Coming into the series against the New York Yankees, the White Sox had lost 10 games in a row, all against divisional foes, and scored just 18 runs in those games.
A Yankees team in the playoff hunt comes into town. Suddenly, the Sox found a groove, sweeping the Yankees out of town and scoring 17 runs in the three games.
In the words of Vince Lombardi, “What the hell’s going on out here?”
The Sox not only won all three games in the series, but did it against the kinds of pitchers the team traditionally struggles with. They saw soft-tossing Andy Pettitte on Monday night and knocked him out of the game before the fourth inning, were able to scrape three runs across against Yankee ace Hiroki Kuroda on Tuesday, and get to C.C. Sabathia (18-4 lifetime against the Sox) and legendary closer Mariano Rivera on Wednesday night. As a team, the Sox went 36-for-115 (.313) on the series.
However, the most interesting part of the series may have been a shakeup of the starting lineup, something White Sox fans have been clamoring for Robin Ventura to do. Alexei Ramirez hit lead-off on Monday night with Alejandro De Aza getting the day off (only to enter the game in the bottom of the first after Dayan Viciedo jammed his thumb) and recorded four hits in the process. After hitting in his customary two-hole on Tuesday, Ramirez returned to the lead-off spot Wedensday and added three more hits. De Aza just swapped spots with Ramirez and moved to second. He responded with two hits and hit a walk-off two-run triple off Adam Warren in the bottom of the 12th inning.
For the series, Ramirez was 8-for-15 (.533) with three runs, two RBI, a double, and a stolen base. De Aza was 5-for-14 (.357) with two runs, three RBI, a double, and a triple. It’s pretty safe to say that the lineup shakeup paid dividends for these two.
In addition, Gordon Beckham was bumped up to fifth in the order for Wednesday night’s game after recording two hits in each of the series’ first two games. He responded with another big night, going 2-for-4 with his third home run of the season, two RBI, and two runs scored. On the series, Beckham was 6-for-12 (.500) with the home run and two doubles, raising his average back up to .310 on the year.
Beckham could have been hitting fifth in part because Adam Dunn had the night off with left-hander CC Sabathia on the hill (only to enter later and get the game-tying hit off Rivera), but Beckham hit ahead of guys who have been in front of him all season in Dayan Viciedo and Conor Gillaspie. That likely signifies a permanent change. However, we may not know for sure what Robin wants his “new” lineup to look like until Saturday, with Friday being a doubleheader.
As has been the case all season, the starting pitchers did the job. Jose Quintana and Chris Sale had quality starts and had the rare privilege of receiving a win. Hector Santiago had a bit of a rough outing on Wednesday (5.2 innings, four runs, two homers allowed), but kept the team in the ballgame.
The Yankees were just 27-for-11 (.243) on the series. Alex Rodriguez, who had everyone’s attention due to his return and biogenesis suspension appeal, recorded a hit in each game and played solid defense at third base. While the Yankees did not hit particularly well against the Sox, the additions of A-Rod, Alfonso Soriano, and Curtis Granderson to the lineup should bolster them down the stretch and at least put them back in the conversation for a Wild Card spot.
So why did the Sox suddenly start to play so well? It could be because the Sox finally got some home cookin’ after a six-game road trip that felt like 100 games. Maybe it was the Yankees coming to town, a team everyone gears up to play. Or maybe it was the entire A-Rod circus, putting all the attention and distractions on the Yankees and allowing the Sox to play free and easy for the first time in a long time.
Whatever the reason was, let’s hope the White Sox can keep playing some not only good, but fun baseball. The season’s all but lost and getting the number one pick in next year’s draft would be nice, but it’s never fun to see your team lose. Never.