|Connelly’s Top Ten: Who Cares About the Super Bowl||Surging Celtics To Clash With Cavaliers||Orlando Magic Snaps Boston’s 5-Game Winning Streak||Connelly’s Top Ten: Dog Day of Sports!|
The Red Sox and White Sox meet for the second and final time this season in a four-game weekend series in Chicago. In the only other meetings this season, the Red Sox took three of the four in Fenway, the middle of a 1-9 stretch that ultimately doomed Chicago’s season. General Manager Ken Williams appeared to throw in the towel on the 2009 campaign with the trades at the waiver deadline of Jim Thome and Jose Contreras. They acquired the injured Jake Peavy at the deadline and thought they could rehab him in time to help the playoff push, but with the White Sox fading, he will not be back until 2010.
The Red Sox are coming off their first series win in Tampa Bay since September 2007 and have all but buried the Rays in the Wild Card race. With the Rangers just three games back, the Red Sox need to finish this road trip strong.
Paul Byrd (1-0, 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 1K, 1 BB) tries to match his 2009 debut as he opposes Freddy Garcia (0-2, 5.94 ERA, 1.26 WHIP in three starts), who allowed three earned runs in 6.1 innings in a Red Sox win. Junichi Tazawa (2-3, 6.65, 2.03) was absolutely shelled by the White Sox in their only win of the series is slated for the Saturday start, but might yield it to Tim Wakefield (11-3, 4.12, 1.36) if he is deemed healthy enough to pitch. Whoever the Red Sox starter is will face Gavin Floyd (10-9, 3.97, 1.25) who had a very good outing in his tough luck loss against the Red sox. Jon Lester (11-7, 3.58, 1.24) is looking to top the 200 strikeout mark (sitting at 196) for the first time in his career against John Danks (12-8, 3.82, 1.30), who earned the White Sox lone victory in the prior series. Josh Beckett (14-5, 3.87, 1.16), who has not won in four starts and has looked horrible over that stretch, pitches the finale against Mark Buehrle (11-7, 3.86, 1.23), who threw 2009’s only perfect game, but has not faced the Red Sox this season.
The White Sox offense is struggling lately and with Thome’s loss, they have lost a major power source. However, Chicago has been built around power hitting in the last few years, so the Thome trade does not leave without any long range weapons. They still have Paul Konerko (.280 BA, 24 2B, 24 HR, 78 RBI, 60 R) and Jermaine Dye (.260, 17, 25, 72, 71) with good power and A. J. Pierzinski (.313, 20, 13, 40, 50) and Alexei Ramirez (.279, 12, 15, 60, 59) who can slap the ball around. They also have some sneaky speed with Scott Podsednik’s .351 OBP, who is 25 of 35 on steal attempts. Ramirez is 14/19 and Chris Getz, just returning from injury, is 19/21. Getz and Gordon Beckham are young guys worth watching; they could be turning double plays in Chicago for a number of years.
The White Sox starting pitching still poses problems for the Red Sox since they are control pitchers who tend to go well into games. If the Red Sox can drive up their pitch counts and get some guys on base, they should generate enough offense to overwhelm the White Sox, whose lineup is less scary without Thome. The good pitching however should help the White Sox force the split in what will be a good road trip for the Red Sox anyway.