Notes: Sox struggling at U.S. Cellular
Uribe's status remains in doubt; Buehrle makes no excuses
CHICAGO -- With a single-season U.S. Cellular Field record of 33 sellouts already in the books and the White Sox fast approaching their 1991 record of 2.93 million fans in attendance, the support system certainly has been in place for the South Siders during the 2006 campaign.
And it has been a very vocal support group, regardless of whether the opponent is the Royals or the series opener against the Yankees on Tuesday night.
Unfortunately, the home results have not matched the home crowds over the past 10 games. After starting the season with a 32-12 record at U.S. Cellular, the White Sox recently have slipped to 2-8 at home prior to Tuesday's contest.
The White Sox managed just a 1-5 mark during their last homestand against Texas and Minnesota, and have lost four straight, including Monday night's makeup setback to the Angels. By the estimation of the White Sox players and manager Ozzie Guillen, though, the team's overall funk just happens to coincide with a rough stretch at home.
"It's really just us. It's not home or road," White Sox reliever Brandon McCarthy said. "It's us getting on a consistent pace like we were before, where you just knew what was going on. At that point, we felt just as confident playing on the road as at home."
"Just a coincidence, probably," added first baseman Paul Konerko of the home slump. "I mean, you can find stats for everything -- home, road, night and day. It just works out a certain way, for not one particular reason. But we are not playing as well at home as we need to play."
During the White Sox first 44 home games, they hit .286 as a team with a 3.88 ERA and outscored the opposition by a wide chasm of 271-184. In the last 10 games, the White Sox are hitting .247 with a 5.22 ERA and have been outscored by a 58-37 margin.
U.S. Cellular plays as one of the most giving ballparks offensively in all of baseball, especially when the ball jumps during the warmer summer months. It would seem to be a perfect fit for a team that leads the American League with 167 home runs and won 47 games at home in 2005 en route to a World Series championship.
Yet, even the trips back to Chicago have not been able to straighten out the White Sox problems since the All-Star break.
"You want to play well at home," Konerko said. "That's where you want to win the bulk of your games, because it's tougher on the road. Maybe it's becoming one of those places where other teams come in and get up to play."
"When we were playing well, we also were playing well on our home field," catcher A.J. Pierzynski added. "Now, we are not playing well, and we are not playing well at home. They go hand and hand. This game always is very up and down, and you want to stay up as long as you can so the downs don't feel so bad."
The long and short of it: The status of injured shortstop Juan Uribe seems to change by the day. Uribe did not start for the third straight game Tuesday because of a stiff lower back, but he took part in pregame drills. Guillen said after Monday's loss to the Angels that he thought Uribe was showing signs of improvement and might be ready for Wednesday's game.
Uribe said that his return was more likely targeted for Thursday's series finale against New York. But Guillen reiterated Tuesday that if a prolonged absence is in store for Uribe, a corresponding move needs to be made.
"If Uribe's not ready, we're going to have to do something," Guillen said. "I don't want to push him, but we need somebody to help us."
Respect for the enemy: Minnesota's quest for the American League Wild Card took a direct hit Tuesday, with rookie sensation Francisco Liriano set to land on the 15-day disabled list due to pain in his throwing elbow. Guillen acknowledged Liriano's absence will take its toll on the Twins, but he also felt Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire's pain at the same time.
"It's too bad for him because I love Gardenhire," Guillen said. "Is it going to be tougher for them? Of course. The  games they win with Liriano, that's a lot of games to cover.
"You see Liriano, the way he throws, this kid is not a pitcher. He's a thrower. He comes from the bullpen to be outstanding."
No excuses: Mark Buehrle slightly softened his stance on the 2006 addition of Quest Tec at U.S. Cellular Field when asked Tuesday, just one day after making his second criticism of the system this year for its negative effect on home-plate umpires calling strikes on the corners.
Buehrle spoke of Quest Tec more as an adjustment than a detriment on second thought.
"It's going to be that way the rest of my career," Buehrle said. "[If] they're going more toward Quest Tec and grading the umpires, then it's going to be like that. It's not an excuse.
"Both sides have to deal with it and I have to deal with it the rest of my career. It's just something we're going to have to deal with. It's been here the whole season. Obviously, you can't make excuses, I haven't been making pitches."
And the winner is ... White Sox strength and conditioning coach Allen Thomas was honored with the Nolan Ryan Award prior to Tuesday's contest. The award recognizes the coach, who in the opinion of his peers, reflects an exemplary dedication to strength training and conditioning. Thomas has been with the White Sox organization for 11 years.
Lance Broadway was named the Southern League Pitcher of the Week for July 31-Aug. 6. The right-hander posted a 2-0 record with a 1.38 ERA for Double-A Birmingham, striking out 10 in 13 innings. Broadway ranks third with 142 1/3 innings pitched and fourth in ERA at 2.72. He was the 15th pick overall in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.
Down on the farm: Edwardo Sierra pitched five innings of no-hit baseball during Birmingham's 5-3 victory at Tennessee on Monday. Sierra struck out four and walked two, while the Barons turned their first triple play in 32 years as part of the support for the right-hander ... Ray Liotta slipped to 1-4 with Class A Winston-Salem, allowing five runs in five innings, as the Warthogs dropped a 5-1 decision at Wilmington ... Fernando Valenzuela Jr. launched his eighth home run as part of Class A Kannapolis' 7-5 victory over Delmarva. Matthew Long picked up the victory, improving to 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA over his last three outings.
Up next: Very few pitchers in baseball have been as dominant as Jon Garland (12-3, 4.99) over the last 1 1/2 months. The right-hander, who faces Randy Johnson (11-9, 5.11) in Game 2 of this series Wednesday, is 8-0 with a 3.26 ERA during his last nine starts.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.