Saturday, May 12, 2012

Bums' rush: Come back, Big Donkey (and Becks and Rios)

Posted By on 05.12.12 at 01:31 PM

Adam Dunn mashes a first-inning homer Friday night at White Sox Park.
  • Paul Boucher
  • Adam Dunn mashes a first-inning homer Friday night at White Sox Park.
Friday could have been called "I Was a White Sox Bum Night" at Sox Park.

Adam Dunn crushed a first-inning home run to give Gavin Floyd all the runs he'd need to beat the Kansas City Royals. Gordon Beckham followed a two-out Alejandro De Aza single and stolen base in the third with a two-out RBI single up the middle. Dunn followed that with a two-out ground-rule double that, unfortunately, left Becks at third, where he was stranded when Paul Konerko's broken-bat liner to short left was stabbed by a diving Alex Gordon, depriving Paulie of the chance to blow the game open, an opportunity seized instead by the unlikely Alex Rios three innings later with a two-out, two-run triple, scoring Becks, who'd led off with a double, and A.J. Pierzynski, who'd replaced Dunn, who'd walked, on the bases with a fielder's choice.

De Aza tacked on an RBI single in the seventh, scoring Eduardo Escobar to make the final 5-0, but otherwise all the offensive fireworks came from Dunn, Becks, and Rios, the three most maligned members of last year's underachieving White Sox.

"If only Jake Peavy was pitching," said press-box wag George Castle to my right.

The operational word in the fictional Sox celebration night, of course, is "was." Bad as they were last year—and "Big Donkey" Dunn would be the first to say he was particularly awful—they're all on the upswing this season. And it's the way they did it Friday that was most impressive.

Dunn seemed overmatched by the fastball of KC starter Felipe Paulino until Paulino went to it once too often in a five-pitch at-bat, and Dunn mashed it more than 400 feet into the right-field seats. To his ground-rule double, he added two walks to end the night 2-for-2 and halt his 36-game strikeout streak going back to last season.

Becks worked the count full before grounding what looked to be a split-finger fastball up the middle to score De Aza in the third, then lined a full-count fastball off the center-field wall to start the sixth-inning rally. Rios completed the scoring in that frame with a particularly good at-bat. Having struck out once on a fastball and once on a splitter, he worked the count to 2-2 by fouling off a splitter. What would Paulino choose to finish him this time? Rios rightly guessed fastball and tripled to right-center.

The win lifted the Sox to within a game of .500 at 16-17 and two and a half games of first behind the Cleveland Indians. Yet, as encouraging as the Sox triple comeback has been thus far—and make it a quadruple with the 4-1 Peavy—the damage has been done. Sox fans have been reluctant to return this spring, and on a lovely Friday night fewer than 20,000 showed up. How much longer will last year's 3 Bums have to sustain their newfound success to win back Sox fans? If they carry it through next weekend's grudge match with the crosstown Cubs at Wrigley Field, that would likely gain them some well-deserved notice.

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