Sometimes it’s tough to write about a team as a homer during an upturn. When things begin to go well on the field, opportunities for savaging the responsible parties dwindle and the mind turns to attaboys and accolades. And, really, who wants that? You just can’t wail, gnash teeth nor unleash withering bathos against the impression that tens of millions of player contract dollars are being well-spent.
So it’s with a thimble of selfish regret that I report the Chicago White Sox have remarkably returned as a contender in the AL Central power struggle. A tussle, to be sure, only slightly more epic than an outbreak of hair-pulling in the back of a second-grade classroom, yet the playoffs seem to hinge upon it.
The Sox, who once considered adopting the pointless solo home run as the team mascot, have left behind their free-swinging ways, a decision that has paid handsome dividends. With the rhythmic regularity of Mountain Dew belches from Bobby Jenks, the Pale Hose have notched 12 of the last 14 and moved above .500 for the first time in 2010. They’ve mowed through the National League on an 8-1 road trip, dealing defeat to the Cubs, Pirates, Nationals, and last night, the far more serious Braves, piling on 16 hits and finally, a dinger. Prior to last night’s Carlos Quentin 3-run bomb, the Sox’s turnaround was engineered without a single home run in 8 games, a team drought record that reaches back to the 1940s.
(Above: Alex Rios puts it where they ain’t.)
Bats that no longer twitch trying to correct.200 averages in one swing are one story. On the bump, the prospects are no less bright. Sunday’s complete-game Jake Peavy victory against the Nats is a signal of a rejuvenated rotation including the awakening of Gavin Floyd and a general deep-inning work ethic. Reliefwise, outside of Sergio Santos (control problems) and Scott Linebrink (meatball delivery problems), the rested pen holds, the LOOGYs get their men and the leads get protected.
As a package, this is no longer a team that can be counted out of a division dominated by the Twins and the Tigers, whose arms can’t match up to these when firing on all cylinders.