This is a sight I hope to enjoy over the next month and a half.
We are getting pretty late into the season now. The White Sox still hold a two game lead over the Tigers in the loss column and it is about time to start scoreboard watching. Of course, I've been scoreboard watching since somewhere in mid April, but that is besides the point. There are a few things I like heading into this stretch and a couple of things that worry me, so it's time for another three up, three down.
1. Dayan Viciedo. He has been struggling for quite awhile since being red hot in May, but it looks like the tank has caught a second wind. He is currently sitting on an 8 game hitting streak and has three home runs in that span. As we saw back in May, when the Tank gets hot, he can carry a ball club. Fortunately, this latest hot streak started when Paul Konerko went to the disabled list with a concussion. Viciedo (and the Konglomerate) helped carry the offense when the Captain was down. Now that Paulie is back, hopefully Dayan will continue the hot hitting. He has raised his OPS .36 points since August 8th. Hopefully it keeps going up.
2. Brett Myers and Jesse Crain. The White Sox bullpen was in a little bit of disarray back in July. Matt Thornton was the only guy out there who wasn't a rookie and it was starting to show. Then Kenny Williams went out and acquired Brett Myers. He has really settled the bullpen nicely. Myers has a WHIP of 0.81. Opponents are batting just .190 off of the big right hander and he's sporting an ERA of 0.73 since joining the good guys. If that wasn't enough, Jesse Crain has come back looking strong. Crain returned to the mound on July 23rd after being absent for a month. After giving up a run in his first appearance back, Crain has went scoreless for eleven straight outings (which has covered 9.1 innings). The bullpen is back to being a strength for the ball club, largely in part to these two guys.
3. Tyler Flowers. Prior to this recent hot stretch by the Konglomerate, anytime there was a regular missing from the lineup it was a pretty safe bet to put down an 0-4 for his replacement. That isn't the case anymore with the backstop. Since bottoming out on July 18th at .154/.236/.277, Flowers has at least one hit in 9 of 11 starts. His line now sits at .221/.283/.385. He has five extra base hits over that stretch. All you really want from your back up catcher is to call a good game and flash some occasional power and that is what Flowers has done recently. It is nice to know that when A.J. Pierzynski needs a day off, Flowers won't be an automatic 0-4.
Here are three things that concern me as we look to hold off the Tigers.
1. Gordon Beckham. There was a point this year, where it looked like Beckham had at least figured something out at the plate. That point was a long time ago. Over the last 30 games, Gordon is hitting .198/.225/.314. It has been worse recently as he has hit .158/.200/.158 over his last seven. Yes, Beckham plays nice defense. That only goes so far though. Sooner or later you have to hit the ball and Beckham, especially lately, has been unable to do that. His struggles forced Ventura to give a call to Orlando Hudson and Ray Olmedo the last two games in Toronto. If you are getting benched in back to back games for Hudson and Olmedo, things are in dire straits. Beckham was 2-3 last night. Hopefully that is the start of turning it around, because with Hudson out, Olmedo is our only middle infielder on the bench. I'd rather not have to see him.
2. Kevin Youkilis. After his initial couple of weeks where he was the best hitter in the White Sox lineup, Youkilis has morphed back into what he was with the Red Sox. Over the last 30 games, Youk is hitting .176/.320/.400. While that is still a lot better than the production we were getting before he arrived, it was awfully nice having another serious threat in the lineup. Youk has still hit 6 homers over that time, but his hopes of replacing Charles Johnson as the most productive midseason acquisition in recent memory, have gone by the wayside. Hopefully Kevin can get hot again, because we are going to need his stick down the stretch.
3. Matt Thornton. Even with Crain and Myers doing an awesome job out of the pen, all isn't perfect out there. Matt Thornton has really struggled of late. Over his last 30 games, opponents are hitting .317 off of him. In those 10 innings he's thrown since then, he's only struck out five batters and he has lost three ball games for the club. His ERA over that time is 5.40. He still has good games like August 10th, when he came in for an inning and put up a 1-2-3 inning with 2 strikeouts. Then, the next day he gave up 3 hits and 2 runs in 2/3 of an inning. Thornton needs to be more consistent than he has been. With 7 games still left against the Tigers, it is a must to have a lefty to bring in to get Prince Fielder out. Thornton is going to be given that test. Hopefully he passes it.