When I read that Nick Masset would be getting the start on Sunday, my first thought was "white flag." That thought had two meanings; one, the Cubs famously fly a white flag on the scoreboard to indicate a victory, and two, the white flag is the universal sign for surrender. Needless to say, I didn't have a good feeling about the Sox chances Sunday. In a trend that continued in the gamethread, my gut was wrong. Way wrong.
It seems odd that Masset has been at his best in a White Sox uniform when he's pitching for multiple innings. In the Texas organization, he was a starter with better stuff than his numbers showed. He didn't really begin to flourish until he was moved to the pen late last year. That's when the Sox scouted him, and that's where we got the reports of a high-velocity guy with a good curveball. For the most part, we haven't really seen the guy from those scouting reports. That changed Sunday.
Masset's fastball actually seemed to be faster (93-94 MPH) in his first career start than in his relief efforts this season. Once he got his control worked out in the first inning, he cruised through 5+ innings. His fastball had tons of life to it, and he was expertly locating it at the bottom of the zone. It wasn't until he tired in the 6th that the Cubs hit anything hard.
I'm still not sold on Masset as anything more than a back of the rotation guy, but his performance Sunday puts him in front of the other spot starter options in Gavin Floyd and Charlie Haeger. That outing Sunday was our first real glimpse at why Sox scouts seemed so enamored with Masset.
Just wait until the weather heats up
Yeah right. The thermometer read 47 degrees at game time Sunday at Wrigley Field, and it felt a whole lot colder with the wind coming in off the lake, but the Sox bats briefly woke up with a 7-run outburst with 2-out in the 7th inning. (I'm pretty sure it was the first 5-run inning of the Sox season, but I'm unsure how to easily look that up.) It was the Sox first 10-run output of the season, surely the last of any American League team to reach that mark. It was just the second game of the season that the Sox have won by more than 3 runs.
I don't have much to say on the offensive outburst. Let's see if it lasts. Zambrano was very close to escaping the 7th twice. He was up on Thome 0-2, and might not have had to face him if the home plate ump had eagle eyes on the Uribe "HBP."
The tenuous nature of a lead/(close game) was something of a theme for the weekend. We saw two big 2-out rallies, and 4 bullpen implosions. I'm a little worried about the bullpen which has been highly ineffective the last 10 days or so. Thankfully, the offense finally took some pressure off a group that's had almost no margin for error all season. The Sox need one, preferably both, of those two groups to perform to their potential win with any consistency.
Get off my lawn, you filthy triplets!
The aging process generally occurs so slowly that you don't even notice until the day you're unable to do a simple, mundane task with which you've never previously had trouble. That's exactly what happened to Jermaine Dye this weekend. Dye has always looked slow, in part because he's 6'5" and runs like a cross between a giraffe and a duck, but he's never looked as old and slow as he did this weekend running to pick up balls that he was willing to concede as triples. In a three game span, we saw his transformation from right fielder to DH, or, at best, a left fielder with limited range and a good arm.
After giving up 4 triples this weekend, White Sox pitching has now allowed 12 triples on the season. They're on pace to allow about 50 three-baggers. To give that number some perspective, they allowed 31 triples last season, when Mackowiak was flailing around in CF, and 23 triples in '05 when they had one of the best defenses in baseball. I bring up those stats because, as we saw this weekend, most triples are to right or center field. And as much as some of you think I hate Darin Erstad, I'll concede that he's only misplayed one ball into a triple this season. He's not the reason for the barrage of triples this year.
There's rarely a time, especially in USCF, when the ball leaves the bat and my first thought is "that's a triple." Often called the most exciting play in baseball, triples are fluky because they're almost always an effort/speed issue. And unfortunately for us, it doesn't appear that Jermaine has the speed to limit them anymore.
Rob Mackowiak and Tadahito Iguchi are tied for the team lead in triples with one a piece.
- Jim Thome came back off the DL a day early to pinch hit. My initial thought upon seeing his at-bat was that he wasn't feeling 100%. He didn't seem to be letting it fly with his usual zest. He only swung the bat twice, so any long-term judgment is premature, he could have been fooled by the pitches and was just trying to put the bat on the ball. But that's exactly the reason that I thought his bat looked a little slow, Thome never tries to just put the bat on the ball.
- Joe Crede finally admitted that his back was bothering him. Duh. He had a cortisone shot in his back following the game and will be out for at least the next couple of games. With as unproductive as he's been this season, I'd tell him he's headed to the DL for 15 days and call up Josh Fields, who has been heating up in Charlotte. In the month of May, Fields has batted .292/.398/.514 with a K/BB ratio inching ever closer to 1:1 (19/14 in May). I'll never be a big fan of Fields until he proves he can produce at the big league level, but I think he can put up an Iguchi-like line right now ('07 Iguchi, low average, decent OBP), which is better than anything Crede or his backups (Cintron and Ozuna) have done this season.