August 22, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (49) is congratulated by his teammates after leaving the game against the New York Yankees in the eighth inning at U.S. Cellular Field. The Chicago White Sox defeated the New York Yankees 2-1. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-US PRESSWIRE
The Chicago White Sox are riding high after a three-game sweep of the New York Yankees. SB Nation Chicago's Ricky O'Donnell is hoping this won't be the highlight of the 2012 season.
The human memory is a fleeting thing, sad as it may be, though I'll probably forever be able to pick out my favorite moments from the Chicago White Sox's 2005 World Series run. Every game seemed to leave an indelible imprint. There was, of course, Orlando Hernandez somehow finding his way out of a bases loaded, no-outs jam against the Boston Red Sox in the opening series. The dropped third strike to A.J. Pierzynski against the Angels in Game 2 of the ALCS will never dissipate, nor will those four consecutive complete games. Everything about the World Series vs. the Houston Astros was memorable, from Roger Clemens' early exit to Willie Harris' championship-clinching run. I can list my favorite moments of the 2005 playoffs all day. But what can you recall from that regular season?
Unless you're a Jim Margalus-level freak, it might be difficult. There are some things that stand out from that 99-win campaign, of course. An Opening Day closed down by Shingo Takatsu. A walkoff homer by Joe Crede in September against the surging Indians (I was there!). But mostly? Moments inevitably blend together over the course of baseball's 162-game marathon march, even if some could signal foreshadowing more than others.
Two months from now, I'm hoping I won't be able to recall the White Sox's three-game sweep over the New York Yankees at U.S. Cellular Field this week. I'm hoping they'll be plenty of others highs that surpass it. But for right now? Sweeping the Yanks out of the South Side has to leave White Sox fans riding some of the most positive vibes this franchise has given us in years.
If you're waiting for these White Sox to roll over when met with adversity, you might be waiting a long time. The Sox have been inexplicably atrocious against the Kansas City Royals this season, with the trend coming to a head with a three-game sweep at Kauffman Stadium this past weekend. It was the second time the South Siders have been swept this season. In both instances, it felt like this feel-good campaign could be crashing. In both instances, the Sox responded by sweeping their opponent the next series.
The sweep over the Minnesota Twins that followed getting swept by the Tigers is one thing, but this most recent sweep of the mighty Yankees is simply on another level. New York entered as the best team in the American League, running away with the vaunted AL East that looks so difficult at the beginning of every season. But the South Siders proved from the onset they were up for the challenge.
Game 1: The Sox find themselves down 3-0 after the second inning. Starter Gavin Floyd is pulled after just 2.1 innings. The comeback begins with a two-run homer from -- who else? -- Dewayne Wise, who's rapidly becoming the South Side's version of John Lucas III this season. Gordon Beckham would go on to tie the game at six in the sixth inning, Alexei Ramirez would give the Sox their first lead with a two-run shot in the seventh. Adam Dunn added an insurance run with his 36th homer of the year in the eighth. That's a White Sox winner.
Game 2: Derek Jeter ("MVP-MVP") homers in the first. So does Curtis Granderson. Again, the Sox are down early. Paul Konerko homers to tie the game in the fourth before Kevin Youkilis delivers one of the season's biggest hits, a fifth inning grand slam to put Chicago ahead four. That's all the bullpen needed, as the Sox had their second straight comeback victory. Dewayne Wise added four hits, just because.
Game 3: No comeback required. Chris Sale wouldn't stand for it. This was all about the White Sox's 23-year old Cy Young candidate, who struck out 13 over 7.2 innings to score his 15th victory of the season. I'll defer to Yankees slugger Mark Teixeira:
"I never faced him before. It’s like facing a closer three times."
Alex Rios continued his amazing 2012 with a solo homer in the sixth to break the tie and eventually give Chicago a 2-1 victory. The Sox have swept the Yankees in Chicago for the first time since Frank Thomas was 23 years old.
A pleasant surprise is the best kind of surprise, and the 2012 White Sox certainly qualify as such. Nearly everyone predicted this team to be below .500, absolutely everyone saw the Detroit Tigers -- with the baseball equivalent of Bowser and King Kong mashing in the middle of the order -- as the runaway winners in the Central division. Instead, everything that went wrong for the White Sox in 2011 has gone right in 2012, and Detroit has struggled to translate their top heavy talent into wins. The White Sox are in prime position to make the playoffs, and once there, it's anyone's game.
What's becoming apparent is that, if nothing else, this is the most likable White Sox team since the 2006 squad that won 90 games while inexplicably finishing third in the Central. These Sox are, for the most part, old and slow and blue collar-ish. They are relatable, particularly for this fanbase. They boast the league's home run leader and a bonafide Cy Young candidate. They are second in the majors in team homers. These Sox are a joy to follow.
Will it translate in more postseason glory? It would almost seem too good to be true. Baseball's playoffs are nothing if not a crapshoot, as the St. Louis Cardinals have proven twice in the last six years. Just get in and see what happens. With a stud like Sale at the front of the rotation, and a fiery veteran like Jake Peavy behind him, it's easy to like the South Siders' chances.
Chicago's postseason spot is far from assured, but they've put themselves in a great position. The rest of this baseball season should be a lot of fun.