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The Royals suffered another-run loss last night, but for the first time this week it was the White Sox, not the Twins, who benefited from it. That would be because it was the Sox who came from behind, thanks to AJ Pierzynski's season-saving (for now) double, to win 4-3 and make up one full game in the standings for the first time in two weeks.
Up until the 8th inning last night, rookie Brent Morel and defensive specialist Omar Vizquel had accounted for the vast majority of the Sox suddenly-disappeared offense for the previous 34 innings, a very bad sign. But, while the bats continued to struggle, even Joe West couldn't prevent Mark Buehrle from keeping his team in the game, as the veteran twirled seven strong innings of two earned run, two-balk baseball. (As a rule, if you've allowed as many balks as runs, you're probably in line for a quality start.) Eventually, Pierzynski's two-out hit in the 8th changed the storyline from "Corpseball" to a win.
Hawk Harrelson, who is away from the booth on a family matter, would have had a very animated call for Pierzyznski's double. Of course, it still wouldn't have been his best Pierzynski call of the year- that honor will without a doubt go to "Get over his head... it will! Don't go over the fence.... dad gummit!" As exciting as it would have been to hear Hawk's enthusiastic call, would it have been worth the FCC fine he would have incurred for his Joe West rant, which would have dominated the rest of the game?
Back on the field, the Sox had been doing their part to hide Bobby Jenks' forearm injury by not taking a lead into the 9th for the past three days. With a sudden lead in need of protection, Joey Cora (managing for the ejected Ozzie Guillen) called on rookie Chris Sale to get the final three outs and record his first bling-less major league save (second overall). Coupled with the Twins loss in Detroit, the win reduced the Sox deficit in the AL Central to five games. One win down, five more to go to make this race interesting again.
What to do with Carlos Quentin? The struggling right fielder is 0-for-his-last-13, and looks more lost at the plate than Blinkin on watch duty. Jim at Sox Machine suggests that if Quentin doesn't run into a few dingers down the stretch, the Sox will have a "difficult decision on their hands." The decision consists of three options for 2011: 1. Start him in RF/DH, 2. Trade him. 3. Non-tender him.
I agree it will be a difficult decision, but I think the last thing Quentin needs to be worried about right now is hitting homeruns. His approach at the plate is terrible; he needs to take a page from AJ Pierzynski, who has turned around his season with a shorter swing that produces line drives to both fields. Pierzynski has improved his season batting average by 36 points (from .231 to .267) in the last month, no small feat this late in the season. Quentin's dead pull overswings aren't going to reverse his fortunes- patience and base hits are the way back.
Quentin's struggles are nothing new. James Fegan of White Sox Observer points out that Andruw Jones has actually been more valuable this year, by a large margin, than the guy who almost won the MVP two years ago. (Another dimension of Jones' value, according to Fegan: "his new role as 'the guy who actually talks to Manny Ramirez' can't be overstated." Gold!)
Looking back, might the Sox have been better off, value-wise, taking Mike Rizzo up on his Quentin-for-Adam Dunn offer in July? At the time,that offer seemed ridiculous, especially with Quentin warming up in June and July. But now (only in retrospect, of course) it's a worthwhile question. That would have netted the Sox a half season of the surging Dunn, plus two high draft picks. From a value standpoint, that is more than the Sox could get for Quentin, barring some big hot streak, if they traded him the day after the season ended.
In any case, with only 21 games left, Q needs to find some kind of mojo, and fast.