After sweeping the Yankees, you’d figure the White Sox would carry at least some positive momentum into a four-game, three-day series with the Minnesota Twins.
That wasn’t the case, as the Pale Hose dropped two close ones to the Twinkies in a split doubleheader on Friday, falling 7-5 in the afternoon and 3-2 in 10 innings at night.
The two losses spoiled the White Sox debut of Avisail Garcia and Major League Debut of Charlie Leesman. Garcia, who arrived from Charlotte at U.S. Cellular Field during the middle of game two, was thrown into the game by Robin Ventura as a pinch-hitter for Blake Tekotte (who hit his first big league home run the at-bat before). He struck out on three pitches, but hit again in the 10th and was pegged on the elbow. The young man flashed his speed, tagging up from second to third on a fly out to center field. The game ended with Garcia on third when Alexei Ramirez flied out to right.
Charlie Leesman received a no-decision, but certainly pitched well enough to win the second game. Despite his control not being the greatest (five walks, 113 pitches through five innings), Leesman allowed only one run on a solo shot by Twins backstop Chris Herrmann. He scatted only three other hits, worked out of jams throughout his outing, and struck out eight. He was optioned back to AAA after the game, but we’ll be sure to see him back up here in a few weeks as a September call-up.
ALEXEI’S POWER SURGE
Alexei Ramirez hadn’t homered since April 3. Yesterday, he went yard twice, once in each game. On the day, he was 3-for-10 with the two home runs and 5 RBI. Three of those RBI came on two home runs, while the others came on a two-run single off of Twins closer Glen Perkins in the bottom of the ninth inning of game one.
We know Alexei Ramirez isn’t the kind of hitter to just suddenly have a week where he knocks five or six out of the park, but we do know that he possesses more pop than what he’s shown this season. He’s a guy who has had a 20 home run season, and hit double digit long balls in every year aside from last season. While the most important thing is that his average is a nice .286, it would be nice to see Ramirez also re-discover his power stroke a bit. Maybe Friday is a start.
BULLPEN BLOWS BOTH GAMES
When the White Sox traded Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain, it was obvious the bullpen was going to take a huge hit. Friday proved that and then some, as the ‘pen allowed six runs in seven innings and was credited with both losses.
After John Danks left the game in the middle of the seventh inning (six innings, three runs, four hits, five walks, nine strikeouts), the bullpen proceeded to take turns letting up runs. After Matt Lindstrom struck out Brian Dozier, Donnie Veal came in and made his annual walk-the-lefty appearance to Joe Mauer. Nate Jones was then summoned with the bases loaded, striking out Josh Willingham before missing his spot on a fastball to Justin Morneau, resulting in a grand slam that gave the Twins a 5-3 lead. David Purcey and Ramon Troncoso let up solo home runs later in game one. In game two, Dylan Axelrod let up his fourth home run in his last five relief appearances, as Oswald Arcia took him deep to lead off the tenth (the first picture of this article).
TWO MORE THIS WEEKEND: PITCHING MATCHUPS
The good news (or maybe it’s bad news) is that the Sox still have two more to play this weekend. Mike Pelfrey (4-9, 5.23 ERA) will oppose Andre Rienzo (0-0, 1.38 ERA) on Saturday afternoon, and former Pirate and Giant Kevin Correia (7-8, 4.84 ERA) takes on Jose Quintana (6-3, 3.51 ERA) on Sunday.
Pelfrey has thrown against the Sox twice this season and is 0-1, allowing nine runs and 18 hits over nine innings. Given that success, it’s no surprise that Sox hitters are hitting a combined .358 against the right-hander. However, Pelfrey’s been much better of late, allowing three runs or less in five of his last six starts (although he’s 1-3 in that span). He doesn’t typically work deep into games, as he’s only gone seven innings in one of his 20 starts this season.
As for Rienzo, he obviously has yet to face the Twins in his young career. He will be making his third major league start, and he’s been impressive in his first two, recording quality starts against high-powered divisional foes Detroit and Cleveland. Command has been a bit of an issue (six walks in 13 innings), especially as his starts have worn on, but Rienzo has plenty of positives from his first two outings moving forward.
On Sunday, the Sox face another pitcher they’ve already seen twice this season in Correia. The veteran righty is 1-1 against the Soutsiders this season, allowing six runs in 13.2 innings. Two of his last three outings have been horrific. He didn’t even make it out of the second inning against the Mariners on July 25, and the third inning against the Royals in his last outing. Adam Dunn (.267, two home runs) and Jeff Keppinger (.357, one home run) are the only Sox hitter with double-digit at-bats against Correia due to the time they’ve spent in the National League.
Since July, Jose Quintana has been one of the best left-handed pitchers in baseball. It’s too bad that he doesn’t get any support from the Sox offense to make his Win/Loss total look a bit nicer. He’s allowed just 13 runs over his last seven starts, going 3-1 during that span. He’s also struck out 43 during those outings (45.1 innings), which isn’t usually Quintana’s forte. Q hasn’t faced the Twins this season, but was 0-1 with a 9.20 ERA in three outings against them last year. Josh Willingham (5-for-6, two home runs) and Justin Morneau (4-for-7) have really hit Quintana hard.