Only at one point last season did the White Sox score five runs in four straight games.
This season, they've done it in their first four games.
While the bullpen has the broadcast booth filling out a Xanax prescription for Don Cooper, the White Sox offense might no longer require anti-depressants. A couple of fortunate developments have helped the cause. Tyler Flowers' transformation into a BABIP god is one of them, and Marcus Semien is showing some resiliency, too.
Semien admitted to getting caught up in the excitement of Opening Day and carrying that over into the second game.
"It’s hard enough competing against a pitcher in any at-bat without putting added pressure on yourself,’’ he said. "That’s what happened [Wednesday]. And I let my early at-bats affect my later at-bats. I tried to do more.’’
Semien's line still leaves a lot to be desired (2-for-18, double, homer, two walks, seven strikeouts), but he looks more confident in his strike zone after drawing that bases-loaded walk on Thursday, and even his recent strikeouts have seemed more incidental than self-induced.
That said, he's still staring at a .111 average, and it can't be easy trying to focus on his own habits when the game keeps thrusting him in huge situations out of the second spot. Gordon Beckham was scratched from his rehab start on Friday, and if that oblique injury keeps Semien in the lineup for another week or three, it's probably time to shift gears on the lineup card. Usually, guys with Semien's experience and early troubles get time to work it out at the bottom of the order, and a swap with Alexei Ramirez seems easy enough.
Beckham's oblique isn't the only March injury overstaying its welcome into April, although the Sox have given Nate Jones' problem a different name. His glute strain is now a hip strain, and you can guess whether it's a cascade injury, or whether somebody got tired of being the butt of all the jokes.
Jones lacked control in both of his regular-season appearances, and Robin Ventura says it probably dates back further. After all, he missed the strike zone with his first 11 pitches back on March 23.
"It never looked right, even when he came back in spring training," Ventura said. "You're thinking it would kind of go away, and it didn't. Something must be in there to make him throw like that."
Given the amount of flux in the White Sox bullpen during spring training -- Jones' injury, Matt Lindstrom's injury, Ronald Belisario's late arrival, Daniel Webb's personal loss -- and the open closer job, Jones might have seen enough benefit for the team and himself by trying to battle through it. That didn't happen, so now the hope is that the bullpen can start finding a rhythm by weeding out the players who are physically hindered.
Jones replacement Jake Petricka did what he could, throwing 2⅓ scoreless innings after Erik Johnson couldn't finish five innings. Scott Downs picked up the rest, and Ventura didn't have anybody else warming up, so this could be a good opportunity to reset.
Speaking of Johnson, his velocity and command problems from Friday make me wonder if he's hiding something, too. Brooks registered his average fastball at 89.7 mph, which is a solid two ticks below where it should be.
It's possible Kauffman Stadium's gun may have been on the slow side (it clocked one of Kelvin Herrera's fastballs at 93), but PITCHf/x wasn't popping in the one Johnson spring start it measured, either.
I can't make too many determinations from one game of data, but there's a circumstantial case to keep in mind, too. Between Jones this year and Tyler Flowers last season, we've seen a couple of young players try to grit their teeth and play through pain when there's a big-boy job on the line, and Johnson has a more robust injury history than the other two. Keep an eye on this.
Daryl Van Schouwen talked to Adam Eaton about his incredibly (and overly) physical season-opening series against Minnesota, and we're probably just going to have to get used to bracing for bad news:
"Yeah. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of grief for that, which I think is quite ridiculous,’’ Eaton said. "You get static if you don’t play hard, and when you do play hard, you get static.’’ [...]
Eaton seemed to be caught off guard by the criticism of his hard-nosed play, which he said came from "everywhere.’’
"I feel like Twitter blew up, that I’m no good on the disabled list and this and that. It is what it is.’’
It's a well-rounded account, which gives Eaton the floor and supplementing it with input from Daryl Boston, who doesn't like getting an up-close look at those dives into first base.
That said, it does seem like something is warping the conversation. It could be Twitter meatballs slamming a guy who is kickstarting an entertaining offense, because everything is bitching material. Or it could be the chip on Eaton's shoulder amplifying a fair concern into grudge material. I mean, it's kinda fun that you can take his quote about his effort and merge it seamlessly into Gene Frenkle's cowbell speech ...
"Like I’ve said before, I’m not supposed to be here so I’m going to play like every day is my last day,’’ he said. "The fans pay their hard-earned money to come see me play, and if I don’t give my 110 percent, I’m doing them an injustice, especially where we play on the South Side. Those are blue-collar people , it’s our job to give them a show and give them 110 percent. If that’s upsetting, I’m sorry. I'd be doing myself a disservice, and every member of this band, if I didn't perform the HELL out of this!"
... but the underlying sentiment ("The Sox could sure use your skills for 150+ games, fella") really doesn't seem like anything to get upset about.