White Sox

Clutch White Sox remain hot, win 7th straight


Clutch White Sox remain hot, win 7th straight

Monday, Sept. 6, 2010
Updated 7:01 PM

By Brett Ballantini

DETROIT Achievement after achievement got trumped in a memorable Labor Day game for the White Sox, but all were subjugated to the most important mark of this Labor Day, Chicagos 5-4, 10-inning victory over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.

Obviously, Im not thinking about records now or how many hits or how many games, said Omar Vizquel, who set the all-time record for most games played among players born outside of the United States with his 2,832nd game. Everyone here is focused to do one job, and thats trying to finish strong. Thats what Im trying to do.

I threw the ball well, said rookie Chris Sale, who earned his first career major-league win with 2 23 innings of hitless relief. Im just trying to do my best every time I get in the game and help the team win.

It was A.J. Pierzynski (2-for-5 on the day with three RBI, and batting .411 during his 13-game hitting streak) with an opposite-field looper that scored pinch runner Alejandro de Aza with the winning run, icing the seventh straight win for the White Sox, now a perfect 7-0 on their road trip.

When A.J. swings at strikes, A.J. can be dangerous, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. A.J. is the type of guy that was wasting a lot of at-bats this year. Hes been getting anxious, but when A.J. gets discipline at the plate, hes a guy I count on putting the ball in play, and he can do a lot of things with his bat.

No one is panicking, Pierzynski said. Were not giving away our at-bats. Were not swinging at bad pitches. Were just going in there saying, Hey, Im going to fight and see what happens. Its been working out.

The Chisox were sans their hottest hitter, first baseman Paul Konerko, who sat out with a balky back. Shortstop Alexei Ramirez and center fielder Alex Rios also were sidelined until the late innings, ceding starts to Mark Kotsay (first), Vizquel (short) and Andruw Jones (center).

We had Manny Ramirez in the lineup and we didnt have Rios, Alexei Ramirez and Konerko, and the lineup still looked good, Guillen said. Our depth is one thing thats a plus to have.

The Detroit damage was done almost exclusively by left fielder Don Kelly, who was a defensive dervish while also tapping an RBI single in the first inning and belting a two-run homer in the fourth that appeared for a while to be the game-winner.

Thats because the two potential aces dealt for one another this past winterEdwin Jackson was traded by Detroit for the Diamondbacks Max Scherzer, and was swapped by Arizona to Chicago at this years trade deadlinebasically mirrored one anothers effective pitching in the game.

Kellys RBI single came after Detroit led off the game with three straight hits and four in the first five batters facing Jackson. Those first-inning RBI, from Johnny Damon and Kelly, were the first earned runs allowed by Jackson in the first five innings in his first six starts with the White Sox.

The White Sox came right back at Detroit in the second, loading the bases on a blooper from Jones, which led to a game-tying, two-run base knock from Pierzynski. In the fourth, Juan Pierre pushed the Chisox ahead 3-2 with a two-out base tap.

In the end, both hurlers earned a no-decision for their labors. Jackson lost his streak of three straight games of double-figure strikeouts, exiting with six after overcoming early struggles to toss 7 13 innings of nine-hit, four-run, one-walk ball.

Scherzer busted out an almost identical line to Jackson, dealing for 7 13 innings and surrendering nine hits, four earned runs and two walks against six strikeouts. The burly Bengal was in line for the win until the eighth, when Alexei Ramirez pinch-hit for Kotsay and drove in pinch-runner Brent Lillibridge with the tying run, off wilding Tigs reliever Rick Perry.

I know the Tigers kid that was going to start Scherzer was going to throw the ball good. Hes got a good arm, Guillen said. Jackson was struggling early; it seemed every ball they hit, they hit hard. After that, he turned it around and settled down very well.

It was just one of those games, one of those days where you just go out and tell yourself youre going to have to battle, keep the game close and give our team a chance to win, Jackson said. It was one of those games you dont have your best stuff, but you dont want to show it. You have to go out and still have the same mindframe as if you did have good stuff.

A potentially tragic turn of events for the White Sox was averted in the eighth inning. With one on and two out, Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge clocked a long drive down the left-field line off Sale, initially ruled a home run by third-base umpire Tony Randazzo. The call was met with howls of protest from the White Sox and even a groan of honest disappointment for the 32,924 partisan Motown fans. The call was reviewedit was the second time Inge had hit a phantom homer this season vs. the White Soxand was overturned.

It was foul, Sale said. At first off the bat, I was like, Oh, boy, this is bad. Then, I saw where it went foul. Pierzynski was back there and was asking if it was fair or foul, and he said it was way foul. The home plate umpire didnt make a call. They circled around, and I said I thought it was foul. They went back and reviewed it and the reversal was big. Thank God it didnt catch fair.

Apparently all of us knew it was foul except for Randazzo, Pierzynski said. Replay made the right call. Brandon knew it was fouleveryone pretty much knew it was foul. Thats why they have instant replay, and it worked out because they got it right.

That correct call clicked in the same way the White Sox have of late, as they are beginning to look like the club that reeled of the incendiary streak (36-17 in June and July) that pulled them back into the AL Central race in the first place and are now a season-high 17 games over .500 at 77-60.

Were just finding ways to win games, Pierzynski said. Were battling; were not giving at-bats away. Nobodys panicking. Everyones sticking with their plan. It was a great win. It was a good ballgame, both teams played really hard and both teams battled. It was a good win.

Great game, man, great game. Great game to watch, Guillen said. Im a baseball fan, and that was a lot of action there, a lot of movement, a lot of decisions to make. A lot of good things happened today.

But on today of all days, the final state of the White Sox is delivered by a fella whos seen just about as many baseball games as (and played in more) than Guillen, the soft-spoken Vizquel.

We are in a pennant race right now, and this is the last three weeks of the season, Vizquel said. We have to give it all we can right now. And a couple weeks ago we went into a stretch where we lost a couple games in the last inning and we couldnt come back. Its a great sign that everyone is putting forth their best effort.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

White Sox name James Shields as Opening Day starter

White Sox name James Shields as Opening Day starter

The White Sox have announced who will toe the rubber when the season begins later this month.

As expected, James Shields will be the team's Opening Day starting pitcher when the White Sox kick off the 2018 campaign against the Kansas City Royals on March 29 at Kauffman Stadium.

The starting rotation's elder statesman at 36, Shields seemed the logical pick for the first start of the season.

It's been a rough go for the one-time All Star since he came to the South Side in a trade with the San Diego Padres in the summer of 2016. In two seasons with the White Sox, he's got a 5.99 ERA with 181 strikeouts and 58 home runs allowed in 231.1 innings. Last season, he made 21 starts, finishing with a 5.23 ERA and 103 strikeouts and 27 home runs allowed in 117 innings.

While that trade still smarts considering the player the White Sox gave up, Fernando Tatis Jr., is currently ranked as the No. 8 prospect in baseball, Shields brings plenty of value to the 2018 rotation as a veteran mentor for young major leaguers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, as well as pitchers making their way to the big leagues like Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen and Dylan Cease.

If Shields could rediscover some of the magic that made him a great pitcher during his best years with the Tampa Bay Rays and the aforementioned Royals, with whom he made World Series trips in 2008 and 2014, respectively, and have a strong couple months out of the chute, he could provide Rick Hahn's front office with a midseason trade piece, someone who could potentially fetch a prospect or two that could help advance the franchise's rebuilding efforts.

The Royals have announced that it will be Danny Duffy opposing Shields on Opening Day.

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Houston Astros?


White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Houston Astros?

What’s there to know about the Houston Astros?

They’re the best, that’s what there is to know.

The Astros are the defending world champions for a multitude of reasons, and it’s all those and more that will have them as a favorite to repeat in 2018. Yes, the Cubs and New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Indians will all have something to say about that. But right now, no team is better on paper than the team the just won the big enchilada not five months ago.

The best 1-2 starting-pitching in combo in baseball? It belongs to the Astros. Justin Verlander was sensational for them after coming over in a late-summer trade with the Detroit Tigers. All he did was post a 1.06 ERA in five regular-season starts and a 2.21 ERA in six postseason outings. Justin Verlander. Again. And then there’s his running mate Dallas Keuchel — who doesn’t like the Cubs very much, apparently — has been just as good. He had a 2.90 ERA last year and won the American League Cy Young in 2015 with a 2.48 ERA and 20 wins.

Get past those guys and you’ll have to face the new guy. Gerrit Cole is now an Astro, as well, the reigning champs bolstering their already excellent rotation by importing one of the National League’s best pitchers. Cole saw his numbers jump last year (4.26 ERA) but still almost had 200 strikeouts and now has a much better roster around him than the one he left in Pittsburgh.

Charlie Morton? He threw four one-run innings in Game 7 of the World Series. Lance McCullers? He had 2.1 shutout innings in Game 7 of the World Series. This rotation is a force that could mow down the AL. There are questions, sure, but this five is entering 2018 as the best collection of arms in the Junior Circuit.

And we haven’t even gotten to the hitting. Oh, the hitting! The Astros scored 34 runs in seven World Series games. They banged out 56 hits. They hit 15 home runs. This after they were baseball’s best offense during the regular season.

The names are obvious to anyone who watched the postseason. Jose Altuve, surely tired of all the short jokes, is arguably the best player in baseball, and he won the AL MVP last season with a ridiculous .346/.410/.547 slash line. Carlos Correa, perhaps baseball’s best young shortstop, had a .315/.391/.550 slash line. George Springer, your World Series MVP, hit 34 regular-season home runs and got on base at a .367 clip before hitting five homers and slashing .379/.471/.1.000 in the Fall Classic.

Then there’s Alex Bregman and Josh Reddick and Marwin Gonzalez, who were all very good to great in 2017. They shouldn’t all be expected to do what they did last season — you need look no further than the Cubs to see what a deep World Series run can do to a team, especially early. But is there a better lineup than this in the AL? Anyone? Bueller?

It’s hard to repeat, and “hard” is becoming one heck of an understatement considering no one’s repeated in almost two decades. The Yankees last did it when they beat the broken-bat-throwing Mike Piazza and the New York Mets in the 2000 World Series. Since then, no one’s done it twice in a row.

Last year, most of us looked at the Cubs and said, “They have the best team, they are favorites to do it again.” And then they were not even in first place in the NL Central at the All-Star break. A similar fate could await the Astros. But right now, they look like the best team the AL has to offer.

Houston, you are clear for takeoff ... again.

2017 record: 101-61, first place in AL West, World Series champions

Offseason additions: Gerrit Cole, , Joe Smith, Hector Rondon

Offseason departures: Carlos Beltran, Cameron Maybin, Mike Fiers, Tyler Clippard, Luke Gregerson, Francisco Liriano

X-factor: The Astros now count one-time Cubs closer Hector Rondon among their relievers now, but the X-factor pick here is Bregman. After a fine but nothing special first half, he was one of baseball's best after the All-Star break last year, slashing .315/.367/.536 with 11 homers and 44 RBIs in 71 games in the second half.

Projected lineup:

1. George Springer, CF
2. Alex Bregman, 3B
3. Jose Altuve, 2B
4. Carlos Correa, SS
5. Josh Reddick, RF
6. Marwin Gonzalez, 1B
7. Brian McCann, C
8. Evan Gattis, DH
9. Derek Fisher, LF

Projected rotation:

1. Justin Verlander
2. Dallas Keuchel
3. Gerrit Cole
4. Lance McCullers
5. Charlie Morton

Prediction: First place in AL West

Catch up on the AL:

Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros

Catch up on the NL:

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants