as high as 36 seconds a few times. Tough to watch. Any chance Buehrle can take him under his wing?
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