MLB: White Sox favored despite scoring issues



2008-05-06

A pair of games last week between the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox sent the AL Central foes in different directions. Minnesota has not lost since that series began and Chicago has hardly been able to score, let alone win. The teams meet again tonight, with the Sox having been bet up from a -117 opening line home favorite to -135..

The first-place Twins, winners of five straight, look to extend the White Sox’s losing streak and their hitting woes as the teams open a three-game series Tuesday night.

Minnesota (16-14, +2.9 units) took sole possession of the AL Central lead away from Chicago (14-16, -1.9 units) over the weekend. While the Twins were off Monday, the second-place White Sox fell two games back with a 1-0 loss to Toronto. Chicago has lost a season-high six straight, managing to score just nine runs. That skid started with back-to-back losses in Minnesota, losing 3-1 last Tuesday and 4-3 on Wednesday. The White Sox have failed to score more than three runs in any of their last seven losses and played Under the total in eight consecutive contests.

The White Sox have the AL’s lowest batting average at .229 and is Chicago is now 27-43 against the money line after batting .240 or worse over a 15 game span over the last two seasons.

“We’ve got to keep moving forward and expect the next day to be better than the one before, expect the next day to be a hot day where everyone hits well,” Chicago right fielder Carlos Quentin said. “We know we have the potential to do some things offensively.” The Sox are 15-31 after having lost six or seven of their last eight games.

Before this past Sunday’s game, manager Ozzie Guillen went off on a Lee Elia-like rant, letting go a stream of obscenities in which he accused Chicago fans of turning on the struggling team after a strong start. "That's what ticks me off about Chicago fans and Chicago media, they forget pretty quickly," Guillen said. (Insert inappropriate vulgarities about every two or three words, have fun.) Pale Hose players were so impassioned by Guillen’s act they scored total three runs in last two ballgames.

The Twins, meanwhile, have matched their longest winning streak from all of last season, and now look for their longest since an eight-game run from July 14-21, 2006.

“We’re starting to get to know each other,” Minnesota backup infielder Nick Punto said. “Spring training isn’t enough. You don’t really get to figure guys out until that season starts, and it can take a month or two. Hopefully it only took a month, and we’ll keep rolling.” The Twins are 6-0 after day off to refresh.

Nick Blackburn (2-1, 3.52 ERA) won the series finale versus Chicago last week, allowing three runs and eight hits in seven innings of a 4-3 victory, and will be back on the mound Tuesday. The right-hander, though, has struggled on the road, posting a 5.94 ERA in three starts while allowing 26 hits in 16 2/3 innings. Blackburn is 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA in six starts and six relief appearances against the White Sox. He could be looking at a much different lineup than the one he saw last week.

Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen has continued to alter his batting order, with his team failing to reach double digits in hits in 10 consecutive games. On Monday, Guillen put Orlando Cabrera in the leadoff spot while bumping Quentin to second and dropping Nick Swisher to sixth. All three players failed to get a hit and are among many slumping White Sox hitters. While Cabrera is in a 3-for-42 slump (.119), the six-game skid has seen Quentin go 2-for-19 (.105) and Jermaine Dye go 1-for-23 (.043). Swisher has one hit in his last 15 at-bats and Jim Thome has failed to homer in 10 straight games, driving in only two runs. Chicago has not beaten a RH starter in last six outings.

Missing starting third baseman Joe Crede certainly didn’t help the White Sox’s cause Monday as they were shut out for the second time in four games. Chicago is 7-for-61 (.115) with runners in scoring position over the past nine games. Pablo Ozuna started for Crede, who was scratched with a migraine. Crede, who leads Chicago with seven home runs, is uncertain for Tuesday’s game.

The White Sox, though, got a gem from starting pitcher Javier Vazquez and will hope for a strong performance from Gavin Floyd (2-1, 3.16 ERA) in this series’ opener. But Floyd has struggled in his last two starts, going 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA. The right-hander lost to Minnesota on Tuesday as he gave up three runs and five hits in six innings. Floyd is 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA in three career starts against the Twins, giving up six home runs. The Twins are 18-11 vs. an AL starting pitcher whose ERA is 3.20 or better.

Even with everything that has gone wrong for the South-Siders, many bettors believe their slump ends tonight. At Sportsbook.com, Chicago opened as -117 favorites and has bet up to -135, with total at Ov8.5. A contributing factor could be the Sox are 9-1 in home games after six or more consecutive losses since 1997, winning by better than two runs a game.

In spite of scoring problems for the White Sox, they are 24-9-2 OVER following a road trip of seven or more games and the Twins are 8-0 OVER in road games vs. an AL starting pitcher whose WHIP is 1.100 or better. These AL Central rivals have played OVER 11 of the last 17 meetings.

One of the major sponsors for the White is a convenience store, meaning tonight’s game starts at 7:11Central, with the Twinkies 8-22 as a road underdog of +100 to +125 over the last two seasons.

StatFox Power Line – Chicago -105

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