White Sox

Pierzynski lifts Sox in Liriano's debut

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Pierzynski lifts Sox in Liriano's debut

MINNEAPOLIS --- Quite a night for former Minnesota Twins.

Francisco Liriano pitched well in his White Sox debut and catcher A.J. Pierzynski crushed his old team with a go-ahead, two-run homer in the ninth inning of a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Twins in front of 36,424 at Target Field.

Liriano struck out eight in six strong innings and earned a no decision in what had to be an emotional outing against the only other team for which he had ever pitched.

Pierzynskis two-run blast to right off Jeff Gray landed in the top row of the bleachers to end a night in which the White Sox offense struggled. The blast also allowed the White Sox to gain a half-game on the Detroit Tigers, who trailed 4-1 against the Boston Red Sox in a game delayed by rain.

Matt Thornton (3-6) earned the victory with a scoreless inning pitched. Addison Reed allowed a run but earned his 17 th save in 20 tries.

Pierzynski, a full-time player for the Twins from 2001-03, ended a frustrating night for White Sox hitters when he crushed Grays 0-2 offering.

The White Sox had struggled to do anything against Minnesota starter Nick Blackburn, who entered the contest with a 7.99 ERA.

Blackburn limited the White Sox to two runs and five hits in eight inning. But all that was undone when Pierzynski ripped his career-high tying 18 th homer. Alex Rios started the inning with a single to left on an 0-2 pitch from Gray (5-1).

One day earlier, Liriano addressed the media and declared he felt weird after the move to his former division rivals.

But once Liriano took the mound it was evident he was back in a comfortable place.

While never razor-sharp, the left-hander flashed the electric stuff that has made him a household named since he broke into the league in 2006.

Liriano ended his first inning with the White Sox with a strikeout of former batterymate Joe Mauer. He struck out two more batters in the second inning and was quickly on his way.

Liriano did pitch deep in the count often and it caught up with him. He struck out six batters through four innings, but had also thrown 72 pitches.

He also started the sixth inning with a strikeout of Denard Span to give him 15 of 18 batters retired.

Then Liriano began to tire.

Trailing 1-0, Darin Mastroianni had a one-out infield single and Liriano followed with consecutive walks to Mauer and Josh Willingham. Justin Morneau tied the game with an RBI fielders choice and Danny Valencia singled in a run with two outs to give the Twins a 2-1 lead. Liriano then evaded further damage when Brian Dozier flew out to the warning track with the bases loaded.

Liriano threw a season-high 113 pitches in his Sox debut. He limited his former team to two earned runs and four hits in six innings and struck out eight while walked four batters.

In his previous two starts against the Sox, Blackburn allowed 14 earned runs in 9 13 innings. On Tuesday he couldnt be solved.

He retired the side in order in four of the first six innings.

The White Sox scored a run in the second when Rios doubled and moved to third on Pierzynskis single off the wall. Dayan Viciedo then gave the Sox a 1-0 lead with a sacrifice fly.

The White Sox then needed a rally all with two outs in the seventh to tie the game. Pierzynski walked and Viciedo singled before Alexi Ramirez tied it with a bloop single to left.

ESPN.com ranks White Sox MLB's worst rotation

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USA TODAY

ESPN.com ranks White Sox MLB's worst rotation

On Wednesday morning, ESPN.com released their rankings of all 30 MLB team's starting rotations. The rankings were a nod to the current structure of the rotation, as well as how they were likely to perform in the future. And that is why the Chicago White Sox being ranked dead last in the league is somewhat alarming. 

Overall, the White Sox rotation is 28th in WHIP and 29th in strikeouts. 

Lucas Giolito is currently the team leader in wins with four, but his ERA sits at an unsightly 7.19. James Shields has been decent in spurts, but a general lack of run support has limited his effectiveness. Carlos Rodon has been a mixed bag since returning, but was able to reach the seventh inning in his last start. This is encouraging considering that he hadn't made it that far in any of his previous three starts. And Reynaldo Lopez continues to rack up quality starts—much like Shields—but has two wins to show for it. 

Veteran players like closing pitcher Joakim Soria and Shields are sure to be hot names on the trade market, and that could go a long way towards bringing in additional prospects to build up the White Sox farm system, and lead to a much improved rotation in the future.

So the White Sox obviously deserve to be ranked lowly until they can groom their minor league starter prospects into MLB-ready staff members, something that looks like it could take longer than originally expected. Flame-throwing top prospect Michael Kopech is still amassing high strikeouts numbers, but he is walking over six batters per outing, showing an obvious issue with control. 

White Sox fans can take their mind off of ESPN ranking the team's rotation 30th in the league by turning their attention to Eloy Jimenez. He has been absolutely crushing it in Double-A Birmingham, and will likely be making his debut with the Triple-A Charlotte Knights on Saturday. That game will be live on NBC Sports Chicago. So sit back, relax and look forward to the future, wherever it may take White Sox faithful. 

White Sox Talk Podcast: Ask Us Anything Part 2

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Ask Us Anything Part 2

In Part 2 of "Ask Us Anything" we answer the following questions: Who will be the biggest free agent the White Sox sign this off-season? What are the chances they trade Avi Garcia before the deadline? What's your assessment so far of Luis Robert?  Who's on your all-time busted prospect list? Is Omar Vizquel the next White Sox manager? Would the 1994 White Sox have won the World Series if there wasn't a strike?  What's the long term plan at third base? These questions and many more on this edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast.

If you missed Part 1 of 'Ask Us Anything', you can listen to the full episode here 

Listen to the full Part 2 of 'Ask Us Anything' at this link or in the embedded player below: