White Sox

Manny not needed; Rios, Sox's hot bats top Tribe

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Manny not needed; Rios, Sox's hot bats top Tribe

Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010
Updated 12:14 AM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CLEVELAND What began as a laugher got a little tense, and then nearly tragic.

Thankfully for the Chicago White Sox, already doing the equivalent of treading water while waiting for unbalanced slugger Manny Ramirez to be their sunrise out of the West, the club got its head back above water after slipping below the surface and nearly drowning in a fall-from-ahead, surge back in the 11th, 10-6 win over the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on Monday night.

With a 1-2 count and two outs, Brent Lillibridge launched a solo shot off of Rafael Perez to provide what would be the deciding run. It also answered a 2-for-27 stretch for the utilityman.

Thats an ugly game, no matter if you win or lose, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. I felt like I was in spring training at Tucson. It was a very bad game. Thank God we won it. You look up at the scoreboard and see 35 people left on base, 36 base hits but when you win, you feel a little bit better.

Lillibridge, whod earlier made an error that led to the tying run scoring in the ninth, had a decidedly brighter reaction: I just thanked God. I was squared up, got it over the fence. I just wanted to get us out of this game, get us home, get a win.

The White Sox added three more tallies in the 11th, including an RBI double from Alex Rios on his fifth hit of the evening.

Alex was huge for us, Guillen said. Rios has been very consistent all year long. Its been a very great year for him.

Manny will change a lot, but check the scoreboard and see how many hits were getting. Our offense has been pretty sturdy the last couple of weeks. We score one or two runs for a game here or there and everybody says, Oh, we need a hitter.

In the empty space of the glass, the White Sox stranded a wholly impeachable 15 runners, including leaving the bases full in three separate innings, with A.J. Pierzynski twice tapping out with the sacks packed, Juan Pierre once.

The White Sox jumped out to a 5-0 lead in just the first two innings, Paul Konerko supplying a two-run double in the first, and Mark Kotsay and Rios supplied three more runs in the second to pace what quickly looked like a runaway.

But the fourth inning featured the revenge of Jayson Nix, who rainbowed a two-run homer deep to left, and in the very next frame Travis Hafner plated another with a long double. But Chisox starter Mark Buehrle bore down, catching Nix looking and, after walking Andy Marte to fill the bases, got Jason Donald swinging.

It wasnt the last Cleveland rally of the night. After Rios clocked a solo homer in the sixth to restore the Chicago lead to three, the Wahoos again put runners on second and third in the eighth. But rather than walking them full, Bobby Jenks came on in relief of Sergio Santos to strike out Asdrubal Cabrera and end the threat.

Jenks would fail to succeed in a too-common inning-plus save. As nails were bitten to nubs, Jenks commenced his blown save with a dreaded leadoff walk to Shin-Soo Choo. After a defensive indifference placed him on second, Shelley Duncan looped a soft single to left, cutting the White Sox lead to 6-4. Hafner then doubled, and with runners on second and third Luis Valbuena singled, scoring Duncan. On Valbuenas Baltimore chop, Lillibridge threw wide to first, the error plating Hafner for the tie. With Valbuena moving to second on the error and third on a groundout, Jenks retired Trevor Crowe on a groundout to Lillibridge.

Im just trying to do my job, Lillibridge said of the game-tying play. It was an in-between play, whether I should have thrown it. Im still going to take a chance on it and be aggressive, but it was a barehand, awkward throw. Im just trying to get Bobby an out. It was a rough inning, and we battled through it.

Both manager and team saw Jenks' effort as heroic, rather than falling short.

Its not Bobbys fault, Guillen said. Our bullpen has to pick him up. Bobbys been throwing a lot of innings. Weve been short in the bullpen so for Jenks to go out and throw 30-40 pitches, thats not easy. Meanwhile, we fought back and score the runs we needed to come back.

What are you going to do, hes missing with balls downhes not catching too much of the plateand all of a sudden theres a trampoline in front of home plate bouncing balls all over the place.

Scott Linebrink relieved Jenks and earned his second win of the season with two perfect innings.

We didnt really plan on drawing the win up like that, Linebrink said. But they got some cheap stuff there in the ninth inning, high choppers and the bloops to the outfield. That stuffs gonna happen sometimes and we were able to battle back."

In what is becoming a tedious trend in White Sox contests as the team wheezes to the end of August, an apparent significant injury was suffered, even in this winning cause. Gordon Beckham, who entered the game hitting .342 over his past 43 games, was hit in his right wrist with a pitch in the seventh. After hitting the dirt and writhing in pain, Beckham walked off the field and was replaced by Lillibridge.

Beckham was in a great deal of pain postgame, but nonetheless felt he would be ready to play by the weekend, at worst. It looked uglier to begin with, when the X-ray technician initially told the second baseman that his hand was broken. Beckham was stunned, before learning that, no, in fact, his hand was merely bruised.

Rookie League, assessed the irritated sophomore.

But in spite of comebacks, fallbacks, injuries and heroism, there were silver linings on Monday night. They just took a little longer to see.

I know we were out here a little bit longer than we wanted to be, but to win a big game like thisif wed have lost this one, it would have been a heartbreaking loss, Linebrink said. So it kind of shifts the momentum right back around and hopefully well catch a wave here and ride it. You battle in games like this, especially on the road, and come up with a victory, that can give you a huge boost of confidence, just like how we strung those hits together in the 11th inning. The same thing can happen with a few games in a row here, with winning.

For all the doomsday scenarios that could have played out progressively, as tired heads hit pillows tonight, its a wonderful way to start a long and crucial road trip.

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

Eloy Jimenez willing to play baseball in empty stadiums: 'I just want to play'

Eloy Jimenez willing to play baseball in empty stadiums: 'I just want to play'

Playing Major League Baseball in empty stadiums feels wrong. And the thought of Eloy Jimenez playing in empty stadiums is even worse.

"I don't know. For me, playing with fans is motivating. That's why I want to play every single day hard for them and I enjoy talking to them,” Jimenez said Tuesday. “I don't know what it's going to be (like) to play without fans there.”

But it might be necessary. The ESPN report that emerged late Monday night detailed the possibility of MLB starting its season with all 30 teams in Arizona, playing in spring training stadiums and Chase Field. Teams would essentially be quarantined -- existing only in their hotels, team buses and stadiums. There would be no fans in the stands and players would not be able to stay with their families.

It seems crazy, but nothing about the COVID-19 pandemic is normal. Baseball has always been something that unites us, and frankly, any kind of baseball sounds good right now. Credit to Major League Baseball for getting creative with a possible return. If they can keep the players safe and the MLBPA is willing to play under those circumstances, then it’s worth a try.

“We're all used to playing those back-field games, chain-link fence league games,” White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito said last week. “We've done it coming up through the minor leagues. We even do it in spring training, at times. I don't think it has too much an effect. If things matter, if games matter, I think we'd be able to go and get it done with or without fans in the stadium. But I'd definitely prefer to have fans. We'll see what we'll be able to make happen."

Major League Baseball issued a statement Tuesday morning neither confirming or denying the idea of playing the season in Arizona. That’s because it’s just an idea, albeit a serious one. Serious enough that players must think about if they’re willing to do it.

"It's going to be hard because you're going to be away from your family,” Jimenez said. “100 degrees is really hot. But if that's the plan, I'm going to do it. I just want to play."

The weather is certainly a factor. Chase Field has a roof and could hold multiple games per day, but anything outdoors would have to be played at night. Even then, it will be plenty hot in the desert in the evening.

Every idea comes with a plethora of questions and there are few concrete answers in an unprecedented situation. Players will still be together in clubhouses. What happens if just one player tests positive? Will there be enough tests that MLB isn’t taking them away from people who need them more? And even if this is all possible, how long would players realistically need to get ready for the season? Jimenez said his workouts at home have been limited to “just doing a couple pushups, jump rope and hitting in the back of the yard. That's pretty much it.”

“Honestly, how long is spring training, a month and a half? Maybe (we’ll need) a month, couple weeks,” White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson said last week. “Around the same time period. Let’s be realistic with pitchers’ arms. Being realistic about the situation, not forcing anything. When we’re ready to go I think they’ll make a good decision, they’ll take care of us, I think we’ll be just fine.”

A big reason why players likely would be willing to sequester themselves in Arizona – and away from their families – is because their salaries will be prorated based on how many games get played. Owners would lose out on gate revenue, but there is plenty to gain for baseball by putting real games on television, especially if it’s the only sport going.

“I just want to play baseball,” Jimenez said. “If they decide to play here (in Arizona), I'm going to enjoy it, but we want to play (a) normal regular season, like travel and all that. And play for our city, you know?”

The feeling is mutual. Of course everyone would prefer to see Eloy Jimenez playing in Chicago. But if it’s on television from Arizona, we’re still going to enjoy it. 

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: Paul Konerko's lengthy season-opening slump

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: Paul Konerko's lengthy season-opening slump

It might be easy to forget.

For a guy who hit a grand slam in the World Series, hit 41 home runs during the regular season and is well remembered as not only the best player on that championship team but one of the two best hitters in franchise history, Paul Konerko had a painfully slow start to the 2005 season.

#SoxRewind has rolled into mid May of that year, and Konerko is still slumping on our screens.

Obviously things turned out just fine for him, but it took Konerko a while to get into his typical swing of things in 2005. Through his first 40 games of the season, he owned a .196/.329/.420 slash line.

There were bright spots, sure, and he still had nine homers in those 40 games, right on pace for the 40 he ended up with. He had a two-homer, five-RBI game against the Blue Jays on May 7. At the end of that road trip, May 11 against the Devil Rays, he drove in a couple more with a big double.

But even those proved to be just glimpses rather than breakout performances.

What did keep Konerko afloat during that slow beginning was his ability to draw walks. He jacked his on-base percentage up to .370 by season’s end, but even at .329 during those first 40 games, he was doing a good job getting on base despite a batting average south of the Mendoza Line. Konerko walked 25 times in his first 40 games, with four multi-walk games. That included a pair of three-walk games during this stretch in May.

The tide finally turned May 18, a three-hit, three-run game against the Rangers. From that point on, over his final 118 games, he slashed .311/.390/.570. In other words, MVP-type production.

The White Sox needed their best hitter over the course of the 2005 regular season, the playoff push and the postseason. And there’s a statue at Guaranteed Rate Field that can inform you how important he was to that group.

But it wasn’t wire-to-wire success for Konerko. Thankfully for the White Sox, his teammates picked him up, finding other ways to win during the season's first month and a half. And it shows just how good he was after things finally got back to normal.

What else?

— The White Sox sure should have won this game by a lot more than they did. They started the third inning with back-to-back walks and a classic Tropicana Field catwalk single off the bat of Tadahito Iguchi. Bases loaded, nobody out. But after Aaron Rowand drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, Timo Perez got picked off trying to steal third base and Konerko struck out to end the inning. Three innings later, the White Sox started with three straight singles, including a bunt hit by Juan Uirbe to load the bases. But the next three hitters went strikeout, pop out, strikeout to go scoreless in the frame. A 5-2 win didn’t necessarily need any more runs, but it could’ve been 10-2 easily.

— Pablo Ozuna made things happen. With one out in the top of the fifth, he reached base on an infield single, busting down the line and ducking out of the way of a tag attempt at first base. He moved to second base on a one-out walk and to third on a fly out. Then he raced home on a wild pitch to break a 1-all tie. That was the first run in a four-run inning for the White Sox. Making things happen, the Ozuna way.

— Iguchi stole two bases in this game, the only multi-steal game of his big league career. Iguchi stole a career-high 15 bases in 2005, part of the 137 bags the White Sox swiped as a team that season. That number ranked fourth in the majors, behind the Angels, the Mets and these Devil Rays. Iguchi ranked third on the White Sox behind Scott Podsednik’s 59 steals and the 16 of Rowand.

— It was Robin Ventura on the call alongside Darrin Jackson as Hawk Harrelson continued to recover from his eye surgery. The all-time White Sox great became the team’s 39th manager less than seven years later, taking over after the tenure of Ozzie Guillen, who was in his second season as the South Side skipper in 2005.

Since you been gone

While #SoxRewind is extensive, it doesn’t include all 162 regular-season contests, meaning we’re going to be skipping over some games. So what’d we miss since last time?

May 9, 2005: Despite getting to Hideo Nomo early, the White Sox had their eight-game winning streak snapped when the Devil Rays battled back against Freddy Garcia. White Sox lose, 4-2, fall to 24-8.

May 10, 2005: The White Sox had leads of 4-1 and 6-4 but blew them both. Future White Sox catcher Toby Hall hit a three-run game-tying homer off Jose Contreras at one point. But Jorge Cantu’s walk-off homer off Shingo Takatsu in the bottom of the ninth assured the Devil Rays a series win. White Sox lose, 7-6, fall to 24-9.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Wednesday, when you can catch the May 13, 2005, game against the Orioles, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. Mark Buehrle goes eight innings, and Konerko leads a come-from-behind win against the O’s.

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