Last season, it took Adam Dunn 152 games to finally touch up a left-handed pitcher for an extra-base hit. But when he poked that double into the right field corner against Bruce Chen on Sept. 18, Dunn didn't just break new ground for himself.
Take a look at the video and see if you can see what else is noteworthy:
The share tools may overlap the crucial part, so let me crop it for you:
Dunn's hit, which came four days after I wrote about the teamwide outright refusal to entertain the notion of thinking about starting to swing at a 3-0 pitch, was the only White Sox base hit on said count all year. Actually, it was the first since 2009.
You can read more about their 3-0 patterns in that post, but to sum it up in a sentence, "taking all the way" became a calling card of the Ozzie Guillen/Greg Walker offense. Alexei Ramirez turned it into postmodern art, watching the pitch by not watching the pitch. I'm pretty sure he didn't bother to fasten his batting gloves after going 3-0.
This year, it's a whole different story. And in turn, we have our first truly defined departure for the Robin Ventura/Jeff Manto attack.
Historically, Paul Konerko is one of baseball's stingiest when it comes to swinging at a 3-0 pitch. Entering this season, his last hit on a three-ball count was a double off Tampa Bay's Mark Hendrickson on May 18, 2006. He went four years without putting a 3-0 pitch in play (that drought ended last year when he hit a flyout to left on June 10 off Oakland's Graham Godfrey).
Yes, Konerko cashed in a get-me-over fastball for an RBI single and his first 3-0 hit in nearly a full senatorial term.
Better yet, it doesn't look like a fluke. The Sox were more aggressive in such situations during the spring (Konerko swung at 3-0 pitches on at least two occasions in Cactus League play). That could be written off as "getting work in," but Konerko's single off Masterson marked the second straight game a White Sox player put a 3-0 pitch in play. Alejandro De Aza preceded Konerko on Monday, although he ended up grounding out to second.
You have to go back to 2003 to find a White Sox team that put 3-0 pitches into play on consecutive games. Actually, it happened in each of Jerry Manuel's last two months at the helm. Jose Valentin and Sandy Alomar Jr. gave it a shot in a doubleheader on Aug. 12, and Frank Thomas of all people tried it two games in a row Sept. 5-6. For whatever reason, Ozzie Guillen's teams grew increasingly docile on 3-0, and to a ridiculous extent over the last four years or so.
Ventura is wasting no time turning his hitters loose. In both cases, De Aza and Konerko were well within their rights to try to take advantage of the catbirdiest of catbird seats. For De Aza, there were runners on second and third, two outs, and Brent Morel on deck. Konerko had runners on the corners, one out, and Pierzynski backing him up.*
In both cases, a hit was better than a walk, the hitter at the plate was better than the one following him, and they each picked good pitches. Konerko's grounder found a hole; De Aza's didn't. It's not always going to work, but it's refreshing to see White Sox hitters taking the lead when situations present themselves, regardless of the result.
(*And when the Indians decided to intentionally walk Konerko the next time up, Pierzynski made Manny Acta pay by crushing an 0-1 pitch well into the right field seats for a three-run homer. That's situational hitting, too.)
John Danks pitched poorly on Wednesday, especially when considering the considerable early leads in his favor. His line: 5 2/3 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 5 BB, 3 K.
At least he benefited from a solid education at no cost. For one, Danks learned why lefties don't throw too many changeups to left-handed hitters. Danks struck out Travis Hafner with his best pitch in his first at-bat. In his second, Danks tried starting him with a changeup ... and it ended up in the second deck.
More significantly, he learned how to win somehow. After going 0-for-April and 0-for-May last year, Danks is 1-1 after two starts, which is much easier on the eyes. Plus, he didn't even need a good effort for his first victory.
Danks usually needs a quality start to stand a chance of picking up a win. As @cowhitchurch pointed out, Danks was the only healthy White Sox starter last year who couldn't steal a win when allowing four earned runs.* He's on the board this year, and hopefully the increased run support will turn into a trend, while the lackluster control remains an aberration.
(*It should be noted that Danks did win a game where he allowed four runs last year, but only three runs were earned. The game? Sept. 18, 2011, against Bruce Chen and the Kansas City Royals! That just goes to show that swinging on 3-0 solves everything.)