White Sox

Mmm...Bop: White Sox crush Hanson, Braves


Mmm...Bop: White Sox crush Hanson, Braves

Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Updated: 12:25 AM

By Brett Ballantini

CHICAGO The Chicago White Soxs domination of the National League is starting to reach downright silly proportions.

White Sox starter John Danks spotted the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves three runs in the first two innings, initiated by a leadoff home run by Bravos second baseman Martin Prado on the southpaws third pitch of the game and chased by two more runs in the second, before the South Siders rallied for nine runs and held on for a 9-6 win. The White Sox have now won 11 of their last 12 games.

Only one ball was hit pretty good, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said of Atlantas early flurry. Let people in Chicago know, the ballpark is beginning to shrink.

Ill be honest with you, it sucks, Danks said of allowing a leadoff home run. Youre warming up for 20 minutes, and then in a few seconds youre in a hole. All you can do is bow your neck and keep battling.

Battle the White Sox did, pounding out 16 hits to tie a season high, only two of them for extra bases, and struck out only three times.

Earlier in the season were just hoping to come back down 3-0, Guillen said. But we were doing a good job of making Braves starter Tommy Hanson throw a pitch. Even the outs were on good contact.

Indeed, Prados shot was followed by an even more troubling second frame, when successive soft singles with two outs set up No. 9 hitter Brooks Conrad for a two-RBI double, pushing Atlantas advantage to 3-0.

In the bottom half of the second with sacks occupied by Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin, DH Mark Kotsay nearly tied the game with one swing, sending an 0-2 pitch from Braves starter Tommy Hanson soaring down the right-field line, with home-run distance but ultimately the right size, wrong shape by 10 feet. The erstwhile DH had to settle for a swinging sacrifice, forcing Chicagos two sluggish runners to second and third. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski cashed in those chips with a solid strike to right, plating two, and after Alexei Ramirez singled and Juan Pierre took one for the team to fill the bases, the ageless Omar Vizquel knocked in two more with a two-out, sharp strike to right. With runners at the corners, a 3-2 count turned an inning-ending force at second into an infield hit and RBI for Alex Rios, as Vizquels motion on the pitch turned an inning-ender into Chicagos fifth run of the game, a crooked number that iced the game for the White Sox just 12 outs in.

After a 36-pitch second for Hanson, it was clear: On a night where Danks started out fooling few, the Atlanta hurler was fooling fewer.

It was just a matter of time, said Pierzynski of the White Soxs offensive breakout and winning streak. Were feeling better and better out there. Weve been working hard. Pierzynski had some soft drops among his three hits, but the veteran backstop pays no nevermind to how the safeties fall: They all count the same. Ive had some screamers that have been outs. We just want to keep moving through the order and plating runs.

The proceedings started getting goofy in the third, when in spite of all self-subterfuge, the White Sox still squeezed across a run. Kotsay walked and ran himself into the second out of the inning by attempting to advance to third on Pierzynskis flip single to left. Ramirez stepped up and belted the catcher home with a sharp base knock, upping the ante for Atlanta to three runs, 6-3.

In the fourth, Braves third baseman Conrad proved such a vacuum at the hot corner that he absorbed a Rios grounder into his body, by uniform osmosis. While the Chicago center fielder scooted to first for an infield hit, the third sacker pirouetted at third, searching for a ball that hed sucked into the third chakra of his spine.

Thats the way Rios is going right now, Guillen said. If that was Gordon Beckham, whos enduring a tough-luck stretch, it would have been a double play.

With two outs, Quentin made Conrad and a punch-drunk Hanson pay with a crushing home run 20 rows into the left-field stands. Having hemorrhaged 11 hits and nine runs, all earned, on just 78 pitches and 11 outs, Cox trotted to the mound to tap Hanson on the hiney and say, son, tonight youre taking one for the team. After five more pitchesyielding a screaming double from Kotsay and a sharp single for PierzynskiCox trod back to the mound for the mercy killing.

The so-called relief pitcher charged with mopping up Hansons mess was Jesse Chavez, he of 19 earned runs in 18 games, for a crisp 7.33 ERA. Chicago chose not to waste many more hits after tying its season-high of 16, and Chavez took advantage of the chance to drain his ERA southward.

Danks finished his evening on a full bounce-back strong from a shaky start, logging seven innings of six-hit ball, three Ks, and some uncommonly strong offensive support to push him to his seventh win on the season.

After that start, my job was to keep them at three, Danks said. You dont want to be the starter whos the weak link. And falling behind, it was an uh-oh. A starting staff like we have, you dont want to be the guy to break a streak.

Atlanta added an eighth-inning run off of reliever Tony Pena, when Prado tripled and scored on a Jason Heyward groundout. Brian McCann greeted reliever Scott Linebrinks second pitch of the game with a ninth-inning bomb to draw the Braves to 9-5, and closer Bobby Jenks had to be called in to put out Linebrinks fire after Atlanta drew within threeBad Bobby tossed one pitch to earn his 15th save. In the ninth, Ramirez had to leave the game with a finger injury, but was hopping with determined energy postgame, declaring himself with effusive Spanish ready to play on Wednesday.

Sure, this was the first time that Atlanta has fallen when scoring five or more runs, dropping them to 31-1 on the season in such circumstances. Yet the overlooked White Sox just keep sneaking up on teams, it seems. The skipper, he doesnt mind one bit.

Were lucky, Guillen said. Thats what people want to hear. People dont believe we can play very wellbut people forget, our players have credentials.

The White Sox will take their burgeoning pedigree into tomorrow nights contest, running yet another hot starter out and backing him with a reinvigorated, smallball offense. The Pale Hose appear destined to make believers of so many who abandoned the bandwagon with the gametime air still crisp.

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