For the White Sox to avoid putrid offensive efforts like those seen Monday and Wednesday, they need Adam Dunn and Alex Rios to start hitting.
Consistency is an overrated thing. Even the best hitters have more than a few 0-4 games, days in which they provide no value to an offense. But a lineup can have some consistency when other players pick up the guy(s) who fail to reach base.
Getting Dunn and Rios back to some semblance of offensive normalcy gives the White Sox a safety net—and then a little more—in case Carlos Quentin or Paul Konerko has a bad game. Or, in case Quentin and Konerko draw back-to-back walks, somebody behind the pair can drive them in.
The fate of Wednesday's Sox game ended up resting on the bat of A.J. Pierzynski with two outs in the ninth and the tying run on third. But the Sox had a brilliant scoring chance in the eighth, with the tying run on third and Gordon Beckham on first with one out. Ozzie Guillen called on Adam Dunn to pinch-hit knowing Ron Washington would counter with left-hander Darren Oliver. The other option was to have a scuffling Brent Morel face a scuffling Mark Lowe, which in hindsight looks like the better idea.
Dunn doesn't have a hit off a left-hander this season, a stat that's been beaten into our collective heads with a sledgehammer. Darren Oliver threw him seven pitches, all of them fastballs (three four-seamers, four two-seamers), all of them between 89 and 89.7 miles per hour. Dunn fouled off three of them, worked the count to 3-2, and then whiffed on the final one—which, to Oliver's credit, was placed on the outer half of the plate, an area Dunn hasn't been able to cover all year against righties and lefties alike.
Then, in the ninth, Quentin and Konerko drew back-to-back walks against the inscrutable Neftali Feliz, he of the 1.13 ERA despite 14 walks and eight strikeouts after Wednesday's game. Rios quickly fell behind 0-2 and then softly popped a 1-2 pitch to second baseman Ian Kinsler, who dropped it. Texas still recorded the out at second, which was poetic justice for Rios looking fairly overmatched in the sequence.
After Dunn and Rios' outs, Juan Pierre and Pierzynski made weak outs to end each scoring threat. Those are two guys that shouldn't be counted on to drive in runs (that's not an excuse for them, mind you, but neither is much of an offensive force at this point). Dunn and Rios? These are two guys that, before the season, were penciled in as run producers. Neither has done that so far.
At some point, Dunn and/or Rios will probably start to hit. Rios worries me a little bit more, as he's recently logged a season this bad (2009), but by the end of July, I still expect these two players' slumps to be a thing of the past.
But until both players get going, the Sox are going to have more frustrating offensive performances like Wednesday.