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Buehrle bounces back; last Sox start up next?

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Buehrle bounces back; last Sox start up next?

Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011
Posted: 9:01 p.m. Updated: 10:25 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik
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VIDEO: Ozzie hopes Buehrle isn't at the end

CLEVELAND When it comes to playing the Cleveland Indians, for much of 2011 the darlings of the American League, the Chicago White Sox didnt get the memo about being scared of em.

Another comeback victory and another heavy dose of runs in the late innings to pair with Tuesday nights nightcap triumph have made it 11 wins in 17 games so far this season, including six of eight in Cleveland.

Mark Buehrle came within five outs of becoming the first pitcher since Mickey Lolich to record at least 200 innings in 11 straight seasons. The veteran earned the win after six innings, as the White Sox started their rally in the seventh.

Buehrle threw greathe needed that, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. The last couple of games, maybe three, it was very rough for him. Having that type of game he had today, he bounced back very well. He had a little bit of team support out there, but thats the Buehrle we see every time.

I felt good, Buehrle said of leaving after six. Knowing the situation in the game, the pitch count around 100 97, it was a long inning, we scored some runs and turned it over to the bullpen, and theyve done a good job all year. I was kind of walking out to go back there for the seventh and I was asking if they want me out. They were saying hold on to make sure Jesse Crain was ready.

Indeed, the win almost didnt happen. Heading into the seventh, Chicago trailed 2-1, but a seven-run eruption in the next two frames turned squeaker into laugher. The lead turned on three runs, one on a Brent Morel double, two more on a two-out Alejandro De Aza single.

A big hit, two-out base hit was huge, Guillen said. It meant I didnt worry about bringing Buehrle back to earn the win or going to the bullpen. It was kind of a crazy mood in the dugoutafter De Aza got that hit, everybody felt a little better, because we wanted Buehrle to win that game. This kid De Aza, whew, right now hes the best player we have overall, fielding, running, big hits for us, stealing basses. Hes been doing everything for us. Hes been outstanding.

READ: White Sox don't protect one another?

De Aza, reticient to take much credit-certainly not as team MVP, was typically modest: Im just trying to put the ball in play, and hopefully something could happen I feel good, because Im helping the team with the little things that I can but its never enough. Im just trying to keep grinding and taking what they give me.

And with a 4-2 lead in the eighth, the White Sox clubbed three homerssolo shots from Alexei Ramirez and Alex Rios, a two-run blast from Morel (his seventh of September), pushing the lead to 8-2.

The Wahoos extended the game with two tallies in their eighth, as neither Jason Frasor nor Will Ohman seemed content to hurl with a large lead. Sergio Santos entered and executed a perfect ninth to close out the win.

The win, and Buehrles impending milestone, was cause for reflection.

We looked pretty good on Opening Day winning at Progressive Field, 15-10, Buehrle said. I thought wed win every game, but thats why you play 162 games. Guys get injured, go through struggles, guys get hot. Look at the way Cleveland startedthey looked like they were going to win the World Series and they kind of struggled. Thats why you play every game and cant go off just the first couple of weeks.

These guys right now are having good at-bats, Guillen said of the recent offensive rallies. Rios is swinging the bat good. Even Adam Dunn is swinging the bat better. Thats what I expected all season long, to have those games, and unfortunately it didnt happen. At least theyve shown they continue to play hard. Thats something you like from the players, to go out there for nine innings and play your best.

A sort of homecoming

With the nearness of his milestone of 10 wins, 30 starts and 200 innings pitched for 11 straight seasons, Buehrle took time to contemplate the possible finale to his White Sox career, his start next Tuesday vs. the Toronto Blue Jays.
Mark Buehrle says he will try not getting too emotional, but his start Tuesday night vs. the Toronto Blue Jays could be his last as a White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. (US PRESSWIRE)
Im trying to tell myself not to get too emotional, Buehrle said. When the day gets here, it might be a little harder, but this is all Ive known for 12-13 years of my life. So going into it, I still think Ill come back because, again, every spring training Ive gone to the same spot, youre ready to go with the same team. Deep down inside, thats all Im looking at. You try to tell yourself not to be emotional or, Hey, theres a chance youre coming back, but theres the chance youre not coming back, either.

Buehrle was fired up about righting his recent slump, but wasnt upset over falling short of the 7 23 innings he needed to reach 200.

Even if I had done it here, Im still making that start at home, Buehrle said. That said hopefully I dont go out there for 1 23 innings and take a line drive off my head and have to come out. Id like to get to 200 but if something happens and I dont, its not the end of the world.

Although hes steering himself away from getting too emotional, Buehrle has already envisioned the type of reception White Sox fans will give him, having witnessed the faithful seeing off Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski received a year ago.

Coop said go out there and go five, possibly, then pull me and do the whole fan thing, he said. Im not looking at it as my last start. Even though theres the possibility of it being my last start is really good, Im going out there like Im coming back next year and not trying to make a big deal of it.

It happened to us last year with PK and A.J., and we got them back, Guillen said. I dont know whats the difference. I will treat it like its the last game for the White Sox, the same way I did it for A.J. and the same way I did it for PK, I will treat it the same way. If he comes back, good. It will be special. White Sox fans should go out there and support him and get behind him the way they always did.

Regardless of what happens, coming back or not, this kid he means a lot to the White Sox organization. This guy, when you talk about pitching in a White Sox uniform, the first name that comes out is this one. A lot of people forget about Billy Pierce and all those guys in the past, even Billy is still with us all the time, the first name that comes up is Mark Buehrle. I think the least they can do for him is to show up and the ballpark and support him.

Without a doubt, Buehrle feels that the best place for him is in Chicago. Hes just not sure if the White Sox feel the same way.

It all depends on what the White Sox want to do, Buerhle said. They spent a lot of money this year and we didnt do a good job of getting where we wanted to get. It all depends on what they want to do. If they want to go young and got some guys in the bullpen they want to start, then theyll go that route. But its on them.

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

2020 MLB schedule: Chicago Cubs, White Sox could benefit from short trips

2020 MLB schedule: Chicago Cubs, White Sox could benefit from short trips

Both the Cubs and White Sox may benefit this season from the unique MLB schedule which will have all clubs play regionally, instead of across their leagues. Since the A.L. Central and N.L. Central teams are all fairly close, and Chicago is practically in the middle of the action, both the Sox and Cubs will rank near the bottom for miles traveled over the course of the regular season, according to MLB Network.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest White Sox news and analysis.

During their 2020 schedule release show, MLB Network displayed a graphic saying the Cubs will travel the second-fewest miles at 4,071 and the White Sox will travel sixth-fewest at 4,750 miles. It’s important to note that may not give them an edge in the regular season, as the other teams to round out the list are all Central division opponents as well: the Brewers, Tigers, Cardinals and Reds.

But when it comes time for the playoffs, that rest may pay off-- especially if either team faces off against a team from the West. All of the top-five teams for most miles traveled come from the A.L. and N.L. West, ranging from 11,332 miles traveled for the Rockies to a whopping 14,706 miles traveled for the Rangers. In a condensed season, with significantly less rest, that long travel could take a toll.


RELATED: White Sox schedule release: Slow start not an option with brutal first week

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White Sox said to have one of MLB's easiest schedules, but not so fast

White Sox said to have one of MLB's easiest schedules, but not so fast

MLB Network put up the raw numbers, blasting across the screen of anyone watching the league's hour-long schedule-reveal show Monday night that the White Sox had baseball's fourth easiest schedule in the shortened 2020 season.

Really? It doesn't seem that way when you look at it.

I understand the mathematics behind such a declaration. The White Sox nine 2020 opponents — their four division rivals from the AL Central and the five teams from the NL Central — had a combined winning percentage of .477 in 2019. The White Sox, you'll remember, lost 89 games last season, so the nine teams with the South Siders on their schedules got a mathematical boost, too. And it wasn't shocking, then, that the entire top four on MLB Network's list of the easiest schedules this season were Central Division teams from one league or the other.

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The Minnesota Twins were at the top of the list, their group of nine foes unburdened by their own 100-win pedigree from a season ago. The Cleveland Indians came in next, followed by the St. Louis Cardinals, then the White Sox.

What that tells me? Obviously the bottom three teams in the AL Central did not pile up the victories last season. The 89-loss White Sox actually finished third, with a couple members of the Triple-Digit Loss Club behind them in the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers. The NL Central wasn't so hot last year, either.

But do last year's records dictate this year's fortunes? Of course not. And certainly that's what the White Sox are hoping after the breakout seasons from core players in 2019 paved the way for an avalanche of offseason additions. Their expectations are sky high on the doorstep of this 60-game sprint to the postseason as they look to leap out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode.

So to answer the question: Do the White Sox have an easy schedule? I don't think it looks very easy.

They'll see the Twins 10 times, and though, in a fit of somewhat inexplicable unbalanced scheduling, seven of those games of will be played on the South Side, home-field advantage will be minimized with no fans in the stands. The Twins might have questions about whether their starting rotation can be as menacing as their thunderous lineup, but my god, is that lineup good. The Twins launched 307 home runs out of big league ballparks last season, including a whopping 27 of them out of Guaranteed Rate Field. And now Nelson Cruz has a new slugging buddy in the middle of that order, with Josh Donaldson signing up this winter. The perennial MVP candidate was back to his productive ways with the Atlanta Braves last season after a few injury-impacted campaigns, and his career numbers against the White Sox are scary good: a .333/.435/.686 slash line — that's an 1.122 OPS! — with 15 homers and 35 RBIs in 44 games.

They'll also see the Indians 10 times, and that same unbalanced scheduling works against the White Sox this time, with seven of the 10 games played at Progressive Field in Cleveland. The South Siders have struggled to win games there in recent seasons, dropping 18 contests at The Artist Formerly Known as The Jake in the past three years. The Indians might have dealt away both Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber in the last 12 months, but they still have what is arguably baseball's best starting rotation: Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber, Carlos Carrasco, Zach Plesac and more. Yes, the lineup is not nearly as formidable, but they still boast two MVP types on the left side of the infield in Francisco Lindor and José Ramírez. The road to the AL Central crown runs through the Twin Cities, but the White Sox have to leap over the Indians, too, to get to the top of the division standings. And that's no small feat. The White Sox penultimate series of the season is a four-game set in The Cleve.

While we already knew the White Sox were going to play a bunch of games against the Twins and Indians this season, these ones are magnified. The shortened season means that instead of their games against the Twins and Indians making up 23 percent of their schedule, they account for a third of it. Every game holds more weight in the 60-game setup, but none will be more important than these 20.

Getting to see the Royals and Tigers an equal amount is a positive, sure. Those teams combined for 217 losses last season and don't figure to be much more of a threat this year, even though the 60-game schedule could make for some truly wacky shenanigans. Even still, the White Sox lost their season series with the Royals last year, going 9-10 against them.

RELATED: White Sox 2020 schedule: 5 key series during 60-game race for AL Central crown

But it's those games against the NL Central that really don't hold up to the idea that the White Sox have it easy in 2020. There are four teams in that division that not only look capable of giving the White Sox some fits but look capable of winning the NL Central altogether.

That includes the Cubs, who the White Sox play six times, accounting for 10 percent of their 2020 schedule. That includes a three-game set on the South Side to finish off the 2020 regular season, when playoff spots could be on the line, setting up potentially the most meaningful Crosstown series since the 1906 World Series. The Cubs have questions like any other team, particularly when it comes to how much they can get out of their starting rotation. Already, they're down former White Sox hurler José Quintana after he injured himself while doing dishes. But if first-year manager David Ross gets enough from his pitching staff, a lineup featuring MVP types like Kris Bryant, Javy Báez and Anthony Rizzo seems to be strong enough to do a good deal of damage.

The defending champion Cardinals are the White Sox opponents in the Field of Dreams game, and while that will be mostly a showcase for Major League Baseball's ability to construct a baseball field in the middle of a cornfield, it will also be the first of a three-game series between two teams with playoff hopes. Almost certainly the White Sox will run into excellent young pitcher Jack Flaherty, who's not only the Redbirds' ace but also Lucas Giolito's former high school teammate. There's a no-brainer of a pitching matchup for the nationally televised game in Iowa.

The Cincinnati Reds are a trendy pick to rise up and even win the division — it's my prediction, so make of that what you will — after an offseason of splashes that brought sluggers Nicholas Castellanos and Mike Moustakas to the banks of the Ohio River. White Sox fans — and White Sox pitchers — likely don't have fond memories of either's time in the AL Central. Eugenio Suárez led the NL in home runs last season, and that Joey Votto guy has put up some gaudy numbers in his career that some might argue are verging on being worthy of Hall of Fame consideration. But it's that 1-2-3 in the Reds' rotation that really sparkles: Bauer, Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo, who have all gone to the All-Star Game once in the last two seasons.

The Milwaukee Brewers could be sliding backward with their seeming refusal to go out and acquire impact starting pitching, but that hasn't stopped them from making the postseason in each of the last two seasons. Christian Yelich is going to be around for a long while after getting a big contract this offseason, and they still have some real good bullpen pitchers. Two of their offseason acquisitions this year should be familiar to White Sox fans: Omar "The Narv Dog" Narváez and Avisaíl García, who both reached career highs in homers in 2019 and combined for 42 of them. The whole team should be somewhat familiar by the team the White Sox play four straight games against them in early August; the White Sox will play hosts to the Brew Crew in an exhibition game July 22 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

The Pittsburgh Pirates should not strike fear. They're rebuilding again, and the White Sox will gladly take four games against them, even if Josh Bell could cause some headaches for White Sox pitchers. But absent the Bucs, the NL Central is no joke of an opposing division for the White Sox or any team looking to win the AL Central title by the end of September.

With a heavy dose of the Twins and Indians and a smattering of dates against as many as four contenders in the NL Central, I wouldn't call the White Sox schedule easy. Are they better off than they were back in March? Probably, as this 60-game slate doesn't feature the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Houston Astros, Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees or Tampa Bay Rays — potential playoff teams, the lot of them.

But the White Sox have a lot of questions still to answer about themselves and little margin for error with every game meaning as much it does. Buckle up, folks. Players are already describing this shortened season as possibly having a playoff atmosphere from Day 1. And with few exceptions, the opposition could have that feel, too, for a group of South Siders looking to snap the franchise's postseason drought.


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