What wasn't supposed to be much of a series turned out to be three games worth of exciting baseball, punctuated by a lot of the controversy we have come to expected from the White Sox-Cubs rivalry. My quick hits:
The final scores:The Sox won the series 2-1, but only after dropping the first game 6-3. Both the second and third games were one-run affairs (3-2 and 4-3) in which it really did seem like anything could happen right down to the final pitch.
Heroes: Carlos Pena and Starlin Castro for the Cubs, Paul Konerko, Sergio Santos and A.J. Pierzynski for the Sox. Pena hit a homerun in each game, including the game-winner in Game 1. He is finally, happily in a hot zone--just in time to be traded. Castro continued to show he will hit any pitcher, any day, under any conditions--there is no stopping him. Plus, his fielding is improving. Paulie hit homers in Games 2 and 3 to give him a five-game homer streak and keeping him among league leaders in homeruns (21) batting average (.327, and that's after 0-3 in Game 3) and a bunch of other categories. Santos saved both White Sox winners, and A.J. went 5-for-11 in the series in two RBIs in Game 3 on a rare triple. And, he scored on a bunt.
Zeroes: Adam Dunn. He was so conspicuously worse than anyone else that no one else is worth mentioning. Dunn is supposed to be teeing off against interleague pitching, and in particular, Cubs pitching, to prove he isn't a complete wash-out. Instead he went 0-8 with five strikeouts in two games against the Cubs. It's the definition of hitting bottom--we can only hope.
Honorable mentions: Carlos Zambrano deserves one for not giving Sox fans what they wanted. When the Sox jumped on Z for a 3-0 lead in the first inning of Game 1, he looked steamed, and the entire not-quite-full ballpark was waiting for a meltdown. Somehow, he kept it together and kept the Sox scoreless the rest of the way.
Controversy #1: It wasn't Zambrano that blew a fuse in Game 1. It was Ozzie, who got ejected arguing a call at home plate after Alexei Ramirez appeared to foul a ball off--the home plate ump called it fair and an out after The Missile was tagged by Geovany Soto (To be honest, I'm still not sure who was right.) Ozzie, amid full-throated yelling, turned and kicked Geo's catcher's mask toward the Sox dugout. Ok, that one started in controversy, but ended in hilarity. The papers tried to bait Geo into agitation over the whole thing, but he wouldn't bite. What was he supposed to do--turn into Michael Barrett?
Controversy #2: Alfonso Spriano said something to the effect that the booing he has received in Wrigley while playing poorly is worse than he has received elsewhere--even New York. He later clarified that he did not mean the fans were worse at Wrigey than anywhere else, and that, of course, they have the right to boo. The funny thing is that Al-So seemed inspired by the controversy, having a good Game 3, actually stealing a base (!) and playing defense in a, well, adequate manner. The not-so-funny thing is that Soriano's extra effort only highlighted that he has given less than that in other games. I mean, if he can still run--which came as a surprise to most of us--why isn't he stealing bases more often (I don't mean every game, just more often than never.)
Controversy #3: Jake Peavy and A.J. appeared to have a dugout confrontation in Game 3, even though the Sox were winning. Peavy was decent in his return from the DL, though there were hesitations between a couple pitches where Peavy either said something to A.J. or to himself, and an odd moment when Don Cooper came out to the mound to chat even though the Sox were up 3-0. These two battery mates are both well-known bulldogs who will both bark at you and then bite you. A.J.'s handling of the pitching staff sometimes appears to involve a little bit of tough love, but you can't argue the results of the last several seasons. Meanwhile, I don't know that barely occasional starter Peavy has earned the right to go toe-to-toe with A.J. in public. It was one moment when the Sox looked a lot more like the Cubs.
Is there more to talk about? Probably...
Somewhat lackluster attendance at The Cell got a lot of attention, but I'm still giving this entertaining series a thumbs-up.