White Sox

No quit in White Sox, losing streak ends at eight

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No quit in White Sox, losing streak ends at eight

Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010
Updated 8:05 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

OAKLAND Its not known whether White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen had to kick anybodys behind in order to coax a last-gasp, 4-3 win over the Oakland As on Wednesday. But if he did, it worked, as Chicago snapped its season-high eight-game losing streak on the strength of a tying base tap by pinch-hitter Mark Kotsay and an eventual game-winning, pinch-hit double by Mark Teahen.

Kotsay drove in pinch-runner Alejandro De Aza on a two-out, full-count single to right, tying the contest at three. On the very next pitch, Teahen drove the ball deep to left, plating pinch-runner Gordon Beckham.

Were not going to give up, Guillen said of the comeback, Oaklands first loss this season when leading after eight innings, dropping the As to 68-1 in such circumstances. One thing about this ballclubthose guys hear from me what I tell you every dayIm proud of and pleased with the way they play. I told them Im happy the way theyve gone after it all the way from spring training to now. I mean it. They played hard all the way through and were going to continue to play hard in the games we had left.

Guillen was making a passing reference to a team meeting held before the game, where the manager both praised his players for their efforts and reminded them to dig deep for the final 11 games.

His players were neither surprised by the comeback, nor unimpressed by rallying after being one strike from a ninth consecutive setback.

Were going to play to the end, said Juan Pierre, who recorded his 60th stolen base on the season with a swipe of home in the eighth. Guys are professional in here, and its been kind of a lull during the eight games weve lost. Weve been playing hard and things havent been going right. Today we got a break, finally, with Kotsay getting a big hit, the bullpen held up and it was a good win.

That was great; you cant ask for much more, White Sox starter Edwin Jackson said. Thats the importance of keeping the game close: You keep it in striking distance and youve got a chance to do what we did today, come back and win. If you let it get out of hand, itll take a lot of runs to come back and win. Definitely, it was a battle today on both ends and defensively, but we overcame adversity and got a win.

Jackson pitched another strong game for the White Sox but narrowly averted being saddled with his 13th loss this season, courtesy of the ninth-inning rally.

I was feeling for Jackson, that if we lose this game, Jackson wouldnt be rewarded for his effort, Guillen said. Hell of an effort out there; he threw the ball very well for us. Im happy for the win and the team, but Im happy Jackson didnt get a loss.

Jackson, a smooth customer to the core, was nonplussed by the possibility of being yoked with a tough-luck defeat despite spreading five hits and three runs (two earned) over seven innings, striking out six and walking just one.

In this game, you come to learn you cant control wins and losses, Jackson said. The only thing you can do is keep the game close and give the team a chance to win. After that if you get a loss, it sucks, if you get a win, its great, and if you get a no-decision, its better than a loss. The team wonthats all that matters.

Jacksons opponent, Brett Anderson, benefited from an offense slightly more inclined to score; in 6 23 innings, the lefty rendered six hits and just one run, but had his seventh win of the season stolen away by Kotsay.

The game began on a strange note. In the top of the second, the White Sox played musical chairs, as starting DH Manny Ramirez remained on the bench and Carlos Quentin and Tyler Flowers slid up a spot in the lineup, with Dayan Viciedo replacing Ramirez at DH.

Later it was revealed that while Ramirez was listed as the starting DH in the lineup, hed come to Guillen before his pregame meeting with the club and said he wasnt feeling well. Postgame, Ramirez manifested the credo of Billy Crystals Fernandoits better to look good than to feel goodrocking the team bus with a snappy suit that earned whistles in the locker room (and tie courtesy of teammate Andruw Jones), sniffling on his way there.

Scoring opened in the third, when Chris Carter led off with a full-count, booming home run to left. It was the first career round-tripper for Carter, who managed to go 4-for-8 with his first career hit and homer in this White Sox series, after starting his major-league career in a 0-for-33 slump, the longest hitless streak to open a career in the majors for a player since Vic Harris started 0-for-36 for the Texas Rangers in 1972.

Oakland doubled its lead on an RBI single from Jack Cust in the sixth, scoring Cliff Pennington.

In the seventh, the White Sox executed a mini-rally, the only kind they seemed capable of executing over their eight-game losing streak. Quentin started things off with a double to left, advanced to third on a Flowers flyout and scored when Viciedo tapped a single to left, prompting As manager Bob Geren to escort Anderson from the game. But with two outs, Boof Bonser came on in relief and whiffed Brent Morel to escape the jam and strand Viciedo.

In the bottom of the frame, a two-out error by second baseman Brent Lillibridge would give the As what appeared to be the deciding run of the contest. Lillibridge chucked a ball past first baseman Paul Konerko on a routine grounder, allowing Jeff Larish to score.

Down 3-1, the White Sox again rallied, putting runners on first and third before a strange play allowed Pierre on third to steal home. Alexei Ramirez was caught leaning off of first base by reliever Brad Ziegler, but when the ball was dropped during the rundown of Ramirez, Pierre streaked home and executed a picture-perfect slide to score.

I wasnt aware they were even going to give me a stolen base on that, Pierre said of his steal, which moved him ahead of Scott Podsednik and into sole possession of second place on Chicagos all-time season steals chart.

Ramirez, who had returned safely to first, was eliminated on a double-play grounder off the bat of Alex Rios, and another White Sox rally ended small.

Before the heroics by Kotsay and Teahen were even a glimmer in the Chisox eye, Konerko led off the ninth with a strikeout and Quentin walked. A.J. Pierzynski pinch-hit for Flowers and tapped out, pushing pinch-runner De Aza to second. Thats where Kotsay dug in and started to stop the Chicago losing streak.

Matt Thornton relieved Jackson and pitched 1 23 scoreless innings to earn his fourth win of the season. With the tying run on first, J.J. Putz came on in the ninth to close the game out, but surrendered a single to Mark Ellis. Lefty Chris Sale came on to face Steve Tolleson, whiffing the pinch-hitter on a nasty changeup to extinguish the fire and earn his third save in three tries.

Jackson, Kotsay, Teahen and Sale all contributed to the rescue effort, and the mood postgame was immediately brighter as the White Sox packed up and headed south for their final road series of the season (vs. the Los Angeles Angels, beginning on Friday).

We played good as a group, Guillen said. The only difference between today and the past was we got clutch hitting, getting big hits late in the game, with two outs. We pitched very well late in the game, and Jackson threw well.

But for the starter, the game was a struggle.

It was a battle, one of those games where you dont necessarily feel that great, but its all mental, said Jackson, speaking personally but could easily have been taking the temperature of his entire team. You just go out there and compete. It was tough to get loose a little bit, but the more you think about it, the more its going to affect you. You just kind of laugh at it and say, here we go

In the end, a weight had been lifted off of the White Sox, Guillen joking that hed not only forgotten how to shake hands in congratulation after a win, but that he might have been shaking hands with a couple of his newer players for the very first time.

A win is always fun, Pierre said. You see guys more upbeat in here. I dont care when you win, its always a good time.

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

Renteria believes Kopech is 'looking far more advanced than people might think'

Renteria believes Kopech is 'looking far more advanced than people might think'

On the first day that Dane Dunning threw live batting practice since having Tommy John surgery last March, leave it to Michael Kopech to steal his thunder.

Not to minimize the pivotal and symbolic breakthrough for Dunning, one of the White Sox top prospects, who is definitely someone to watch in 2020, but after Kopech completed his own live batting practice against White Sox hitters, the words coming from manager Rick Renteria about Kopech was the biggest pitching news of the day.

“Honestly, he’s looking far more advanced than most people might think,” Renteria said about Kopech, who is six months ahead of Dunning in his return from Tommy John.  “I think he’s commanding a lot better. Changeup, breaking ball, fastball, the misses are minimal. The ball is coming out of his hand loose and hot. Looks really good.”

Kopech agrees.

“Yeah. I’m a lot more comfortable already than I thought I would be. With all the work I put in last year and ending the season on a good note with a couple innings there, I felt like coming into spring was a little more relaxed for me, because I wasn’t having to get here and then prove that I can still pitch,” Kopech said. “I do feel like I’m in a good spot. I do feel like there’s some things that need to be worked on. I’m in a better spot than what I thought I would be.”

Kopech faced some menacing White Sox hitters. Among them Yoan Moncada and Yasmani Grandal. The new White Sox catcher, who is coming back from an injured calf injury, tested the calf by running out of the box to first base several times, showing no signs of problems.

With a flamethrower like Kopech, you might be wondering about his velocity. Ask Kopech, and he’s not thinking about it at all. At least, not yet.

“To be honest, I don’t want to know until I’m in a game. There’s no point in me finding out how hard I’m throwing right now.  It would just be something I’m conscious about that I don’t need to be conscious about.”

He’ll throw another batting practice session in five days and says that his first Cactus League appearance could come after that.

“I think I’m getting close.  Breaking balls are something I’ll need to fine tune a little bit.  I need to be a little quicker with them,” Kopech said. “I feel very comfortable.  I’m pretty relaxed. I don’t feel like I’m getting too far ahead of myself, but I haven’t been in a game situation yet so I can’t really speak to that very well.”

As for Dunning, taking the mound against live hitters for the first time in more than a year, he was thrown straight into the fire. Moncada was the first batter he faced.

“I was a little nervous because it was my first time facing hitters. I was a little amped,” Dunning said about pitching to Moncada. “If one runs away from me, I think that would have been really bad for my career. Luckily enough I was able to actually throw some strikes. It was fun.”

Dunning was able to locate his fastball. “I was getting after it. It was a controlled hard,” he said. He got a feel for his changeup and spun some breaking balls as well.

Considering the long sludge that is Tommy John recovery, how big of a step was this for Dunning?

“I feel like it’s that hump I just got over, facing live hitters again. Getting back in action again, it’s exciting for me because I know that games are coming soon.”

 

James McCann can still play 'a pivotal role' for White Sox

James McCann can still play 'a pivotal role' for White Sox

James McCann went from backup to All Star and back again.

The White Sox upgraded at catcher this winter, adding Yasmani Grandal on a team-record contract. Make no mistake, Grandal’s signing is an inarguably good thing for the South Siders. He’s got a track record of success both at and behind the plate, with the winning experience necessary to help this team get to where it wants to be.

But it might not have been the best thing for McCann, individually, after he earned the starting job with what he accomplished in 2019, going from a career backup to a spot on the AL All-Star team.

Any frustration at returning to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart is more than understandable.

“There’s things about the business that you can’t control,” McCann said on the day pitchers and catchers reported to Camelback Ranch. “All you can control is how you handle your own self and how you handle your own preparations, and that was my main focus throughout the offseason and that will continue to be my main focus: how to make myself better and how to help the team win.”

Of course, even with Grandal slated to get the majority of the playing time behind the plate, McCann is still expected to play a valuable role on this White Sox team, one looking to play October baseball for the first time in more than a decade.

After all, two All-Star catchers are better than one, right?

“A hallmark of a good team is having quality depth,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “That's something we talked about from the start of being one of the goals that we set out to accomplish through this rebuild, and quite frankly, it was one of the things I've talked about publicly perhaps of not being entirely there yet in terms of organizational depth at certain spots. Catcher isn't one of those spots.

“We've got two All-Star caliber catchers, both of whom we anticipate contributing to a good club this summer.”

Independent of how often he’ll find his way into the lineup, whether McCann can produce at the same level that earned him an All-Star nod is very much an uncertainty. After slashing .316/.371/.502 in the first half last season, he struggled mightily after the All-Star break, hitting just .226/.281/.413. Those second-half numbers were far more in line with the numbers he put during his five years with the Detroit Tigers than what he did in his first few months with the White Sox.

That uncertainty is no longer a season-defining issue now that Grandal sits atop the catching depth chart, but McCann can obviously still have a positive effect on this team. In addition to simply providing depth, he showed last season a great ability to work with White Sox pitchers, particularly Lucas Giolito, and earned rave reviews from his teammates for his work ethic and dedication to game-planning.

“A pivotal role,” manager Rick Renteria said of how important a part McCann would play for the White Sox in 2020. “We have two catchers that are two All Stars, potentially.

“He’s an integral part of who we are as we move forward. … You can't run a catcher out there every single day. You can't expect one guy's going to catch 162 games. It's not gonna happen. I ran Mac out there trying to catch almost 162 games, and you start to break down a little bit.

“Having two guys who you can truthfully trust and being able to manage the pitching is a huge benefit to us, and we're happy that we have these two guys to balance us out.”

White Sox pitchers like Dallas Keuchel have touted the catching tandem as being an ultimate luxury. And for what it’s worth, both catchers said that having the two of them on the roster is a positive.

“James has been great,” Grandal said. “Obviously, I’ve needed him here just to go through a few things. For the most part, we’ve just been talking catching and how we can get in that aspect. … For me, it’s going to be how can I get in his head in order to kind of see it the same way and then we can talk about it and go from there.”

“It’s a good group,” McCann said. “Obviously Yaz strengthens that. I’m going to take stuff from him, as I’m sure he’ll be able to take some stuff from me. That’s what makes a team good, when guys can grow from each other and push each other.”

Who knows what will end up happening with McCann. The White Sox would figure to be better with him than without him, someone who does reliable work behind the plate and is capable of All-Star production with the bat, even if there’s no certainty those numbers will return in 2020.

But McCann is also slated to hit free agency at season’s end, and perhaps some team comes calling, putting the White Sox in a position to deal from a position of strength. After all, Zack Collins is still a part of this organization and its catching depth, a first-round pick who flourished offensively at Triple-A last season.

But for any understandable frustration that might be lingering, McCann spoke with the same type of confidence about the 2020 White Sox as everyone else during the early days of camp.

Heck, he might have come off more confident than anyone.

“If I said we weren’t trying to win a World Series, then I’d be lying,” he said. “It’s win now, and it’s not just get to the playoffs, it’s win a World Series.”

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