Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Did Putz blow Sox pennant chance?

I’m not coming right out and saying that the Chicago White Sox chances of winning an American League pennant were flushed down the toilet bowl of life on Saturday when relief pitcher J.J. Putz gave up a home run that converted a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers into a 3-2 loss.

But I feel sorry for Putz, who because of that game and his followup performance on Sunday has the chance to become a White Sox “immortal” along the lines of Jerry Dybzinski if it turns out that the White Sox fail to at least win their division for the 2010 baseball season.

WHEN WE LAST tuned in at this weblog to the White Sox, they managed on the final day before the All Star Game to gain first place (after having started out playing absolutely crummy ball). They managed to hold that lead for about a month until recent days, although the Minnesota Twins played tight enough that the White Sox were never able to build up any kind of significant lead.

Which is why last week’s 1-2 peformances against both Minnesota and Detroit at U.S. Cellular Field are so harmful. Losing two of three to Minnesota gave them a one-game lead.

Losing two of three to Detroit (while Minnesota managed to take all three of their games against the Oakland Athletics) turned it into a three-game lead.

The White Sox managed to do themselves no harm on Monday. It was an off-day for travel. To Minneapolis. Where they will spend the next three days playing those same Minnesota Twins.

BE HONEST. HOW many White Sox fans are fearing (and how many Cubs fans are eagerly rooting for) a three-game sweep by Minnesota in Minneapolis. Which, if it happens, would turn the three-game lead into a six-game lead.

Which considering that we’re now approaching late August and the time of the season where things start settling into the way they will wind up at season’s end on Oct. 3.

If we really have the White Sox six games behind the Minnesota Twins on Aug. 19, should we really even regard there as being any kind of fight for the American League central division title? I’m not saying it would be a victory of historic proportions to overcome a six-game deficit with just over a month left to the season.

But let’s be honest. The character of Chicago baseball is to be the team that blows a six-game lead, not overcomes one.

PERSONALLY, I THINK a bigger factor in the White Sox failure (if they wind up failing) will be the fact that they lost two of three games to Minnesota last week in Chicago. That was a series they really needed to take at least two of three – if not actually win all three games.

But it will be easier for many fans to seek out one moment – which means that Saturday game against the Tigers will hurt, because all Putz (the guy who supposedly is good enough to be the top relief pitcher on most teams, but has been a backup to ailing Bobby Jenks for the White Sox) had to do was get through one inning to preserve that 2-1 White Sox victory.

If they had taken the first two games against Detroit, maybe they would have been inspired enough to avoid that 13-8 loss that they got hit with the next day.

Maybe the White Sox could be going to Minnesota with only a one-game deficit, instead of a three-game lag.

NOW MAYBE I am being overly pessimistic. Maybe the White Sox willl wind up the night Thursday having taken all three games against the Minnesota Twins to enable them to catch the first place ballclub and be in a tie for the division lead. Eh, if I were that perennially optimistic and delusional, I’d be a Chicago Cubs fan.

Instead, I’m seeing a situation where Alex Avila of the Tigers may have earned his way into “heel” status in the minds of White Sox fans for hitting that ninth inning home run that cost the White Sox a ballgame that fans feel they should have won on account of starting pitcher Edwin Jackson’s stellar performance over seven innings.

Of course, White Sox fans largely would rather blame their own, which means that Putz could find himself in uncomfortable territory for years to come – almost as much as Dybzinski, whose baserunning error in Game Four of the American League playoffs is still blamed for costing the White Sox the 1983 league championship.

Perhaps the two could chat someday.

BECAUSE ABOUT THE only way some fans are going to forget that weekend game against Detroit is if the White Sox actually manage to pull off a three-game sweep to tie the whole affair up.

Personally, I will be impressed if they manage to win one of the three games. A four game deficit isn’t good, but somehow doesn’t sound as ominous as that six-game lead that Minnesota could have by week’s end.


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