Their starting pitching has been virtually unhittable over the past 15 games, their defense has made almost every play in its range and a few outside and their hitting has come up with timely contributions. But despite a 6-0 domination of the crosstown Cubs on Friday before 39,364 at U.S. Cellular Field, the White Sox will play somewhat of a temporary second fiddle throughout the Chicago sports landscape thanks to Carlos Zambrano's dugout meltdown after the first inning.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
"Something always comes up it seems like. That's Chicago right there," said White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham with a smile. "It is what it is. I know Carlos plays with a lot of passion. Sometimes it boils over, I guess."
Zambrano exploded more than boiled over.
The South Siders put a four-spot up against Zambrano (3-6) in the first inning, culminating with Carlos Quentin's 12th home run on an 0-2, hanging changeup, scoring Alex Rios and Paul Konerko in front of him. The frame ended with A.J. Pierzynski grounding out to first base, as Derrek Lee flipped to a covering Zambrano, who stomped on the base to end the inning.
Then, the fireworks began. The White Sox dugout had a direct view of Zambrano screaming and yelling as he stomped around, before having to be separated from Lee. Zambrano was upset with his defense not diving for a few hard-hit balls behind him, but the resulting antics earned him a suspension after the game.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen is a close friend of Zambrano, Lee and Cubs manager Lou Piniella, for that matter. He dismissed Zambrano's outburst with far less severity than the Cubs (32-41).
"I kind of like it," Guillen said. "Boxing is going so bad, if Don King sees that he will put that in Vegas. Those are two big boys. That always happens when teams aren't playing well -- stuff, the intensity of the game. That can happen a lot.
"Coming out here and playing in this type of game with the fans out there, all the media around, that's part of the game. It's not the first time it happened, and I think it won't be the last time it happens."
As for the game itself, it was business as usual for the surging White Sox. Actually, posting the team's first 10-game winning streak since May 18-26, 1976, deserves a better word than mere surging.
It has been more like a Phoenix rising for the White Sox (38-34), who have gone from nine under .500 on June 8 to four over .500 for the first time since Aug. 5, 2009. Pitching once again was the name of the game, with Jake Peavy (7-5), Sergio Santos and Tony Pena combining for the shutout, giving the White Sox a 40-36 Interleague edge over the Cubs, two straight shutouts as a team for the first time since Sept. 30 and Oct. 2, 2009, and an overall Interleague mark of 14-2 this season.
Peavy hurled seven scoreless innings, extending his streak of consecutive zeros posted to two short of his career high at 21. He fanned nine, walked two and gave up three hits, exiting without any aftereffects coming from his balky shoulder moving his last start back two days.
"Great job, once again. Outstanding," said Guillen of Peavy. "Four runs in the first inning helped. But in the meanwhile, he didn't sit around and think about those four runs. He wanted to shut it down, and he did."
"Obviously, when you get a quick lead like that after one inning of play, you have an aggressive mentality," said Peavy, whose ERA, at 4.71, fell below 5.00 for the first time this season. "At the same time, the game was so early you can't give up runs. Good game plan, and we executed it for the most part today."
Friday's contributions from Peavy improved White Sox starters to 12-1 with a 1.90 ERA over the past 16 games, of which 15 featured quality starts. According to Piniella, the Zambrano sideshow didn't have anything to do with the Cubs' lack of offense.
"That's a different matter," Piniella said. "Peavy threw the ball well, and we haven't been pounding the ball as of late. Forget that. It had nothing to do with the Zambrano thing. The Zambrano thing is just something that doesn't work, and we won't tolerate it."
Gordon Beckham ended a 211 at-bat homerless streak with a 369-foot shot to left in the fifth off Tom Gorzelanny, one of two Beckham RBIs. Beckham's second home run of the season serves as a testament to all the support he has received during this trying second season.
"A lot of people are giving me advice," said Beckham with a wry smile. "Ozzie has put me out there day in and day out, and I haven't been playing well. I don't deserve to be out there in my opinion, the way I played, but I know I'm going to start playing well and be better off for going through this."
Fourteen wins in 15 games certainly have left the White Sox better off than they were two weeks ago. They are closing in on the Tigers and the Twins in the AL Central and sit nine wins away from matching the franchise record for consecutive victories.
Getting bumped from the lead story for one day becomes a little easier to handle in the midst of this sort of run.
"This is the way we thought we would play at the beginning of the year," Pierzynski said. "Obviously not this well, but it's great. We all want to come to the park."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.