Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Updated: 2:33 AM
By Brett Ballantini
SEATTLE Voices were muted and low in a clubhouse you would have sworn sat in the mausoleum otherwise known as the Metrodome after Sundays fall-from-ahead, 7-6 low-blow of a loss to the Minnesota Twins. Alex Rios called his wild slingshot of a game-ending error not acceptable. Bobby Jenks, who earned the loss as his two hits, two walks and zero outs sped the Chicago White Soxs free-fall out of town, spoke of how lonely it was on the mound when the world is collapsing all around him. Sergio Santos, the rookie shortstop-turned-fireballer assigned the custodial work on Jenkss mess and similarly unable to retire a batter, mused that the last time he was on the mound in a similar situation, he was 11 years old.
But there was no resignation or depression in the room. The White Sox responded as a band of brothers would. In fact, the toughest words came from manager Ozzie Guillen himself, proclaiming that any White Sox player afraid to fail wouldnt be a White Sox player for long. That may sound harsh out of context, but the skippers sentiment was shared with the full knowledge he believed every man in his clubhouse would rebound strong from Sundays sickening spate of adversity.
How appropriate, then, that the game-winning hit came from one of those Pale Hose seeking an instantaneous shot at redemption, Alex Rios. It was Rios fifth-inning, two-run blast that wasnt only the 100th of this career but so forceful it bounced off an unfortunate fans face in left and bounded back to the field.
Rios clout put the White Sox up by two runs in an eventual 6-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Monday. Rookie Daniel Hudson pitched 6.2 innings of at-times dominant ball, whiffing six Ms and scattering five hits for his first win of the season.
Hudson threw strikes and was pretty good, Guillen said, remarking that he emphasized diffusing pressure to the rookie before the game.
He threw strikes, catcher A.J. Pierzynski agreed. He was a little too excited the other day. His rhythm was different tonight, slower and more under control. He threw the ball where he wanted to and was in control.
Hudson himself was much more content with this second start of the season, which became his second career major-league win.
After that first inning, I just wanted to focus on putting up some zeros and knew eventually those guys would get some runs for me, he said.
Before the game, White Sox General Manager Ken Williams mused that Rios had the worst luck hes ever seen in baseball, and that with how hard hes punished the ball all year, he should be hitting .400.
Well, the GM will have to settle for his most glorious reclamation project yet swimming steadily along as the White Soxs MVP, upping his digits on the year to 16 homers, 54 RBI and a .307 average and always chiming in with superb defense.
Its all about winning, its not about milestones, Rios said of home run No. 100. Its good when you win.
Rios has been big for us all year long, Guillen said. He continues to produce, and drove home big, big runs for us. Hes playing great.
The White Sox scored their final two runs of the game in the eighth. The first came on a monumental round-tripper from Andruw Jones, which had the dual effect of scoffing Detroit (now 2.5 games behind the Sox) when the ball bounded off of losing Tigers pitcher Enrique Gonzalezs name on the Safeco Field scoreboard. Chicago remained aggressive, with Alexei Ramirez following with a single and stolen baseadvance to third on error, plated by a beastly gapper by Gordon Beckham. The latter two players were specifically cited by Guillen postgame as sparkplugs as responsible as anyone for the turnaround of the team.
Indeed, the game had reached a point where with every Chisox swing, Seattle winced. That was a big turnaround from Sundays loss, which was pitched as a potential turning point for this White Sox team. And by turning point, no one meant a positive one.
But the team itself hardly winced, treating the final Minnesota loss as little more than a flesh wound, a glancing blow.
We didnt falter, we didnt change anything, we didnt panic and say, Oh my gosh, we have to win this game, Pierzynski said. We just went out and played, and things worked out.
We had a tough series in Minnesota and yet we bounced back here, Rios said. We know that every game is important.
And naturally, the bounce-back didnt surprise the skipper, whos been preaching an even keel through bad times and good.
I didnt believe this club would have any carryover from Minnesota, Guillen said. Even when we had the winning streak, we put it away, right away. I talk to the guys every day about one day at a time, and dont worry about yesterday or tomorrow. Thats the attitude we should take all year.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.