White Sox

Manny debuts, Konerko the hero in White Sox win

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Manny debuts, Konerko the hero in White Sox win

Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2010
Updated 3:47 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

So, given all of the Manny Ramirez hullabaloo over the past week, is it OK that the Chicago White Sox apparently acquired him to stand in the on-deck circle and menace opposing pitchers into surrendering game-winning, three-run homers in the eighth inning?

For the second straight game and the second time in about 12 hours, Ramirez had the best seat in the house for such a blast. On Wednesday afternoon in Cleveland, it was Paul Konerko who launched a two-out, three-run bomb to lead Chicago to a 6-4 win and a series sweep of the Indians. It was Konerko's 12th home run this season hit after the seventh inning.

"Don't forget, I've had a real good run producer behind me all season long in Carlos Quentin," Konerko said in response to queries about the Manny Effect, as locker neighbor A.J. Pierzynski joked that his days of seeing a fat pitch in front of the team's newest slugger were over. "And besides, whenever I think too much about who's hitting behind me or what pitches I'll see, it screws me up."

Manny himself took questions in English after the game, indicating that he was indeed getting confortable (as evidenced by his animated jostling with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen in the manager's office after the game) in his new clubhouse: "I'm just happy to contribute to a win here, and I'm looking ahead to a lot more."

Seemingly everything had pointed to a White Sox sweep of the Indians at this matinee in front of a few thousand Ramirez rubberneckers.

Indeed, the ballyhooed slugger was making his White Sox debut, but the factors lining up for Chicago were more numerous than that. Freddy Garcia, the team's fifth starter who nonetheless led the team in quality start percentage and traditionally pitches well in day games and vs. the Indians, took the mound. The game began some 14 hours after an emotional and dramatic win for the White Sox. And the team was searching desperately for a kick-start into a stretch-run September in which it must make up a game per week on the first-place Minnesota Twins.

Things started off well for Chicago, as the third batter of the game, Alex Rios drove a pitch 407 feet to left-center. And in the eighth, that other Ramirez, Alexei, blasted a solo shot to left field as an appetizer for Konerko's clout one out later.

In-between, there was little joy for the Chicago 9. In the third, Asdrubal Cabrera tied the game with a two-out single to drive in Larry Donald. In the next frame, Jordan Brown tapped Jayson Nix home to push Cleveland ahead. And in the fifth, the Wahoos tallied two more, one on a double-play ball struck by Cabrera, the other a two-out infield hit by Nix.

Garcia appeared to strain his back chasing a Nix infield hit in the fourth, although he stayed in to finish the frame, and both Guillen and the starter pronounced Garcia fit for his next start. The veteran was cheated out of a chance for the win, however; pitching just four innings and 60 pitches.

The White Sox added an Ozzieball insurance run in the ninth, with Mark Teahen singling and eventually scoring while being pushed ahead by an Andruw Jones walk, Ramon Castro sacrifice bunt and Alexei Ramirez sacrifice fly.

Chisox rookie phenom Chris Sale, who Guillen hours earlier had said he was now comfortable inserting in any situation, came on in the ninth, pitched through a minor rally and notched his first career save.

"You know Ozzie, he's not afraid to do anything," an obviously-proud Sale said. "Ramon came out to talk to me, slow me down, and we just broke it down to the basics from there."

The manager himself was delighted by the resilience and fortitude of his team, which shook off its August doldrums by completing the sweep. The skipper launched kudos toward everyone from the Ramirezes to Konerko, the bullpen, yeoman long reliever Tony Pena, Garcia, Sale, and anyone else we're unable to find room to let him thank in this cyberspace.

But after a much-needed day off in Beantown, a crucial three-game set with the playoff-contending Boston Red Sox looms.

"Every series - every game - is crucial," Guillen said. "We're fighting for our lives and there's no room for rest."

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

Yo-Yo and the Big Elephant: Now this is the show South Side fans have been waiting for

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AP

Yo-Yo and the Big Elephant: Now this is the show South Side fans have been waiting for

Yo-Yo and the Big Elephant sound like characters from your kid’s favorite show (or your favorite show, if you happen to be a kid).

But instead they’re the duo South Side baseball fans have been waiting for.

You might know them better as the Cuban Connection, an alliterative and far less confusing nickname that describes Yoan Moncada and Jose Abreu, who in Monday night’s 10-4 win over the visiting Seattle Mariners combined for seven hits, three home runs, a double, a triple, six runs scored and four RBIs.

It was a welcome sight after the White Sox offense slumbered through a weekend series with the Houston Astros in which they mustered just two runs. Heck, this offense has been hard to find during the entire month of April. Entering Monday, it’d produced just 16 runs in its last seven games (with 11 of those coming in a single contest).

But then came Monday’s show, in which Abreu launched a pair of homers and Moncada came a single short of hitting for the cycle. That had to be a proud moment for Abreu, who’s taken his countryman under his wing since Moncada arrived in the majors last summer.

“I’m really mad at him because he had two chances to do it and he couldn’t,” Abreu joked with the help of a translator. “Seriously, I’m really happy for him. I know today was a special game for him. I know he couldn’t hit for the cycle today. But he’s going to have more chances in the future. He’s going to be good.”

This is what White Sox fans have been hoping for. It’s what they’re still waiting for, considering much of that oft-discussed team of the future is still developing in the minor leagues. But Moncada is the story of 2018 at the major league level, how development will continue for the player White Sox fans drooled over at this time last year, when he was ranked as baseball’s top prospect.

Moncada got a lot of early attention for his high strikeout total, and with another punch out Monday he’s now got 34 on the season, still one of the highest totals in the league. But his numbers are looking good in many other facets. He raised his batting average .026 points Monday alone, and he’s now slashing .240/.345/.493 on the still-young season.

Abreu, of course, is the White Sox best hitter and has been ever since he arrived from Cuba before the 2014 season. For a team in such an offensive rut, Abreu’s four-hit night Monday raised his batting average up over .300, to .308. He’s now got six homers on the season, the most on the team and one of the higher totals in the American League. While Moncada and others will spend 2018 showing the White Sox what they will be in the future, this was expected from a guy who’s been one of baseball’s most consistent hitters in the last half decade.

But the future comes into play with Abreu, too, whose consistency at the plate and his presence in the clubhouse as a mentor to Moncada and other young players make him as believable a part of those planned future contenders as any of the organization’s highly rated prospects. A contract decision will need to be made at some point, obviously, but the White Sox will tell you any day of the week how much they value Abreu, who knows exactly where this franchise is and is excited as anyone about where it’s going.

“Everybody knows we are in the process, and everybody knows what this process is about,” Abreu said. “We have a lot of young talent, a lot of young players. They are going to hit some bumps and have some struggles as a team. But I think we all know how we have to play this game. (Manager Rick Renteria) has taught us how to play this game, how to play this game representing the White Sox organization and how they play this game.

“I feel really happy. We prove today that we are able to play a good game and to show the rest how we win games. That is the way we like to play.”

Monday was a bright spot in what’s been an otherwise very tough start to the 2018 campaign. But for a team where the future is what matters most, this is what fans have been waiting to see. A game like this might not be commonplace as the summer rolls on on the South Side. But for those dreaming about Moncada and Abreu teaming to lead those contenders of the future, this was one heck of a glimpse into the crystal ball.

“That’s our goal to have big games together for this team,” Moncada said. “Having the opportunity to play with Abreu — ‘The Big Elephant’ as we call him in Cuba — it’s good for me. It’s a big honor. I feel really happy when we have these kinds of games.”

Yoan Moncada nearly hits for the cycle, Jose Abreu hits two homers and the White Sox finally break out the bats

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AP

Yoan Moncada nearly hits for the cycle, Jose Abreu hits two homers and the White Sox finally break out the bats

So, anyone out there still worried about Yoan Moncada?

The White Sox second baseman, who at this time last year was the top-ranked prospect in baseball, was the subject of much social-media frustration through the season's first few weeks. But it's safe to say he's "redeemed" himself in the eyes of fretting fans.

Monday night, he led the White Sox offensive eruption with a three-hit night that brought him just a single shy of the cycle in a 10-4 win over the visiting Seattle Mariners.

Moncada started the offensive outburst with a leadoff triple in the bottom of the first inning. He doubled to start the bottom of the second and launched a solo homer to begin the bottom of the fourth. He scored all three times.

Moncada entered the game with a .214/.329/.400 slash line, though he's been hot of late. In the last seven games, he's got nine hits, six extra-base hits and three homers. He still has 34 strikeouts on the season, one of the highest totals in the majors, but he's putting up some good numbers elsewhere.

Abreu also had a red-hot Monday night, picking up four hits with a couple of homers, the 12th time he's bashed multiple long balls in a single game.

It was quite the performance for a White Sox offense that has mostly been quiet so far in 2018. They scored just two total runs in three straight blowout losses against the Houston Astros over the weekend. And while they plated 11 in that 14-inning marathon in Oakland, the three road games prior to that featured a grand total of three runs.

Monday night that all changed with the White Sox banging out 18 hits, including seven straight to start the bottom of the first, the first time that happened in the big leagues in four years.