Once so weak they could barely stand on their own power, the White Sox have not only been revived, they are growing stronger by the minute.
This was supposed to be a club built around small ball, using a roster that was preferred by manager Ozzie Guillen. On-base percentage, situational hitting and clutch RBIs were supposed to be their trademark.
But when the first two months didn’t go as planned, turning into an offensive force by the All-Star break was a fantasy. Welcome to Utopia.
Home runs weren’t exactly going to disappear this year, but it was thought they wouldn’t be relied on so heavily. It seems, though, that at some point on the road to regaining their identity, the White Sox have grown comfortable flexing their muscles.
A day after A.J. Pierzynski hit two home runs, Carlos Quentin hit his own pair Saturday, two of three overall for the White Sox that helped sink the Kansas City Royals. The White Sox’s 5-1 victory was their seventh consecutive, and 20th in their last 24 games.
“I think people were wrong about the way we built this ballclub,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “A good percentage of the guys there can hit the ball out of the ballpark at any time. What it was was that we didn’t want to combine strikeouts with power. I would rather have guys put the ball in play and get the home run when we need it.”
Even Gordon Beckham got into the act, crushing one over the left field wall in the fifth inning off Royals starter Brian Bannister. It was Beckham’s third home run of the season with the last two coming in his last 11 games.
“It was a curveball and he just hung it,” Beckham said. “It’s good when I just react to balls. I wasn’t looking for a curveball, it just happened. That’s a good sign.”
Beckham’s good sign was just one of many that have cropped up of late. Pitching, clutch hitting and now explosive power have all been evident during the White Sox’s recent hot streak.
Home is where the real power show has been displayed. The White Sox have hit 26 home runs in their last 16 games at U.S. Cellular Field. Over their last 14 road games, they have hit just two home runs.
The three homers at home Saturday moved the White Sox past the Texas Rangers and into second place in the American League with 63 long balls in their own park. Only the Toronto Blue Jays have more at home with 75.
Paul Konerko, the White Sox team leader with 20 home runs, sees the power show as just one more sign of the team’s emergence.
“I think it’s just a product of guys having good at-bats,” Konerko said. “We knew from the get-go we had a bunch of good hitters up and down the lineup. We said, ‘There’s no Ryan Howard, or [Albert] Pujols or guys like that in the lineup,' but we have a bunch of guys that we think can string anywhere from 15 to 25 homers deep into the lineup.”
BY THE NUMBERS
The Royals might be among the best hitting teams in baseball, but it was a wonder they even put up one run against the White Sox’s trio of pitchers Saturday. Gavin Floyd has been dominating over his past seven starts, and with one run allowed over 7 2/3 innings his ERA dropped to 1.07 over that stretch.
Both White Sox relievers used Saturday have been just as dominating. Matt Thornton pitched a scoreless third of an inning and now has 12 consecutive scoreless appearances (10 2/3 innings). J.J. Putz, who pitched a scoreless ninth inning, hasn’t given up a run in 22 consecutive outings (23 innings). It is the second longest streak in White Sox history next to Shingo Takatsu’s 24 in 2004.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“My goal is to shut down teams every inning, but there are going to be bumps in the road. We just have to stay positive and continue this. That would be great.” -- Gavin Floyd, who owns a 0.65 ERA over his last four home starts.
Daniel Hudson’s start Sunday against the Royals could go a long way in deciding if the White Sox dish out prospects to obtain a proven starter for the final two months. If he remains in the rotation he might not pitch again until July 19 at Seattle, which wouldn’t give the White Sox a lot of time to make a decision before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Hudson, who was 11-4 at Triple-A Charlotte with a 3.47 ERA, will make his third career big-league start and first this season. As if that isn’t enough, he will be opposed by Royals ace Zack Greinke (5-8, 3.71).