09/06/09 2:49 PM ET
White Sox offense settling into groove
Win to close out rough road trip has Chicago bats red-hot
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
That's what batting coach Greg Walker was looking for from his White Sox offense during the team's dismal 11-game road trip through Boston, New York and Minneapolis. Just one hit with the game on the line, and quite possibly, a struggling unit, especially with runners in scoring position, could take off in a positive direction.
Walker's hoped-for turnaround actually came in the form of back-to-back home runs from Gordon Beckham and Paul Konerko in the ninth inning Wednesday at the Metrodome, stunning Minnesota closer Joe Nathan, and turning a two-run deficit into tie ballgame. Alexei Ramirez followed with a game-winning single off Matt Guerrier, and the White Sox haven't lost since heading into Sunday afternoon's contest with the Red Sox.
Along with the four consecutive victories, the White Sox are hitting .444 with runners in scoring position over the past three games. They rank sixth in that category in the American League with a .271 mark, but their inability to come through in the clutch in the team's 3-8 road trip was part of the reason for them falling further out of American League Central contention.
"We were on a tough road trip and we didn't perform. It's that simple," Walker said. "There's not much to read into it. We had opportunities and didn't get it done.
"When a big league pitcher shuts you down, you tip your hat to them. They did something right. But we weren't very good, and it's difficult to deal with, because at a time when we needed to be good, we just didn't get it done."
According to Walker, the White Sox swung the bat well in Boston, despite a 1-3 showing, and he felt good going to New York. CC Sabathia shut them down in Game 1, which eventually turned into a walk-off loss courtesy of Robinson Cano, and the combination of Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin one-hit a flat White Sox squad on Aug. 29.
The frustrating or interesting thing for Walker is that the 2009 offense is about as balanced as he's seen on the South Side, with the group being able to score in a lot of different ways.
They just went flat in a key moment. Now they are trying to build off Wednesday's late rally and make one last-ditch run at the Tigers.
"Mentally, we've lost a few games," Walker said. "Not only do you lose those games when you are not playing well, but you lose the momentum those game provide if you do win them.
"We have not played well in close games, whether it's driving in a run from third, getting a big hit, running bases or making a play. But I understand my job and what it entails. We've been doing this a long time around here.
"I'm not particularly pleased with a lot we done," Walker said. "Guys certainly have given effort, been professional and done the work. But the results have not been what they should have been."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.