Somewhere along the fifth inning of last night’s White Sox-Dodgers game at Dodger Stadium, my sort-of-midseason report on the Sox was looking pretty rosy. With their best pitcher, Chris Sale, on the mound, they had battered Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw around, leading 5-1 with homers from Adam Dunn and Alex Rios. Led by the aforementioned flops from last year, they were out in front of the AL Central by a game and a half and on the verge of gaining another game on the Tigers, never mind the Indians, who we don’t really believe in.
And then…and then…our hope disappeared into the June Gloom, aka the Marine Layer that swallowed up Gordon Beckham’s bid for a game-tying home run an inning later.
Well, Sale didn’t have it. He’d given up a bunch of smashes that went directly to our infielders, but by the sixth inning the Dodgers were hitting them at Orlando Hudson, a career middle infielder who is playing third because the Sox don’t have anyone in their organization who can play the position and hit over .212. Exit Sale, enter Jesse Crain, who wasn’t the answer. A couple of more ropes down the right field line and the Dodgers led 6-5. Rios tied it in the top of the eighth with his second HR, but Matt Thornton gave it right back in the bottom of the inning, wild pitching the lead run home from third with two outs. So now we are on a three game losing street, with the back of our rotation to follow and our lead cut to a half-game over the Indians.
Herewith are a few observations from an ex-patriot Sox fan, after spending Friday night at the ballpark with a coterie of fellow travelers. Given that all the baseball cognoscenti were relegating the White Sox to last place with 95 losses or so, the season hasn’t been too bad. Our Big Money disasters from last year, Dunn, Rios and pitcher Jake Peavy, are all having pretty good years. Personally, my fear was that this team would resemble the Cubs of the late fifties/early sixties, with a bunch of boppers in a cozy ballpark and terrible pitching. Peavy and Sale have partially allayed that fear, along with some young arms in the bullpen, but the rest of the rotation is suspect. Danks and Floyd somehow got big contracts out of Kenny Williams, and with Peavy likely gone at the end of this year, the White Sox starting rotation seems stuck in the traditional rut of a bad farm system bolstered by projects reclaimed from other teams’ reject pile. Philip Humber has been ineffective since his perfecto. Jose Quintana has done a good job replacing Danks, but who knows how he will hold up?
Still, the division is weak, the Tigers haven’t caught fire yet, so we dare to hope. Can KW find a third basemen somewhere? Can we produce another effective starting pitcher? Will anybody show up at Sox Park to watch them? (I know, the Cell, I know…)
Finally a few quick reflections from my first night at Dodger Stadium in several years. I’m happy to report that we were able to safely traverse the length of the Dodger parking lots wearing White Sox hats and shirts. The crowd was friendly and good-natured…what there was of it. This city still hasn’t gotten over the McCourt Era. A match-up of two first place teams, highlighted by two of the best pitchers in baseball and a post-game fireworks show drew an announced 40,000. Yes, the Sox would do cartwheels over a crowd like that. But it seemed cavernous in Dodger Stadium, and plenty of the “sold” seats were empty. Oh, and a few words to the new Dodger owners about the concessions: worst in baseball. $7 warmed over hot dogs, $6 soggy garlic fries, “small” soft drinks for $5.25. I’ll take Sox Park’s brats, steaks, burgers and pizza any day.
Finally…my trivia quiz that stumped my fellow Sox fans…name the pitcher who pitched for both Sox and Cubs in the early/mid sixties, whose name was pronounced with emphasis on the first syllable with the Cubs and the last syllable with the Sox. Or vice versa, I forget. Here’s a hint… the question is hard, but the answer will cause a buzz…