White Sox have to put Buehrle's perfection behind, focus on Tigers

Updated: July 24, 2009

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The White Sox's postseason hopes rest largely on whether they get some production from Bartolo Colon.

Mark Buehrle's perfect game was one of those special moments in baseball. For the White Sox as a team, it was another big win to help this strong start to the second half, in which they are 6-2 and locked in a tie atop the AL Central with the Detroit Tigers.

Now comes the hard part. Or, depending how you look at it, here comes a prime opportunity to depose the Tigers from their long-held perch atop the division. Any way you look at, though, with a four-game series in Detroit followed immediately by a tough trip to Minnesota, the White Sox have their work cut out for them.

In this series, the Tigers have the advantage. First off, they're playing in Comerica Park, where Detroit has the sixth-best home winning percentage in the majors. Secondly, the Tigers have their two All-Star pitchers, Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson, taking the hill, whereas the White Sox's All-Star hurler won't pitch at all this series.

(Buehrle deserves the break; he did just throw a perfect game, after all.)

Buehrle or no Buehrle, though, the White Sox as a team have been playing well recently, posting a 23-12 mark since falling six games below .500 on June 10. Gordon Beckham has provided a surprising lift for them at third base, finding his swing almost as soon as he hit the majors early last month, something very rare in someone so young. He has driven in runs and has solved the White Sox's defensive issues at third since Joe Crede's stellar glove headed to Minnesota. Veteran Jim Thome has been swinging the bat well the past few weeks, too, hitting safely in 12 of his first 13 games in July.

Featured Series: White Sox at Tigers
FRIDAY
Tigers 5, White Sox 1: Verlander shuts down Sox
Tigers 4, White Sox 3: Bases-loaded walk helsp Tigers sweep
SATURDAY
White Sox (Gavin Floyd) at Tigers (Edwin Jackson), 4:05 ET
SUNDAY
White Sox (Clayton Richard) at Tigers (Rick Porcello), 8:05 ET, ESPN

In the end, though, it all comes down to how you pitch. And Chicago's pitching has been really good to this point -- see: Buehrle, Mark -- but the White Sox will trot out one of their biggest question marks this weekend in Bartolo Colon, whose Friday night start will be his first since June 7.

You never can be quite sure with Colon because he has had a rather up-and-down career. He's been dominant in some periods; he's been hurt; and he's been missing (as was the case earlier this year). But it's clear he will have to be good these next few months for the White Sox to make the playoffs. The talent level is still there and, with the right frame of mind, he could be an effective pitcher down the stretch. We'll get our first look this weekend at how much he has left, how healthy he is and whether being away from the majors this long has had any effect.

In fact, with Jose Contreras on the hill for the first game in Friday's doubleheader, we're going to learn a lot about Chicago in just one day. Interestingly, I was told in spring training that the key to this season would be how well Colon and Contreras pitched. If they were great, the White Sox definitely would be a playoff team. If not, the team would fall from contention. Here we are, though, with the White Sox tied for the division lead with these two pitchers sporting a combined 7-14 record and 4.56 ERA. If they manage to get on track, it might just be enough to put the White Sox over the top.

Of course, you could make the case that Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, Thome and even Contreras have started to age a little bit -- well, more than a little bit -- and that that could catch up to them as the season winds down. But there's another way to look at it: They've been in pennant races before and won a World Series. They have enough moving parts on this team to give their older guys a rest if they need to. I'm a big believer in experience down the stretch, so I'm not buying that these guys are too old to win the Central. That being said, none of these teams in the Central is good enough to truly run away with this division. We had all better get used to these three teams -- Chicago, Detroit and Minnesota -- being in it to the end. In fact, it wouldn't be a surprise if it came down to the final series of the season, when the Tigers and White Sox face off once more (in Detroit again).

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: July 23 | July 22 | July 21 | July 20 | July 19 | July 16

HALL OF FAME BY THE NUMBERS: NO. 5

Editor's Note: This week, leading up to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony Sunday in Cooperstown, N.Y., Baseball Tonight is highlighting the five greatest uniform numbers in baseball history, based on the players (both Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers) who have worn them, and debating which player was the best ever to don that number.

Of all the great uniform numbers in baseball history -- 44, 24, 9, 4, 3 -- the best might be five. It features eight different Most Valuable Players, one of the two greatest center fielders of all time, the best catcher, two of the five best third basemen and a guy on his way becoming one of the five greatest players ever. And it has given us a fascinating debate.

The Greatest No. 5
Who was the greatest player to wear No. 5 in baseball history?

• Johnny Bench
• George Brett
• Joe DiMaggio
• Albert Pujols
• Brooks Robinson

Register your vote
Who is the best No. 5? We'll start with Joe DiMaggio because he won nine world championships in his 13 years, during which he won three MVPs, batted .325, hit in a record 56 consecutive games and has the greatest strikeout-to-home run ratio of anyone with 250 home runs -- 361 homers, 369 strikeouts. And he was a brilliant defensive center fielder.

Johnny Bench was the greatest defensive catcher ever, he revolutionized the position with his one-handed receiving style, and powerful throwing arm. And he won two MVPs, hit 389 homers and his 148 RBIs in 1970 are the most in a season by a catcher. Brooks Robinson was the greatest defensive third baseman of all time -- he won 16 Gold Gloves -- he won an MVP and he had 2,848 hits. George Brett had 3,154 hits; his .390 average in 1990 is the highest by an AL player since Ted Williams' .406 in 1941. And finally, there is Albert Pujols, who has already won two MVPs, he is the only player ever to hit 30 homers in each of his first nine years, and he has a shot at the NL's first Triple Crown since 1937.

The number is so good, we didn't even have room for Hank Greenberg, Jeff Bagwell or Lou Boudreau in the top five. When it comes to uniform numbers, five might be the top.

TOUCH 'EM ALL

Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
NAME HR PITCHERSITUATION
Jermaine Dye, CWS22BonineTop 3: 3-2, 2 Outs. 1 on.
Derrek Lee, CHC19BurtonBot 8: 1-1, 2 Outs. 1 on.
Ryan Braun, MIL19VazquezBot 5: 1-2, 1 Outs. 1 on.
Jim Thome, CWS17BonineTop 2: 0-0, 0 Outs. None on.
Joe Mauer, MIN17LackeyTop 6: 1-1, 1 Outs. None on.
Ryan Zimmerman, WAS16LatosBot 6: 3-2, 2 Outs. None on.
Joe Mauer, MIN16LackeyTop 4: 3-2, 1 Outs. None on.
Nate McLouth, ATL15SmithTop 8: 2-0, 0 Outs. 1 on.
Mike Napoli, LAA14LirianoBot 6: 0-1, 0 Outs. 2 on.
Jorge Posada, NYY13BreslowBot 8: 0-0, 0 Outs. None on.

The complete list of Friday's homers


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BBTN ON THE AIR: SATURDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Orestes Destrade, Fernando Vina, Buster Olney
12 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Orestes Destrade, Fernando Vina, Buster Olney

BBTN ON THE AIR: SUNDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
12:30 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: Eduardo Perez, Chris Singleton, Peter Gammons
7 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: Eduardo Perez, Chris Singleton, Peter Gammons

BBTN MINUTE: WHAT'LL HAPPEN WITH HALLADAY?

FRIDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Garza" Matt Garza matched Roy Halladay pitch for pitch, going nine innings and allowing five hits while striking out nine and walking none, as the Rays defeated the Blue Jays 4-2 in 10 innings.
WORST
Batista" Miguel Batista started the ninth inning down 4-0. Thirty-one pitches later, the Mariners' reliever had surrendered five runs on six hits, including two home runs, as Seattle fell 9-0 to Cleveland.

WEB GEMS: IT'S WISE YET AGAIN

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Adam JonesMark Buehrle made quick work of the Rays in his perfect game by not getting deep into counts:

• He went to a 3-2 count just five times. On those five at-bats, he retired two batters on strikeouts, two on fly balls, one on a ground ball out.

• He got ahead of hitters, as he threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 27 batters he faced (70.4 percent). Remember that hitters hit .342 when ahead and just .208 when behind. He located his slider for strikes.

• Buehrle got almost half of his outs with his changeup. He also had just six strikeouts and 11 ground ball outs. In the live-ball era (since 1920), Buehrle's six strikeouts are the second-fewest in a perfect game. In 1991, Dennis Martinez had five in his perfect game. The only other pitcher with six was Charlie Robertson in 1922. By the way, he pitched for the White Sox, too.

Mark Buehrle
Outs by pitch in Thursday's perfect game
Pitch Type Strikeout Fly ball Ground ball Total
Fastball 3 5 4 12
Curveball 0 0 0 0
Slider 0 1 2 3
Changeup 3 4 5 12
Totals 6 10 11 27

-- ESPN Stats & Information

ON DECK: WEEKEND WATCH

White Sox at Tigers

The White Sox will have to fight an emotional letdown after Mark Buehrle's perfect game on Thursday. This four-game series, which starts Friday with a day-night doubleheader, is important because these teams are tied atop the AL Central. Justin Verlander and Jose Contreras open the festivities in the first game of Friday's twin bill.

Cardinals at Phillies

Another series featuring teams in first place. The Phillies are rolling along in the NL East, having opened a 6½-game lead over both the Mets and Braves. The Cardinals haven't been able to create the same separation; they start the series with a one-game lead over the Cubs and Astros.

Blue Jays at Rays

Roy Halladay starts Friday's series opener. Will it be his last with the Blue Jays? Certainly that will be a popular question all day Friday, with Halladay's name still on most everyone in baseball's lips as the July 31 trade deadline closes in.

To see what's on tap for Saturday, click here. And for Sunday's full slate of games, click here.

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF WEEKEND'S GAMES

Fantasy Adam Madison examines the 16 games on the schedule for both Saturday and Sunday's slate.

Madison ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for the weekend. Daily Notes