Sox playoff hopes over in a second (half)
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org October 2, 2012 10:02PM
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 2: Starting pitcher Jake Peavy #44 of the Chicago White Sox reacts after giving up a two-run home run to Travis Hafner #48 of the Cleveland Indians during the ninth inning at Progressive Field on October 2, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Updated: November 4, 2012 6:25AM
CLEVELAND — Blindsided.
In a word, the disheartening September that whacked the White Sox season came from nowhere. On Tuesday, the Sox picked up the pieces from a season that fit together nicely enough to keep them in first place for 117 games.
“I don’t think anybody really saw the ending,’’ team captain Paul Konerko said before the second-to-last game of the season and their first out of contention. “It felt like it was a special team all year as far as going past the regular season. It didn’t feel like it was going to end the way it ended.’’
The end began to take shape, though, when the Sox stopped hitting not only with runners in scoring position (.207 in the last 25 games) but in all situations. They scored three runs or less in 11 of the last 15 games that coincided with the giving away of a three-game lead over the Detroit Tigers.
The starting pitching also faded. Chris Sale was 7-6 with a 4.03 ERA in the second half after a 10-2, 2.19 first half. Jake Peavy was 4-7, 4.00 in the second half, including his no decision in the Sox’ 4-3 loss Tuesday, after a 7-5, 2.85 in the first half. Sale and Peavy made the All-Star team. And rookie surprise Jose Quintana was 2-5, 5.01 after the break, 4-1, 2.04 before it.
Simply put, the Sox didn’t finish.
“It also just kind of lets you know that making the playoffs and going to the postseason is a special thing,’’ Konerko said. “If we get back in the same spot next year, that will remind us that you have to go the whole way.
“It’s like leading after eight innings. It’s great, but you have to play nine. That’s how I look at it.’’
Konerko himself didn’t finish strong, batting .263 with 11 homers and 31 RBI in the second half after hitting .329 with 14 homers and 42 in an All-Star first half. With 73 RBI, he will finish with his third-lowest RBI total in 14 seasons with the Sox (65 RBI in 2003 in 137 games and 62 RBI in 2008 in 122 games).
Konerko will be 37 playing in the third and final year of his contract next season, and next season will tell the tale of whether the franchise’s No. 2 home run and RBI guy is at the point in his career where his numbers are flattening out. He downplayed the suspicion that he played through a sore left wrist, but he’s having surgery on Thursday to remove a bone fragment.
After having a chip flushed from his left wrist on June 5 — the second time in two seasons he had the procedure done — Konerko said then that he would have surgery after the season to stop the need for the occasional flush procedure.
Asked again Tuesday if the wrist affected his hitting, Konerko said, “Not really. I mean, there was a time after I got a shot, when I had to clear it out early in the year [in June]. There was a span there for games after that it didn’t feel well. Nothing worth writing home about.
“I’ve been doing baseball for a while and even if that was the case you should overcome that at some point. I really don’t have any worries about it. I’ve never had surgery before but other than that, I have no reservations about my wrist in the future. I don’t even have any reservations about anything in the future — hitting, playing … It’s really no different than any other year. Some stuff you like. I don’t think I’ve ever walked away from a year loving everything and this one’s no different.’’