A note for those of you reading: Mismatched Sox is a weekly blog hastily thrown together by Sox in the Basement Co-Host Ed Siebert and is written to present you with White Sox and baseball thoughts in a manner that, frankly, thinks it is funny in the way that a double entendre is funny. While there will be facts here that will be factual, the opinions and other nonsense are neither reflective of anyone at SoxInTheBasement.com nor believed or intended to cause any harm, but consult a camel and ask if this blog is right for you.
On a hump day in early July, the White Sox were still a team that some said just needed to get over the hump. They needed a key win, or to get healthy. They needed something that would just get them past the malaise that had been the 2022 season.
If they could just get over the hump. The hump, of course, is a mythical thing. There’s no real hill to climb or bumps in the road to a championship. There’s no actual road. There’s just a string of games, and prior to the 10-inning win over the Twins on July 6, more of those games had been poorly played losses than not. But that hump day win was a change from those earlier losses. Maybe…juuuuuuuuuussst maybe…that mythical hump was hopped over. Here’s how they may have done it.
THE POWER. Home runs were not supposed to be a problem for this team. But, to date, the team had been bad at hitting them. Even after three clutch bombs, the team has 65 homers through 80 games. That’s bottom five in MLB. One player, Jose Abreu, is in double digits with 10. Luis Robert has nine. Andrew Vaughn and Jake Burger each have eight. But Yas Grandal has two. Eloy has two in 12 games. Reese McGuire has nada in 46 games. Yoan Moncada has only three and Gavin Sheets has five. The Sox are top five in batting average and over 80 games are just outside the top five in hits, but there’s no power. A team SLG of .380 is bad. In fact, the White Sox as a team are basically Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo. If that name fails to inspire any confidence, well, so have the White Sox. The return of a healthy Eloy Jimenez and Yasmani Grandal adds a potential combined 60-homer duo to the lineup, replacing, in particular, a lack of reliable power in Reese McGuire and Seby Zavala, and lesser power in Adam Engel or A.J. Pollock. Does it bode well that Robert and Vaughn joined the parade on the hump day hump hop? Only if they sustain.
THE ‘PEN. There was a curious issue with the Sox through the first ten extra inning affairs. As the home team, they always gave up that top o’ the 10th run. Or a few runs. When they did win, it was either after some give and take in the 10th on, or they were the visitors, and a score at the top led to Liam at the bottom. But Jose Ruiz, faced with a hump to hop, did something smart that had been missing in the prior games, most recently days before against the Twins. Ruiz didn’t give leadoff hitter Jose Miranda anything to hit. That walk, a K, and a double play, and the inning ended. More often than not, that top of the 10th had been a quick base hit, scoring the ghost runner and then either more or shutting it down. And where there was more, like against the Twins when they lit up Joe Kelly, that’s just a loss. But giving up that cheapy in the 10th to the visitors was unneeded, especially when the opponents would do things like intentionally walk a White Sox hitter to set up a double play. Or with the Sox’ base running, maybe even a triple play. Matt Foster getting hit, Kendall Graveman giving up a run both hurt. But overall there needs to be a clutch gene with a bullpen and strategy and going forward that needs to continue. Guys will get knocked around by good teams. But at the end of the game, when time is short and the opportunities to win are short, that’s when the team needs to be smart. Maybe Jose Ruiz got lucky, but hopefully, this hump day hump hop happened not haphazardly.
THE RESILIENCY. After Tim Anderson struck out in the 10th to end the July 4 festivities, he didn’t try and run to first even though the ball had kicked clear of Gary Sanchez. The team looked defeated in both run differential and mental fortitude. But come hump day, there was an energy. The Twins kept charging, but the Sox came back until they finally plated that winning run. There was fortitude. Attitude. No interludes of ineptitude. The Sox didn’t brood. And in the end, they weren’t screwed. Dude. Was that all there for the entirety of the season? Not really, but not entirely no. They had walked a few teams off and had extra inning wins. Not every victory was easy. Tony had talked about the team being together early on and that they cared. But the perception that they didn’t have any resiliency came from moments like TA not running it out, the stupidity of the 8-5 triple play, or the myriad of losses that looked like the team was sleepwalking because their talent was superior. If the talent is there, then the effort must be to blame in a below .500 team.
Either way, the impact of the hump day hump hop is either emergence of the team’s heart where the heart had been missing or validation to the team that their resilience, when tested, can be rewarded instead of another loss being served. Either way, a potential mental kick in the sliding shorts. A heartened hump day hump hop happy happening.
THE HEALTH. So can a back-and-forth walk-off notable for the return of one of the team’s biggest stars and personalities be a catalyst to a winning streak and a return to contention this year? Yes, yes it can. In 2005 the Sox were 35-17 at the end of May, four games up. Frank Thomas came back June 1 and went nuts, and by the end of June, the Sox were 53-24 and 10 games up. So can Eloy coming back on July 6 have the team go from under .500 and in third place to over .500 and pushing for first place? Depends on how often he publicly says hi to his mom in July. The injured list remains crowded for this team, but Eloy’s return seems like the biggest one that the team could ask for. Happy hi mom hump day hump hop health.
There is, gasp, reason for optimism after all. But this is just conjecture that a hard-fought game over the division leader in the midst of a season-defining run can be the catalyst to make a championship run. It could just be a fun game in a lost season. Here’s hoping hump day hump hop holds happiness, however, heed heartbreak’s harbingers.
WHO HATH WIELDED THE STAFF OF CORK AND KERRY (this week)?
For the uninitiated, The Staff of Cork and Kerry refers not just to the people who work at the premiere place to pregame and post-game and otherwise celebrate Soxdom in the shadow of the ballpark and in Beverly, but it is also a mythical weapon that can smite thine enemies faster than they can say “Hi Mom”.
So which White Sox was worthy enough to wield the Staff of Cork and Kerry and give what for to his baseball opponents? Jose Abreu continues to rake, .375 avg with an OPS of 1.006, which is just Pito being Pito in the warm months. However, his gaze of disbelief is either leveled at his team’s brainfarts or at Seby Zavala going bonkers and hitting .500 with an OPS of 1.154 over the last week. Yas who? Bless you.
Seby Zavala, you have successfully wielded this mighty weapon of lore.
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Featured Image: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports