White Sox

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

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

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

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

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.

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

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USA TODAY

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.

Avisail Garcia is back from his lengthy DL stay just in time to prove he's a part of White Sox long-term future

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USA TODAY

Avisail Garcia is back from his lengthy DL stay just in time to prove he's a part of White Sox long-term future

For the first time in two months, Avisail Garcia is back in the White Sox lineup.

Garcia’s return from his lengthy stay on the disabled list was a refreshing sight for a team that came into the season believing he’d be one of its biggest bats. After all, Garcia was excellent in 2017, an All-Star campaign for him that saw him with some of the best hitting statistics in the American League.

But even with those good numbers, there were plenty of questions about where Garcia stood in the rebuilding White Sox long-term future. After a long wait for that breakout season, was it going to be the new normal or a one-hit wonder? He’s got just two more seasons of team control left, and there are a ton of outfield prospects developing behind him in the minor leagues.

His admittedly slow start this year didn’t help clarify anything: He returned to action with a .233/.250/.315 slash line, a far cry from the .330/.380/.506 line he finished with last season.

So now he’s back, and the “prove it” season resumes. He’s got time left to show the White Sox he can fend off challenges from the likes of Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Blake Rutherford, Luis Alexander Basabe, Micker Adolfo and all the rest. Getting back on the field is the first step in doing that.

“Be healthy and play hard like I’ve been playing all my career,” Garcia said Friday. “Just trying stay healthy, do my routine and do my best to help my team win.

“My knee is good. My hamstring is good. I have no pain in my body right now. I feel great, great and focused and trying to compete every single day.”

The injury — injuries, it turns out — certainly didn’t help. After the hamstring strain he suffered turned out to be a tad more significant than originally believed, he suffered a separate knee injury during his recovery that kept him on the shelf a while longer.

But Garcia showed that maybe his bat is ready to come back to life during his rehab at Triple-A Charlotte. He slashed an eye-popping .360/.429/.840 with three home runs, three doubles and nine RBIs in just seven games.

No one’s expecting that kind of production now that he’s back at the major league level. But plenty of fans and observers are expecting a lot who is still young enough to warrant consideration for a spot on the White Sox next contending team. He’s got the advantage of already playing at the big league level to show off for all the decision makers.

But there’s no doubt that it’s a stacked group behind him. Jimenez, the third-ranked prospect in baseball, was just promoted to Triple-A. A trio of high-performing outfielders — Basabe, Alex Call and Joel Booker — just got bumped up to Double-A. And perhaps the most exciting group of all — Robert, Rutherford, Adolfo and Luis Gonzalez — are all playing together at Class A Winston-Salem.

That’s an awful lot of young, inexpensive depth to contend with in the discussion for how the White Sox should align their outfield of the future. But Garcia can still stay in that discussion by doing one thing: hitting. His quest to turn his season around starts now.