Friday, July 9, 2010
Updated 11:31 PM
By Brett Ballantini
CHICAGO On the night the Chicago White Sox learned that ace hurler Jake Peavy would indeed be lost for the season, they found themselves facing a herky-jerky lefthander who pitches as if hes detaching his latissimus dorsi with every toss.
Kansas City Royal Bruce Chen indeed lofted up a fair share of hittable Wiffleballs to the plate on Friday, falling down deep into the rabbit hole that the U.S. Cellular Field pitchers mound has become for opposing pitchers and losing to the white-hot White Sox, 8-2.
Chen had more luck pitching to first base, with two pickoffs, than he did to home plate, and was rewarded for his soft tosses with a shower after just 65 pitches.
Meanwhile the Chicago 9 played a pedestrian game, again striking early and once more finding themselves the beneficiaries of a stellar starters effort, this one coming from old hand Mark Buehrle.
But oh, how quiet and passive much of this game was. The men in black are clearly bored with all the winning, what with six in a row, 19 of 23, 23 of 28, and who knows how many other Sudoku puzzle combinations theyve amassed this summer.
And after the game, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen cheekily acknowledged the doldrums of winning, chastising assembled media for a lack of engaging questions: You guys are shocked were winning. When were losing, you guys have 30 questions for me!
Ah, Ozzie, living la dolce vita comes at a cost. Even the scribes must guard against the delicious malaise of a limitless winning streak.
Sure, there was a home run, from A.J. Pierzynski in the fourth, to run Chen. And then another, in the eighth, a three-run blast for the catchers first multi-homer game since 2008. The Campbells Soup Kid left shortly after games end, but his skipper knew just how much the clouts meant.
A.J. was really struggling, Guillen said. He really needed this game.
There was even a near-homer from Andruw Jones to plate two in the second, a screaming double that dented the outfield wall some six feet short, leaving the Curacaoian still one round tripper shy of 400.
I thought I got it, but it was a changeup and the topspin knocked it down, Jones said.
There was spiffy defense, including Gordon Beckham playing mini-Willie Mays to dash out to gather a short pop from Scrabble master Yuniesky Betancourt and a couple of afterburner flies snagged by turfeater centerfielder Alex Rios.
And pitching, yes, there was some of that. Buehrle celebrated his first start with 10 Chisox seasons under his belt by earning his eighth win of the season to get back above sea level. It was an unmasterfully exasperating, anesthetically efficient seven-plus inningstypical Buehrle, 114 pitches that insomniatic Royals hitters will ViewMaster through while staring up at the ceiling tonight.
Buehrle nearly didnt last long enough to see the win. In eerie reminiscence of three days earlier, when Peavy snapped a muscle and walked off the mound and into muscle rehab, K.C. leadoff man Scott Podsednik drilled the starter with a line drive for the first hit of the game. After a lengthy powwow on the mound with Guillen and pitching coach Don Cooper, while 25,572 fans turned blue holding breath, Buehrle ignored his rapidly numbing fingers to finish out the inning with little other negative fanfare.
I told him not to hit is so hard next time, is how Buehrle recounted scolding Podsednik, a teammate over two separate White Sox stints. Then hes on first, dancing back and forth for 20 pitches. I told him, Just go, steal, so I can stop throwing over to first.
Wunderkind fireballer Sergio Santos came on relieve Buehrle in the eighth. One guesses that with the ease the southpaw put on display for the first seven, he simply got tired of the baseball game and retired to the clubhouse for some Twittering, or Super Mario Bros.
Nevertheless, it was frying pan to the fire for the City of Fountains, as Santos dismissed the Royals in the eighth with a mere eight tosses.
In the bottom half, Paul Konerko golfed a gapper to the wall in right-center to plate Rios, Chicago momentarily believing they were paid by the hour in an attempt to extend the game. Two batters later, Pierzynski launched his bomb to right to put the White Sox up by a hard eight and qualifying the game as an official laffer.
White Sox reliever Jeff Marquez came on for his major league debut in the ninth and coughed up a two-run homer to Betancourt, but thankfully for the rookie, the Royals had already long retired from this game.
The Triple Play
Saturdays Pitching Probables (6:10 p.m., WGN)
White Sox RHP Gavin Floyd (4-7, 4.43 ERA)
Royals RHP Brian Bannister (7-6, 5.54 ERA)
A.J. Pierzynski was 2-for-3 with two homers and four RBI, snapping an extended slump and raising his average to .243. Funny, you wonder whether when things are going well and the backstops characteristically crucial feistiness is less necessary, Pierzynski flags a bit. Come dog days, as the Chisox need some help digging deep, the Campbells Soup Kid is sure to stand up and be counted.
White Sox Notable Numbers
The White Sox have won six straight, 12 of 13, 19 of 23, and 23 of 28 Their five losses over the last 28 games have been by a total of eight runs, and none of the five losses were by more than two runs They are 12-1 in their last 13 at U.S. Cellular Field The starters are 18-5 with a 2.27 ERA and 26 quality starts in their last 29 games and a 1.77 ERA in the eight games since July 2 Pitchers allowed their first run in 18 innings and first earned run in 31 innings Buehrle is 5-1 with a 2.23 ERA in his last six starts, and is now 21-11 with a 3.56 ERA in his career vs. K.C. Konerko is hitting .359 with six homers and 30 RBI in his last 35 games Carlos Quentin is batting .341 with seven homers and 14 RBI in his past 14 games.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.