Just as the White Sox started their '05 second half with a sweep, the '06 team matched them with a sweep of their own. They were on the receiving end of this sweep, however.
They wasted their lone good pitching performance with questionable managerial decisions and poor pitching from the bullpen. Mark Buehrle and Freddy Garcia did nothing to convince me that they're going to get any better in the second half. The offense didn't hit with men in scoring position; and when they did, it often failed to result in runs being put on the board. It was station-to-station baseball by the offense, minus the clutch hitting and longballs. Put it all together, and it was easily the worst series of the season.
Combine that with the 3 lackluster games that they played against the Red Sox just before the All-Star break, and you can feel Sox fans starting to line up on the ledge. I can't say that I'm standing there along with them, at least not yet. I have pretty much the same feeling about this team as I did when I left for vacation exactly a month ago.
I was starting to get worried about Garland when I left, but remained confident that he could return to being solid. I had no faith in Freddy Garcia to be anything more than an inning eating, junkballing, 5th starter, and I still feel the same. Vazquez was inconsistent, but showed potential. All he's been since then is consistently bad. Same with Mark Buehrle. Jose Contreras, the ace of the staff for the last 11 months, has even shown some chinks in his armor.
There are flaws with this baseball team, but they're not so easily remedied. The starting pitching has not been nearly as good as it needs to be. It's barely been league average. This has largely been covered up by the White Sox offense perhaps playing a bit over their heads. Nobody predicted them to be the best offense in baseball, and the truth is... they're probably not. They have carried this team for the better part of the season, though, and for that I'm thankful.
I'm thankful that, despite only a single member of the White Sox rotation holding an ERA significantly better than league average, they still hold the second best record in baseball, they still lead the AL Wild Card race, and they still have 13 games left with the Tigers, whom they've pwned to the tune of 5-1 in their previous 6 meetings.
One series does not a season make, but there's a legitimate trend emerging that has Sox fans uneasy. At this point, all we can do is hope they get better.
On the bright side, the Sox best starting pitcher takes the mound on Tuesday against Detroit. There's an old baseball saying that momentum is only as good as the next game's starting pitcher. If that's the case, Tuesday may be the day that they turn this trend around.