We thought if Dunn could get back on track, the Sox could be competitive. Alex Rios was an afterthought. His miserable 2011 for some reason had me more hesitant to think he could return to norms than Dunn. Almost everyone on the Midway Madness staff predicted a comeback player of the year award for the Big Donkey, nobody said the same about Rios.
Early on, we all looked smart. Dunn was slugging at .550 clip and passed his 2011 home run total in the middle of May. The Sox right fielder was having a quiet start. He hit .311 in April, but had just one home runs through the first 150 at bats of the season. Then the light came on and Rios has been the best White Sox player ever since.
Rios’ homer Tuesday night in Kansas City broke a 2-2 tie and according to Elias Sports, it was the eighth time he hit a homer that either tied the game or gave the Sox the lead in the 6th inning or later. Until Adam Jones hit an extra inning shot last night, Rios was tied for the lead in all of baseball. Not only is he putting up great numbers across the board, but he is telling Hawk when he hits it. In the clutch.
Rios is running again this season and will have a 20/20 season for just the second time in his career. He has tied a career high in home runs at 24, is one behind in RBI at 87 and is on pace to hit .300 for the first time since 2006. Simply put, Rios has been fantastic in 2012. Without him, the Sox are not fending off the Tigers for the division lead.
In a season that has seen Paul Konerko fall off after the All Star break and Dunn’s power comes in waves, Rios has been on of the few constants. After a 2011 where his OBP was .265, I am shocked at his return to form. Rios has never been in the playoffs, but he is the biggest reason the Sox are 14 games away getting there.
Magic Number Stays at 13
The Sox lost a game in the standings to the Tigers after Bruce “Cy” Chen kept them off the scoreboard. The soft tossing lefty is now 6-2 against the palehose over the last two years. Chris Sale was good, but a Viciedo misplay in left made it 3-0 Kansas City and the bats went 1-12 with runners in scoring position.
The Sox were one of the best hitting clubs with RISP for much of the year, but it has become a major issue lately.
There has been a lot of talk lately about the Sox living and dying by the home run. They currently are third in the AL in relying on the home run with 45% of their runs coming via the long ball. Some of the talk though is that this is some how a bad thing. The only two teams ahead of them are both playoff teams, the Orioles and Yankees.
In fact, six of the top seven teams relying on the home run are currently in the playoff chase. The offense looks good when the ball is going out and they can be frustrating when it doesn’t. But anyone saying it is a bad thing the Sox hit so many homers need to seek help. They don’t need to play small ball, they don’t need to bunt runners along. They simply need to put people on base when the home runs do come in. The Sox are 5th in runs. It’s working.
The Sox look to solve the riddle of Jeremy “Catfish” Guthrie. Franciso Liriano will get the nod for the Sox.
In Detroit, Anibal Sanchez will take the mound against Tommy Milone.
Follow on Twitter @Midwaypat