David Haugh's In the Wake of the News
10:48 PM CDT, May 20, 2012
On the drive to Wrigley Field early Sunday morning, Adam Dunn glanced at Lake Michigan and noticed something he immediately wanted to share with his carpool buddy, Jake Peavy.
" 'Look at that lake, 'Peaves,' '' Dunn told Peavy. "The thing is glass.''
Thanks to experience and former teammate Greg Maddux, the Farmers' Almanac of pitching, Peavy knew what those conditions forecast for his Sunday start.
"Maddux used to say if the lake was calm, it probably wasn't a good day to pitch because the wind was blowing out,'' Peavy said. "And if the lake was choppy, it probably was a good day to pitch.''
The lake didn't lie: A wind blowing out at 12 mph made it anything but shutout weather. Yet after Peavy overcame unforgiving elements to give up three measly singles in 61/3 innings in a 6-0 win over the Cubs, the Sox appear capable of making waves in the American League Central.
"We haven't clicked on all cylinders yet either,'' warned Peavy, now 5-1. "We're excited.''
An early AL Cy Young Award candidate makes excitement understandable, even if I wouldn't get as carried away as Dunn did and start talking yet about what it takes to win in October.
While the Cubs made bigger news — pitcher Kerry Wood retired, Chairman Tom Ricketts retreated into a North Side bunker — the Sox quietly enjoyed a much better weekend. They swept what was technically a road series with just a brief appearance from injured captain Paul Konerko, saw starter John Danks finally pitch like a guy worth all that money and stayed in the middle of a division race nobody thought they would enter.
Yet there the Sox are, 21-21 and in second place, with no reason to apologize for sweeping the lowly Cubs. It wasn't Peavy's fault that when he loaded the bases, the Cubs sent up Adrian Cardenas and his .071 batting average to make him pay.
"Jake put the ball where he wanted,'' catcher Tyler Flowers said.
Sox starters typically do. As long as the rotation continues to provide quality pitching, the Tigers won't run away with anything. As long as Dunn continues hitting home runs at an All-Star rate — his 14th put him on a pace for 50-plus — and powerful Dayan Viciedo keeps improving his plate discipline, opposing pitchers have reason to fear the lineup.
Concerns remain, none bigger than third base. When Sox coach Joe McEwing hit grounders before the game to A.J. Pierzynski's young son, Austin — who impressively flashed some leather — I kidded that GM Ken Williams must not be ruling out any options.
Starter Brent Morel seems headed to the disabled list with a bad back and, even healthy, he has yet to supply enough offense. Neither Brent Lillibridge nor newly signed Orlando Hudson offer viable long-term solutions. If the Sox conclude after Memorial Day they have enough pitching and power to contend, Morel needs to hit or Williams needs to consider a move.
As several players agreed, the Sox just finished the kind of week that can give a team reason to believe, even in a season designed to ... what exactly did Williams design this year to be again? Slowly, we might be finding out.
Before every game at Wrigley the jersey of affable late former Sox coach and pitcher Kevin Hickey, the epitome of the South Side, hung in the clubhouse. Players and coaches will spend their off day Monday paying their respects to Hickey, whose memory has helped the Sox keep things in perspective. The loss of longtime Sox ambassador Moose Skowron had a similar impact in the clubhouse.
Instead of dwelling on a ridiculous quirk in the MLB schedule that sent the Sox to Anaheim for a two-game, mid-week trip, they split the series. Instead of letting Friday's loss of Konerko serve as an excuse, they plugged in Viciedo and everyone picked up the slack.
Following the lead of manager Robin Ventura, these Sox let little faze them. They pay little attention to the standings after wins but, as Ventura showed Sunday, they do learn from losses.
Remember when Peavy gave up six runs in the sixth inning Tuesday against the Tigers and blew a 6-0 lead? Ventura did. So after Peavy's 100th pitch against the Cubs, despite a 5-0 lead in the seventh, Ventura took no chances.
Not that Peavy argued. The pitcher still was catching his breath from the Sox seventh, when he beat out a force play at first, went from first to third on a single, and ultimately tagged up to score on a sacrifice fly.
"I was gassed,'' Peavy said, smiling.
Surprisingly, his team looks like it has enough endurance to make the summer more interesting than expected.
Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC