Since the boards were slow yesterday I must assume that we all had a similar day. Mine started with my buddy trying out some new breakfast items for his restaurant. Since he was experimenting the four of us who volunteered to taste test got to eat for free. The food was magnificent. Then I headed over to another buddy’s bar to say hi. We ended up talking with this odd lady who liked to buy junk jewelry all over the world. She was harmless if strange.
Later I ran into a couple of gal pals who had offered to help me clean my apartment. Since now seemed to be as good a time as any we headed over to my place. When we got there I flipped on the Sox game and went scrounging for snacks. When I returned to the living room one young lady was wearing nothing but boots and asked me what it would take for me to stop watching baseball. The second lady emerged from my bedroom well on her way to being similarly clad and politely asked me to turn off the game. Since she asked politely, I complied.
It was the fifth inning and the Sox were up 4 or 5 to nothing.
A little while later their ride arrived and they had to go. I tossed on a pair of sweats and flipped the game back on just in time to see Dunn nail a down and away fast ball into the center-field bleachers for a grand slam. That put the Sox up 10-0.
After the game I took a shower, I needed one, and headed over to my favorite watering hole for an evening libation. The Saturday night bartender with the amazing derriere was there. Sadly, instead of heels and a thong she was in her usual k.d. lang drag; flat shoes, khakis and a work shirt.
Ah well, a boy can dream.
Of course, you may have been just watching baseball all day since there were some riveting games. The Cubs went up to the New Thunderdome to take on the Twins, one of only two other teams nearing their record for futility. Carrie Muskat says that futile is thew right word.
The Twins did more damage in one inning against Jeff Samardzija than any team had in his 11 previous starts.
Samardzija gave up eight runs, including six in the fourth, as the Twins romped, 11-3, over the Cubs on Saturday in Interleague Play. Chicago now has lost 20 of its last 24 games since May 15, and fell to 0-5 against the American League this season. Eleven of those 20 losses have been decided by one run, but this wasn’t close.
“It’s getting a little boring now, these kind of losses,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “We haven’t had too many of these, thank goodness. Most of them have been very close ballgames, and we’ve been in every ballgame for the most part all year. Losing, you can only take so much of it, and the consistency of it now is getting a little out of hand, that’s for sure.”
The effort and preparation is there, Sveum said. The Cubs just haven’t been able to execute.
“The fact of the matter is, when you’re leaving 260 people on base without getting a hit, you’re not going to win many ballgames,” he said.
They stranded eight on Saturday, going 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
“I think we lost our confidence—I think that’s more important,” said Alfonso Soriano, who gave the Cubs fans in the sellout crowd of 39,309 something to cheer about in the eighth with a runner on base when he hit his 12th homer into the second deck in left field.
“We’re working so hard to try to get better and have a better record, but I think the confidence is down,” Soriano said. “We have to keep working hard and work to get our confidence back. I think that’s the problem in this clubhouse right now is we don’t have the confidence.”
If they could string together some hits, like the Twins did in the fourth, it would help everyone’s attitude.
“Anytime you’re told over and over, ‘Hey, you’re struggling with runners in scoring position’ ... guys really don’t need to be told that to know what’s going on,” Reed Johnson said. “It could be an issue, too, where it’s a pressing type of thing. We continue to play the game the right way and guys are playing hard. I know for us as a group, I don’t think that’s enough. I think guys want to see results in the win column. ... Hopefully, we can get that confidence back and it snowballs in the right direction instead of the wrong direction, like it is now.”
Ryan Doumit, Trevor Plouffe, Denard Span and Joe Mauer all hit RBI doubles in the Twins’ fourth, and Plouffe added a solo homer in the fifth to back Scott Diamond (5-1), who threw six shutout innings. The Cubs dropped to 2-13 against left-handed starters.
Samardzija (5-4) entered the game with a 2.26 ERA in his last eight starts, and had not given up more than five runs. He had seven quality starts out of his 11. On Saturday, he was charged with eight runs on nine hits over 3 2/3 innings, matching his shortest start of the season. It was the most runs allowed by a Cubs starting pitcher this year.
“He couldn’t command anything, couldn’t keep the ball down,” Sveum said. “You hope you have a guy out there to overpower them and put them away and give us a chance, and obviously it got out of hand.”
After the Twins took a 2-0 lead in the second, they sent 11 batters to the plate in the fourth. Minnesota had two on and one out when Doumit hit an RBI double down the right-field line. Plouffe followed with a two-run ground-rule double to center. One out later, Jamey Carroll walked, Span hit an RBI double and Ben Revere followed with an infield RBI single to chase Samardzija. Mauer greeted Casey Coleman with another RBI double.
“Everybody was a part of it with some really big hits with two outs to keep the inning going and going and going,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “And against a very good pitcher over there, a guy who has really been throwing the ball very well.”
Not this time.
“You’ve just got to keep these guys off balance, and when you don’t have the secondary pitches to do that, they can hone in on your heater and you make a couple mistakes and they take advantage of it,” Samardzija said. “The best thing you can do is chalk it up as a learning experience.”
What the Cubs players have learned is that Sveum is very even keeled, and hasn’t thrown a public fit despite his frustration.
“It’s not on him—it’s not on our staff,” Samardzija said. “It’s on the guys here in the locker room. I think we understand it, we understand what we need to do to get better. [Sveum] has been great.
“He has every right to be upset, and I think he’s kept his cool with everything that’s going on and that says a lot about him as a manager. I think he understands we’re working hard and trying to go in the right direction, and we just need to get better.”
Sveum has clearly discovered the joys of Valium & Vodka. For those of you playing along at home, the Cubs now officially have the worst record in baseball.
There’s not much more to say.
On the Southside the Sox faced their ancient nemesis, The Houston Astroooooooooooos!!!!!!!! Scott Merkin was there and said it was a fun day to be a Sox fan at the Cell.
Just think where the White Sox would be if Chris Sale’s argumentative skills weren’t somewhere in line with his exceptional pitching talent.
If Sale never convinced White Sox general manager Ken Williams, manager Robin Ventura, pitching coach Don Cooper, head athletic trainer Herm Schneider and other members of the organization’s front office and coaching staff that soreness temporarily moving him to the bullpen back in early May was of the normal starting variety, then the White Sox would not have a rotation stopper who has posted victories after six White Sox losses.
His latest exceptional effort came on Saturday, as Sale shut down the Astros with eight scoreless innings, and the White Sox won, 10-1, before 22,880 at U.S. Cellular Field. Sale extended his scoreless innings streak to 15, improving to 8-2 overall, and 5-0 with a 0.98 ERA in his last five starts, covering 36 2/3 innings.
His American League-leading ERA dipped to 2.05. Only Atlanta’s Brandon Beachy (1.98) has a lower ERA. Sale has yet to allow more than three runs in any of his 11 starts.
About the only moment of concern in Sale’s start came in the sixth inning, when Jed Lowrie ripped a hard grounder back to the mound that caught Sale in the left heel on a short hop. Sale tumbled to the ground as the ball ricocheted to first baseman Paul Konerko, but after gathering himself, the southpaw stayed in the game.
White Sox fans across the country collectively held their breath until Sale threw his next pitch. Even Sale had to laugh after the initial scare.
“It was kind of comical after the panic went away,” Sale said. “It didn’t hurt or anything like that, but that ball was smoked.
“You gotta get out of the way of it. But yeah, I’ll continue to keep looking unathletic out there as a fielder and trying to dodge balls.”
The Astros (25-34) managed just four hits, all singles, as Sale struck out seven and didn’t issue a walk. In his last five starts, Sale has 43 strikeouts and seven walks, and has held opposing hitters to a .150 average.
Zach Stewart worked the ninth with the White Sox (33-26) holding a 10-run cushion and Sale sitting at 101 pitches. Stewart gave up a leadoff homer to Lowrie and heard a few jeers from the crowd, who probably weren’t as mad about the long ball as they were about not getting to see Sale for another inning.
“He’s a good pitcher,” said Astros manager Brad Mills of Sale. “You just look at what he’s done so far. In the month of May he was pretty outstanding, and he was pretty outstanding today.”
“I’ll tell you the most impressive thing that he’s doing is he’ll throw a fastball 87 mph, and then 95 mph. He’s not just throwing now,” said White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn of his 23-year-old teammate. “He’s pitching. For him to figure it out so quick, he’s not max effort every single time. He’s pitching, it’s scary.”
Dunn was part of a top-three trio in the White Sox lineup that was pretty darn scary itself for Houston starter Jordan Lyles (1-2) and four relievers. Alejandro De Aza, Gordon Beckham and Dunn combined to finish 9-for-14 with five runs scored, one homer and nine RBIs.
De Aza tied a career-high with four hits, giving him five multi-hit games out of seven played in June. He is hitting .432 with six RBIs, and nine runs scored over his last 11 games.
Beckham knocked out three hits and drove in three, while Dunn capped off the victory with a 414-foot grand slam to straightaway center off of Rhiner Cruz in the eighth inning. It was Dunn’s 12th career grand slam and first since July 25, 2009 with Washington, tying him with White Sox first-base coach Harold Baines for 58th place on the all-time home run list at 384.
Having Sale on the mound also affects the offense in a positive manner, letting the hitters know they don’t need to score much to get the win.
“He’s been outstanding all year long, and when he’s on the mound, obviously we have all the confidence in the world,” Dunn said. “We know if we score him a few runs, then normally it’s going to be good enough. We were able to bust out tonight.”
“Any time he pitches, whether you won or lost [the day before], you feel like you’re going to win his game,” Ventura said. “He just continues to go out and be consistent.”
During his three years with the White Sox, the lanky left-hander has transformed from a first-round Draft pick to a hard-throwing late-inning reliever to a rotation stalwart. And Sale, the debate winner, also has produced Sale, the White Sox stopper, helping the White Sox stay atop the American League Central for another night, and maybe much longer.
With these amazing 2012 statistics attached to Sale’s name, could there soon be Sale, the AL All-Star and possibly All-Star starter? It’s not an area of concern for Sale, with four or five starts remaining before the first half closes.
“That would be awesome. You always think about those things as a kid, stuff like that,” said Sale of making the All-Star team. “But at the same time, we got a ways to go before any of that stuff even starts happening.
“If I start looking toward that, I’ll lose focus of what I got in front of me, and what I got in front of me is Los Angeles right now. I’m going to start preparing for that one tomorrow.”
Our first place White Sox - and who among us really believed I’d be writing that a third of the way into June? - have been finding ways to win. When they went on their 9 game winning streak they had three starting pitchers with ERAs of 5 or higher. They now have three starters with ERAs of 3 or lower. It doesn’t seem to matter to them.
For whatever it’s worth, I never did get my apartment cleaned.
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