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White Sox: 12 defining moments in 2012

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White Sox: 12 defining moments in 2012

Nobody quite knew what to expect from the White Sox in 2012.

Seasoned manager Ozzie Guillen was gone, replaced by inexperienced first-year man Robin Ventura.

Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Jake Peavy all were coming off the worst years of their collective careers. And the bulk of the teams pitching staff was loaded with rookies or inexperienced players.

Sports Illustrated went as far as to predict the South Siders would lose 95 games.
But things unexpectedly materialized on 35th Street and even though the season ended with a disappointing September collapse, the White Sox had plenty of success along the way.

Here are 12 of the teams top moments of 2012:

Ventura notches first win

Many in the media felt Venturas lack of managerial experience would hurt the club.

They were wrong.

He earned the first victory of his career on April 7 when the White Sox won 4-3 at the Texas Rangers. Only two days earlier, Ventura had to deal with perhaps his most difficult situation of the season when popular pre-game instructor Kevin Hickey was found unconscious in his hotel room. Hickey never emerged from his coma and passed away in May.

On the field, Ventura didnt take long to establish himself as a players manager and earned the praise of veterans for his even-keel approach. He finished third in voting for the American League manager of the year.

Humber is perfect

On April 21, the much-traveled former first-rounder set down all 27 of the Seattle Mariners hitters he faced.

Humber hinted he had discovered how to put it all together in 2011 when he went 9-9 with a 3.75 ERA in 26 starts for the Sox, his fourth organization in eight professional seasons.

This outing, his second of the season, made it appear as if he was ready to make a bigger impact in 2012. But Humbers ERA over his next 10 starts was 7.47 and he went on the disabled list. By early August, Humber was out of the rotation and became an afterthought until he was non-tendered by the White Sox this offseason and signed with the Houston Astros.

Konerko, Sox red hot at plate

Over a four-game stretch in late May, first baseman Paul Konerko had one final hot streak in a rampant start to the season. With their fourth hitter on fire, so too were the White Sox, who scored 46 runs in a span of four games, all victories.

Konerko went 2-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs in a 12-6 win on May 27 over the Cleveland Indians to raise his season average to .399. The teams hot streak coincided with Konerkos return to the lineup on May 22, four days after he was hit in the face by Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija. Over six days, Konerko went 14-for-24 with 10 runs, three homers and 10 RBIs. Konerko never eclipsed .400 and couldnt keep up the torrid pace, hitting .254 the rest of the way.

Bullpen Sale reduced

With his health in mind, on May 4, the White Sox moved Chris Sale from the starting rotation into the closers role even though the left-hander had a 2.81 ERA to that point.

Sale, a reliever his first two seasons, wasnt pleased with the decision. But the club insisted Sale make the move in order to ensure his long-term health. The plan lasted seven days -- long enough for Sale to make one relief appearance and have an MRI performed. With his health intact, Sale convinced Ventura and Kenny Williams to return him to the rotation on May 11. Sale went on to record 17 victories and established himself as one of the games best young starters.

Quintana ejection fires up Hawk

What would a top moments list be without a Hawk Harrelson rant?

Plate umpire Mark Wegner gave Harrelson all the fodder he needed May 30 when he ejected starter Jose Quintana in the fourth inning at Tampa Bay for throwing behind Ben Zobrist. Harrelsons rant went viral.

RELATED: You gotta be bleepin' me -- Running down the top Hawk rants

Heres a snipet of the transcript: Oh what are you doing? He threw him out of the ball game? Youve got to be bleeping me. What in the hell are you doing? What are you doing Wegner?

Reed rocks the ninth

The White Sox had no definitive answer in the ninth inning when Addison Reed was given the opportunity on May 14. The third-round draft pick (2011) had already picked up two saves and wanted to be the teams closer but had only part of one season in the minors experience.

But Reed took the reins and didnt relent even after veteran Brett Myers arrived in a July trade from the Astros, just in case the rookie faltered. Reed had difficulty in non-save situations but thrived with the game on the line, closing out 29 of 33 tries. He highlighted impressive rookie performances out of the pen including Hector Santiago and Nate Jones. Youngster Donnie Veal was good too.

Youk comes to town

Until the June 24th trade that brought Kevin Youkilis and cash over from the Boston Red Sox, the White Sox had ice cold play at the hot corner. Despite their inadequacies at the third, the South Siders remained in contention and they got a significant boost after Youkilis was acquired for Zach Stewart and Brent Lillibridge.

Youkilis had a number of big moments in his first two weeks with the team and over the course of the season. He quickly became a fan favorite and finished with 15 homers and 46 RBIs after joining Chicago.

Sale strikes out 15

If the White Sox needed any more validation they made the correct choice when they placed Sale back in the rotation, it arrived on May 28. Thats the day Sale mowed down 15 Tampa Bay Rays batters and allowed a run, three hits and two walks in 7 13 innings in a 2-1 win at Tropicana Field.

The strikeout total was the second highest in franchise history behind Jack Harshman's 16 (July 25, 1954) and Sale improved to 6-2 with a 2.34 ERA.

The 400 club calls twice

Dunn wished so much for the 400th home run of his career to come in meaningful fashion, a hope that didnt come true as the White Sox lost 9-4 at Kansas City on Aug. 18. Dunns homer did give the South Siders life as it got them within a run in the eighth inning before the bullpen handed the runs back in the bottom half of the inning.

Konerkos 400th homer appeared to have more meaning as he tied an April 25 game at 2 in the top of the ninth inning with a solo homer off Oakland As closer Grant Balfour. But Konerkos blast also lost its luster when the As rallied with three runs in the bottom of the 14th inning for a 5-4 win over the White Sox.

Dunn and Konerko became the first two teammates to ever hit their 400th career homers in the same season.

Sale pitches in All-Star Game

Of the four White Sox to make the Midsummer Classic in Kansas City, Sale played the biggest role. Peavy and Dunn elected to not play. Konerko, in his only at-bat, was hit by an R.A. Dickey knuckleball. But Sale showcased how nasty he can be when he struck out St. Louis David Freese to end a scoreless sixth inning with two runners aboard. Sale had allowed singles to Chipper Jones and Andrew McCutchen before he pitched his way out of trouble.

Nearly in the books

The White Sox appeared in great shape in the AL Central as they grabbed a three-game lead with 16 to play after a 5-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers at home on Sept. 17. Dewayne Wise had two RBIs and Alex Rios broke up a potential inning-ending double play in the fifth with a hard slide at second base to give the White Sox a 4-3 lead. Jones pitched 2 23 shutout innings as the bullpen combined for five shutout frames. The finale of a four-game series, the game was delayed four days because of rain and earned the White Sox a split.

Bottom drops out

Only nine days after it appeared the White Sox were on their way to the postseason they were already out of first place. A 6-4 home loss to the Cleveland Indians on Sept. 26 dropped the White Sox -- who lost seven of nine before losing three of four to the Rays -- a game back of Detroit. Not only could the South Siders not hit down the stretch, they had difficulty pitching too. In this one, Santiago was the first of seven pitchers as the White Sox blew an early 3-1 lead. The Sox never again caught Detroit, which reached the World Series.

Aaron Bummer praises White Sox in all aspects, ready for team to 'catch fire'

Aaron Bummer praises White Sox in all aspects, ready for team to 'catch fire'

Starting pitching. Relief pitching. Hitting.

Save defense, that about covers the ingredients necessary to be a well-rounded ball club, a team capable of winning a lot of games, a division title and potentially a World Series championship.

Are the White Sox that kind of team? Do they have all those necessary ingredients in the cupboard?

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It's going to take some time to find out whether that's the case or not, especially in this most unusual of seasons. Like any team — and any team on the rise, in particular; the last time these White Sox played regular-season baseball, they were wrapping up an 89-loss campaign — there are questions, some of them big. Can Tim Anderson and Yoán Moncada still put up huge numbers if their good fortune from 2019 decreases? Will Luis Robert's jam-packed toolbox translate to instant major league mastery? And what the heck are the White Sox going to get out of Dylan Cease, Reynaldo López, Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodón?

But if the team can receive positive answers to those questions and more, then things could be looking up fast. In a squeezed-down, 60-game season where a fast start is mandatory, those answers will need to come in a hurry.

Are they capable? They sure look it.

"We've got a lot of young guys that can catch fire," White Sox reliever Aaron Bummer said Thursday. "That's kind of what they always say, it's always catching fire at the right time. We've got a young group of guys mixed in with a whole bunch of veterans that have been there and done it.

"I'm excited to get everybody together, and hopefully we can ride that wave, hopefully we start out strong. A lot of people have said, you can break it down into three seasons: You're going to win 20, you're going to lose 20, what are you going to do with the other 20? Hopefully we're going to go out there, catch fire and win a whole bunch of games."

Winning a whole bunch of games is obviously every team's goal on the doorstep of the regular season. And truly, every team might be in the mix to do just that in this two-month dash to the postseason.

But the White Sox do appear well equipped, and the combination of young players who broke out in a big way last season and the veteran additions that Rick Hahn's front office made over the winter has the possibility to make them the most balanced group in a three-team race for the AL Central crown. The Minnesota Twins swing some serious sticks, and they added perennial MVP candidate Josh Donaldson to that already ferocious lineup. But will the pitching staff past José Berríos match the fear the offense strikes in opposing clubs? The Cleveland Indians might still have the best starting rotation in baseball, even after dealing away Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber. But can their top-heavy lineup match the quality of their arms?

The White Sox boast a remade lineup, now featuring Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnación, Nomar Mazara and Robert to go along with Moncada, Anderson, Eloy Jiménez and José Abreu. Bummer, a pitcher, sees plenty of reason his fellow hurlers should be scared.

"Abreu, Encarnación, Eloy," Bummer said, merely listing the trio he had to face in Thursday's intrasquad game, when he coughed up a parrot-producing homer to Encarnación. "It's not going to stop. I think the depth of that lineup has gotten a whole lot longer, and I'm glad that they're all on our side."

The starting rotation has new faces, too, chiefly free-agent adds Dallas Keuchel and Gio González, two accomplished arms who have playoff experience. Match that with Lucas Giolito, fresh off an All-Star campaign, and the collection of talented, if not completely proven, young arms — the aforementioned Cease, López, Kopech and Rodón — and it's a deeper group than what the team was ready to break camp with in March.

"It's fun to watch those guys compete," Bummer said. "You see the pure stuff of Giolito, Cease and Rodón. It's pure ability, it's pure stuff. And then you have the veterans, Keuchel and Gio González, who have been there, done that, and they pitch. They go out there and they dominate with their ability to pitch. And even adding Lopey to the mix. Lopey's stuff is unbelievable.

"There's six guys out there right now, I'll roll with them over anybody. I'll roll with that starting rotation. They get as far into the games as possible, and hopefully the bullpen can go out and go save a bunch of wins for them."

RELATED: White Sox pitchers up for any role in short season: 'We want to win'

And then there's Bummer's unit, the bullpen, which was a strength for the White Sox last season. Bummer, Alex Colomé, Evan Marshall and Jimmy Cordero made for a dependable group of late-inning options, and that group's grown with the addition of Steve Cishek, who made so many high-leverage pitches for contending Cubs teams in recent seasons. Throw in a potential bounce-back candidate in Kelvin Herrera, and there's impressive depth here, too.

"It's exciting," Bummer said. "You add in Cishek, you add in a full season of the guys like Marshall, Jimmy Cordero, and there are a lot of guys out there. There are guys hungry for a nice bounce back between Kelvin and Jace (Fry). I think everybody's hungry to go out there and do their job.

"I would stack us up, I think we're seven or eight deep out there, to go out there and get competitive outs. As long as we keep ourselves in games, I think our bullpen is going to be a pretty good strength moving forward."

What else could the White Sox ask for?

Listing the roster doesn't win games, of course, but adding everything up, stacking all the positives up in one place, it's easy to see why this team could be capable of making some real noise, even in this strangest of seasons.

Hahn will point to the high volume of these guys who are under team control deep into the future, and his rebuilding effort has always targeted a contention window that gets propped open for years. That also looks possible.

All the White Sox need to do is open it. The postseason expectations that dominated the pre-shutdown era of 2020, from SoxFest in January through the abrupt end to spring training in mid March, showed how serious the White Sox are about doing that opening this year. And as Bummer and so many others on this team will tell you, the months-long layoff didn't change those expectations one bit.

The future, especially in this season, under these circumstances, is unpredictable. But no matter where you look on this roster, the White Sox look capable of grabbing that future by the horns.


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MLB The Show: White Sox offense overpowers Cubs in Crosstown battle

MLB The Show: White Sox offense overpowers Cubs in Crosstown battle

This two-game series vs the Cubs heading into the All-Star break marks the end of NBC Sports Chicago’s simulation of the 2020 White Sox season.

Result: White Sox def. Cubs 10-8
Record: 55-37 this season, 1st in A.L. Central (3.5 games ahead of Twins)

W: Dylan Cease (5-4)
L: Jose Quintana (9-5)
SV: Alex Colome (19)

Game summary: The series everyone has been waiting for: Cubs-White Sox, with the added bonus of a matchup between Dylan Cease and Jose Quintana, who switched teams in a trade also involving Eloy Jimenez just under three years ago. Who would come out ahead in this one?

If you guessed Cease, you are correct. The White Sox made Quintana’s latest return to the South Side a living nightmare. Jose Abreu extended his hitting streak to 13 games with an RBI single in the first. Nomar Mazara and Edwin Encarnacion went back-to-back in the second, respectively hitting a two-run homer and solo shot to give the White Sox a 4-0 lead. The third didn’t alleviate the onslaught whatsoever. Lus Robert hit a two-run blast that bounced Quintana from the game before he could complete three innings.

Meanwhile, Cease largely cruised through his outing, overpowering Cubs hitters with a 95+ mph fastball and mixing in a devastating changeup. Cease’s eight strikeouts stood out a lot more than the two solo homers he gave up to Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber in his 5 2/3 innings of work.

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The White Sox would need all the insurance they could get because the Cubs went down swinging. Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant each went deep in the late innings, driving in five runs and putting a jubilant White Sox home crowd on edge. Fortunately for the South Siders, Abreu and Encarnacion kept the Cubs at bay with long balls of their own to secure the win in the first of two against their crosstown rivals.

White Sox lineup:

Edwin Encarnacion: 2-5, 2 HR (3), 4 RBI, 2 R (.327 BA)
Eloy Jimenez: 3-4, R (.261 BA)
Yoan Moncada: 0-3, 2 BB (.275 BA)
Yasmani Grandal: 0-5 (.301 BA)
Jose Abreu: 2-3, HR (27), 2 RBI, 2 R (.321 BA)
Tim Anderson: 0-4 (.269 BA)
Luis Robert: 1-4, HR (5), 2 RBI, R (.255 BA)
Nick Madrigal: 2-3, 2 2B, 2 R (.286 BA)
Nomar Mazara: 2-4, HR (18), 2 RBI, 2 R (.257 BA)

Scoring summary: 

Bottom first

Jose Abreu singled to center field, Eloy Jimenez scored. 1-0 CHW.

Bottom second

Nomar Mazara homered to right field, Nick Madrigal scored. 3-0 CHW.
Edwin Encarnacion homered to center field. 4-0 CHW.

Bottom third

Luis Robert homered to right field, Abreu scored. 6-0 CHW.

Top fourth

Kris Bryant homered to left field. 6-1 CHW.

Top sixth

Kyle Schwarber homered to right field. 6-2 CHW.

Bottom seventh

Abreu homered to center field. 7-2 CHW.

Top eighth

Schwarber homered to right field, Javier Baez and Bryant scored. 7-5 CHW.

Bottom eighth

Encarnacion homered to left field Madrigal and Mazara scored. 10- 5 CHW.

Top ninth

Jason Heyward doubled to left field, David Bote scored. 10-6 CHW.
Bryant homered to center field, Jason Heyward scored. 10-8 CHW.

Notable performance: Edwin Encarnacion gets back-to-back showings in this section of the recap. That’s what happens when you record four RBIs for the second straight game. Encarnacion is also rising up the home run and RBI leaderboards. He’s now tied for second in homers (33) and is seventh in RBIs (71) in the American League.

Next game: Game 93: Cubs vs. White Sox (Jon Lester vs. Lucas Giolito)

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