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White Sox say goodbye to 2010; Paulie, A.J. too?

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White Sox say goodbye to 2010; Paulie, A.J. too?

Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010
Updated 5:57 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com
Even for the last-place team, the final game of the season is always an emotional affair.

The Chicago White Sox had sewn up second place in the AL Central days earlier, but the open spaces of their projected 2011 roster is what will trouble fans for weeks ahead.

In Sundays finale, White Sox fans bade a possible farewell to two longtime Pale Hose heroes.

In the top of the fourth, six-season catcher A.J Pierzynski, the feisty soul of the team, trotted off the field to a loud ovation, having played possibly his final game for the White Sox. Three innings later, an even louder response was generated for Paul Konerko, a 12-season White Sox and five-year team captain.

The surge of emotionspurred by a labored 5 23 innings from Edwin Jacksonpaced the White Sox to a 6-5 win over the Cleveland Indians. The White Sox finished 2010 as the hottest team in baseball, winning nine of their final 11 games and ending the year at 88-74. With the victory, manager Ozzie Guillen picked up his 600th career win.

After the game, both players spoke at length about the emotion of the day, as well as their futures. Before the two heroes left the field, Pierzynski implored the crowd, next year, bring back Paulie! and Konerko teased twice that there might be more.

The big blasts in the game came off the bat of Alexei Ramirez, who iced his Silver Slugger award with a first-inning home run and second-inning double, driving in the teams first three runs. Later, Juan Pierre stole his 69th base of the season and drove in the other three runs for the White Sox as part of a 3-for-5 day.

It was a nice way to win, Guillen said. A lot of good things happened today. Speaking as a friend or a baseball fan, it was a privilege to manage all those guys out therethey played hard.

Pierzynski went 0-for-2 in the finale and finished the season batting .270. Konerko was 2-for-3, upping his average to .312. The first baseman fell short in an attempt to clinch his third season with 40 or more home runs, however, finishing with run production numbers of 39 longballs and 111 RBI. Not that he cared much.

I hit 40 homers twice, and the world didnt change, Konerko said. Chasing an individual goal is not what Im about. If you chase the numbers, youre in trouble. This year, my numbers were just a byproduct of my plan day-to-day.

Konerko continued his insightful look at how the 2010 season has differed for him.

You dont have great years, you put together great years. Its a long-haul type of thing, he said. I gave away less at-bats fewer than 100 than I ever have this seasonthats a choice. Im a better leader because of how I went about it.

Natch, the self-deprecating Konerko would end his lesson on a comic note, laughing: I guess it took me 11 years to figure that out.

Both Guillen and Konerko described a rather comic scenario in the White Sox dugout, where as the game went on Konerko wanted to pull himself in order to get Mark Kotsay one more at-bat on the season, and Kotsay refusing to substitute for the legend. Bench coach Joey Cora had to intervene and make a final ruling.

Kotsay and I were both kind of arguing about it, Konerko said. Hes a great guy. Ill do anything for that guy.

When Kotsay trotted out to replace Konerko with one out in the seventh inning, the two had a lengthy embrace near the pitchers mound.

Pierzynski, who is the more affordable and potentially more essential team depth-wise option to return of the pair, was both grateful and urgent in his postgame comments.

The White Sox are a special team, and Chicago is a special place, he said. Ill always be thankful. White Sox fans are the best fans, and Chicago is the best place to play. Ive always said I wanted to be back. I want to be a White Sox until I retire.

Jackson pitched into the fourth without allowing a hit, and exited in the sixth having surrendered five hits and three runs while striking out six.

Lucky me, lucky me, a smiling Jackson said of piloting this monumental finale. Today was just a fun game overall. Everybody was loose. It was the last game. You can easily go out and give up, but guys continued to battle and play hard, so thats always a plus.

The Indians rallied for two runs off of Chris Sale after the rookie sensation struck out four of the first five batters he faced. But the southpaw induced a groundout from Michael Brantley to end the game, and the 2010 season.

Magic Number: 1,768

Paul Konerko logged his 1,768th game with the White Sox, the fourth-most in franchise history. He left in the top of the seventh to a standing ovation and a curtain call from the crowd of 24,539.

Final Word

The only stat that matters is winning. Guillen on the importance of his 600th career win, accomplished with Sundays finale.

Next on the Mound

The White Sox will continue this six-game series in Cleveland, next April 1. Early guesses at the Opening Day starter? The safe bet here is Mark Buehrle, for a team-record ninth time.

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

One plate appearance was all it took for Zack Collins to show White Sox fans what he's all about

One plate appearance was all it took for Zack Collins to show White Sox fans what he's all about

Though only four runs separated the White Sox from the Cubs in the ninth inning Wednesday night, it felt like a blowout when Zack Collins made his first trip to the plate as a big leaguer.

The No. 11 prospect in the organization was called up to the majors ahead of Tuesday's game, though he didn't see any action then, and he wasn't in the starting lineup for Wednesday night's Crosstown contest on the North Side, either.

But manager Rick Renteria called on Collins to pinch hit — an appearance perhaps only made possible by National League rules in a National League park — with two outs to go in the top of the ninth inning.

"It was huge for me. It was a dream come true," he said after the game. "Just stepping up to the plate, looking to the outfield, seeing the crowd. We were down four in the top of the ninth and obviously trying to get on base, trying to keep the train moving. I thought I put a good at-bat together and it was a lot of fun.

"Rizzo said a couple things to me, said congratulations and stuff like that. That was pretty cool. Other than that I was kind of in a daze out there looking around. Like you said, soaking it all in, enjoying the moment."

It only took one plate appearance for Collins to show White Sox fans what he's all about. He worked the count full and took a walk. Get used to that.

Collins made quite a habit of that kind of thing in the minor leagues, posting huge on-base percentages over the last few years. In 122 games at Double-A Birmingham last season, he had a .382 on-base percentage, and he wasn't far off that mark in his 50 games at Triple-A Charlotte this season, reaching base at a .374 clip. Last season, he walked 101 times for a 19 percent walk rate. This season, he walked 36 times for a 17.5 percent walk rate.

His walk rate in the majors is a cool 100 percent at the moment. The 1.000 on-base percentage looks even better.

"That's pretty good, right?" he joked.

Patience at the plate might end up being Collins' most valuable attribute at the major league level. His offensive skills have been lauded since the White Sox took him with a top-10 pick in the 2016 draft, and he hit 49 homers in his four minor league seasons, also showing off that power by winning the Home Run Derby at the Southern League All-Star Game last year. His defensive skills have remained a question, though, and while he'll most likely serve as the White Sox No. 2 catcher behind James McCann, who's in the midst of an All-Star campaign, he can also be utilized at designated hitter and perhaps even first base.

But it's that good eye that the White Sox are hoping to see from the get-go. They saw it Wednesday night, and it's something Collins said has always been a part of his game.

"I've never really worked on that, so I would guess it kind of came naturally. It's a good thing to have," he said. "Guys at this level have some pretty good stuff. I'm looking to be aggressive but also swing at strikes."

You only get one chance to make a first impression, they say. Collins' first impression was pretty emblematic of the kind of hitter he hopes to be in the bigs.

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Lucas Giolito’s streak comes to an end, and now comes true test of his transformation

Lucas Giolito’s streak comes to an end, and now comes true test of his transformation

Mama said there’d be days like this.

I’m not entirely sure whether Lucas Giolito’s mama told him that or not. But you don’t need a baseball-lovin’ mama to know that even the best pitchers in the game can get lit up sometimes.

If Giolito is truly that now, one of the best pitchers in the game, he’ll prove it with what follows, not with what happened Wednesday night at Wrigley Field.

A year after struggling to the tune of seven walks and three wild pitches in a Crosstown game he still won, Giolito entered the second of the two North Side rivalry games as a surefire All Star, a completely transformed pitcher who currently sits as one of the best Cy Young candidates in the American League. But you might not have known that watching him give up three homers worth a combined six runs in his 4.1 innings Wednesday.

This wasn’t exactly shades of the 2018 version of Giolito, who gave up more runs than any pitcher in baseball, had the highest ERA and WHIP of any qualified starting pitcher in baseball and walked more batters than any pitcher in the AL. No, Wednesday he still managed to strike out nine Cubs hitters and walked only three. But the Cubs hit him hard, with three balls leaving the yard, the back-breaker of which was a first-inning grand slam off the bat of White Sox killer Willson Contreras.

"I got hit hard," Giolito said after the game. "That was the hardest I've been hit in a long time. Just hanging some sliders, changeup was probably the worst it's been this year. It is what it is. You're not going to go out there and have a great outing every single time."

It doesn’t compare to some of the worst outings Giolito had last season, but it was shocking to see considering the incredible run he came in on. Entering Wednesday night’s contest, Giolito had won eight straight starts, with a 0.94 ERA during that stretch. He had given up as many runs after facing five batters Wednesday as he had in his previous five starts combined.

That stretch is now over, and it’s up to Giolito to make this a blip rather than a turning point.

"It’s just a blip in the season. It’s a little bump in the road," catcher James McCann said after the game. "You are not going to go eight-inning shutout every time. It’s how do you bounce back from this one and learn from tonight and move forward."

What he’s done so far this season would lead you to believe that’s very possible. One of the biggest talking points for Giolito, as well as McCann, when it comes to describing the difference between the 2018 and 2019 versions has been Giolito’s ability to turn the page. That’s typically been discussed as something that happens within games: A bad first inning hasn’t led to a complete meltdown like it did too often last season.

“The physical stuff has always been there,” McCann said before Wednesday’s game. “There's a few tune-ups he did, shortened his arm, all that stuff. But obviously, it's the mental approach.

“I can point to multiple occasions this season where he's had a rough first inning. In Toronto, he gave up three base hits to the first four hitters, and then the next thing you know he's hasn't given up another base hit and we're in the eighth inning. He gave up a three-run homer to the Royals in the first inning, and all of a sudden it's the eighth inning and those are the only three runs he's given up.

“So that's kind of been the most impressive thing to me. His last outing, he gave up the solo homer in the first and really didn't have his best stuff, and next thing you know it's the sixth, seventh inning and that's the only run he's given up. Last year, some of those outings turn into bad outings where he gets chased in the fourth inning. This year his mental approach, his determination, his grit is a little different.”

Now he’ll have to do something he’s rarely had to in 2019, and that’s flush a bad start. Wednesday night’s outing was Giolito’s shortest of the season, matching the 4.1 innings he threw against the Seattle Mariners on April 6 and not including the 2.2 innings he logged before being removed with an injury against the Kansas City Royals on April 17. Wednesday marked the first time Giolito gave up multiple home runs in a start this season.

The bottom line is that Giolito has been so good in 2019 that he hasn’t had to deal with the fallout of a bad outing. Giolito has credited his turnaround to the improvement in his routine. That will be tested now, and it’s no surprise that he’s confident enough in it to be ready for anything.

“I'd say now I'm just on the same mental routine, the same physical routine day in and day out. Nothing changes,” Giolito said Tuesday. “It's just like my last start or future starts, I'm going to go out there with the same good, positive outlook going into the game. Whereas last year, I think I was searching for things a lot, so it was a little more up and down. Now it's much better.”

One rough start won’t change Giolito’s status as an All Star or put a damper on what’s been a season worth celebrating. But how he responds will be the true test of whether the transformed Giolito is here to stay.

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