In Which Both Losers Struck Out 13 Times

If you’re like me, and there are laws in some states that frown on that, you make the occasional error. I did so a couple of days ago and spent 48 fun hours trying not to get lynched.

So far so good.

Speaking of errors, Mary Mitchell of the Sun Times writes about how a coach may have made one, and that’s not a given, and only the kids are being punished. The CPS System has put the kids in the position of staying put and probably being shot or moving and not being able to participate in sports. The CPS System clearly has no basis in reality.

In other error related news, the U.S. Military is now admitting that giving Neo Nazis advanced weapons training and then letting them loose in public might not be the best idea they’ve ever had.

This just in, the U.S. Military finally bought a clue.

Oddly enough, though, out of all the errors the baseball team that committed the most yesterday’s Chicago related games, won the damn game. Carrie Muskat reports the Brewers made an error and still beat the Cubs.

The Cubs struck out 37 times in a three-game series against the Brewers, which would be a lot easier for manager Dale Sveum to stomach if he saw more power from his club.

“They go hand in hand, but you’ve got to have both hands,” Sveum said. “You can’t have both—no home runs and a bunch of strikeouts. If you’re going to strike out, you better have slugging percentage, otherwise you’re not going to score runs.”

That is what happened Wednesday. David DeJesus and Bryan LaHair both hit solo home runs, but the Cubs combined for 13 K’s as Milwaukee edged Chicago, 3-2, to complete a series sweep. Ryan Braun hit a RBI double and his 34th home run to back Yovani Gallardo (13-8), who fanned nine over seven innings.

DeJesus started the game with his sixth home run, but the Brewers answered in their half of the first as Norichika Aoki, Braun and Corey Hart all doubled, with runs scoring on the latter two hits. Braun homered to open the sixth, launching a 1-1 pitch from Travis Wood to right-center. LaHair made it 3-2 with a leadoff home run in the Cubs’ seventh, his first blast since July 4.

Wood (4-10) lost his seventh straight decision, serving up three runs on six hits over seven innings.

“He’s a good pitcher,” Braun said. “He’s got good command to both sides of the plate and he threw a good cutter that’s tough to differentiate. We had a couple of doubles in the first inning, but other than that, he pretty much shut us down.”

“I wanted to win the ballgame,” Wood said. “I like winning games. We’ve been struggling lately. We played a pretty clean game today, 3-2, and no luck. We just fell short.”

After going 15-10 in July, the Cubs have scuffled in August and lost for the 18th time in the past 22 games.

“It’s a combination of a lot of things,” Sveum said. “We’re going down looking, we’re swinging at pitches way out of the zone early, and then we get good pitches to hit, and we take them. What’s going on right now mentally is strange from a hitting point. We’re aggressive when we shouldn’t be, and we’re passive when we should be aggressive.”

Some of the struggles are caused by inexperience. Sveum spent a long time during batting practice with rookies Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson.

“We’re super young right now,” Sveum said. “That’s part of the gig and we knew it.”

Which means Sveum is constantly teaching. After the first inning Tuesday, Sveum was spotted in the dugout talking to Vitters after he struck out. Was that about having a better at-bat?

“That was when I was asking him why he didn’t run to first base when the ball got away from the catcher,” Sveum said.

Vitters’ answer?

“You can only imagine,” Sveum said.

The Cubs were 15-10 in July, but haven’t carried over that success this month. They’re batting .213 in their last 22 games, and have been out-scored 114-74, out-homered 29-17, and struck out 187 times. Has it been tough for Sveum?

“I’m not going to lie to you and say it doesn’t get frustrating to lose and be behind in ballgames constantly, to where our closer has gotten three save opportunities in the month of August,” Sveum said. “We’ve got to start putting things together and get on the board early and get leads and stay on top. It’s very difficult when you’re not getting people on base. DeJesus is swinging the bat great and we’re not getting him in, getting him over.”

That doesn’t mean the players have given up.

“It’s not fun,” rookie Anthony Rizzo said of the recent tough times. “It trickles down to everyone. Everyone has to do well together. It can’t be one guy to shine and shine and shine. We have to keep going.”

“The atmosphere is fine,” Sveum said. “You don’t see a lot of guys hanging their heads. The process of grinding at-bats out has got to get better. It’s almost like we’re afraid to make mistakes. You can’t be afraid to fail, and it looks like that’s what we’re going through right now.”

The Cubs are on pace to lose at least 100 games. Sveum said he’s not counting.

“Obviously, no one wants to lose 100 games, but you have to plug away every single day to grind it out,” Sveum said. “We have to start grinding. That’s the bottom line. You have to grind things out.”

Brett Jackson’s end of game strike out was a thing of beauty. If you find beauty in the absurd.  His last swing was at a pitch so far off the plate that I thought the pitcher was just turning the ball over to the bat boy so he could get a new one. This guy would strike out during an intentional walk.

Oh well, I fully expect to see ads next year that state “You too can be drunk by 2:30 PM, just like Dale Sveum. C.U.Booze, the breakfast of champions!”

Anyway, last night provided me with a rare opportunity to compare the Chicago Cubs to the New York Yankees who, also, struck out 13 times in a loss. Our old pal Scott Merkin was at the game and brings us all we need to know.

During Addison Reed’s short but successful baseball career, he has served as closer for both Stephen Strasburg and Chris Sale.

His closing work behind Strasburg came during two years at San Diego State. But after finishing off victory No. 15 for Sale during the White Sox 2-1 win over the Yankees before 26,319 at U.S. Cellular Field on Wednesday, Reed drew logical comparisons between two of Major League Baseball’s best young starters.

“Both of those guys, they don’t care who they are facing, what team it is, what batter it is,” said Reed, who recorded two strikeouts in the ninth using his changeup as he picked up save No. 23. “They know they are going to probably be successful. The confidence they have is unbelievable.”

This confidence, in turn, spills over to their teammates.

On Wednesday night, Sale’s bravado helped the White Sox (68-55) complete their first sweep of the Yankees (72-52) of three games or more since June 15-18, 2000. It was their first home sweep of the Yankees since Aug. 6-8, 1991.

During the 1991 sweep, it’s a safe bet that Sale (15-4), now 23, wasn’t throwing 95 mph or mixing in devastating sliders and changeups.

The Yankees discovered in this series finale why Sale often gets mentioned as part of discussions centering on 2012 American League Cy Young candidates. Sale pitched 7 2/3 innings and allowed just one run in helping the White Sox maintain their two-game lead over the Tigers, who beat the Blue Jays by a 3-2 margin at Comerica Park.

For the fourth time this season, Sale topped the double-digit mark in strikeouts. He fanned 13 while walking one and giving up just three hits. Sale struck out Ichiro Suzuki three times and Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson two times apiece, as the left-handed hitters finished a combined 1-for-9 against him.

“That’s the first or second time I’ve ever faced him, but, man, he’s a pretty good pitcher,” said Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher, who finished 0-for-3 against Sale with one strikeout. “Numbers don’t lie.”

“He’s funky—he has a different kind of motion,” said Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. “He sort of steps at the left-handers and away from us. His fastball moves. He throws hard. He gets it up there—95, 96 [mph]—but then he also throws a lot of offspeed pitches for strikes. He’s a handful.”

Jeter provided the Yankees’ only run via a one-out homer, his 13th, to left field, tying the game in the sixth inning. That deadlock didn’t last long, as Alex Rios connected for his own one-out solo shot in the bottom of the inning.

It was home run No. 20 for Rios and RBI No. 72, coming on an 0-1, 91-mph fastball from Yankees starter Phil Hughes (12-11).

“Hughes is a guy who throws a high percentage of fastballs, so I guessed right,” Rios said. “I knew I hit it good. I didn’t know it was going to go out, but I knew I hit it good.”

“All-around player, that’s the one thing that impressed me about Alex,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s been great for us offensively, stealing bases and playing great defense. He’s been consistent all year long.”

Scoring chances weren’t exactly plentiful for either division leader in this contest. The Yankees wasted a leadoff double from Mark Teixeira in the second and a one-out double from Cano in the fourth that barely stayed in the ballpark. The White Sox put two runners on base in the first, third, fourth and eighth, but outside of the Rios homer, they scored only on Kevin Youkilis’ third-inning sacrifice fly.

Strikeouts of Casey McGehee and Ichiro to start the eighth ended Sale’s night at 109 pitches, with Brett Myers retiring Jeter on a great defensive play by second baseman Gordon Beckham to end the frame. Before Beckham’s effort, Sale walked off the field to yet another standing ovation in improving to 7-0 with a 1.17 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings over his last eight home starts.

Those are numbers belonging to a staff ace, the man you would put on the mound to open a playoff series. Just don’t try to tell the humble Sale he’s at the front of a strong White Sox rotation, as he would give that nod to Jake Peavy, the ultimate competitor in Sale’s mind.

Sale won’t allow himself to think about being considered a dominant pitcher, even after lowering his ERA to 2.65.

“I try not to; I just try to go with the flow, honestly,” said Sale, who threw 70 of his pitches for strikes. “This is a game of ups and downs. You try to not get too up or too down. I wouldn’t say that. I’m just happy to be in the situation I’m in.

“Each outing, he does something that was more impressive than the one before,” said Reed of Sale. “It’s fun to watch, and I’m glad he’s on our team.”

Reed knows a thing or two about dominant starters. The one he works with professionally helped erase the sting of this past weekend’s three-game sweep in Kansas City for the South Siders.

“Winning those first two games and having a chance to sweep after getting swept in Kansas City goes to show what kind of guys we have in here,” Sale said. “Every game is big from here on out—no games from here on out where we can take a night off. It’s go time now.”

Sale’s arm motion is one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen. His elbow and wrist are parallel to the ground when he releases the ball. Yet, oddly enough, it is such a fluid delivery that I don’t worry about him.

If you’d told me in March that we would be using the phrase “First place Chicago White Sox” near the end of August I would have patted you on the head and bought you a drink. I never had them pegged for more than an extra wild card slot, which would have thrilled me. Right now I’m almost giddy.


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