Humber's gem lost in bullpen collapse

Humber's gem lost in bullpen collapse
September 28, 2011, 9:40 pm
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Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011
Posted: 4:07 p.m. Updated: 5:33 p.m.

By BrettBallantini
CSNChicago.com White SoxInsiderFollow@CSNChi_Beatnik
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After two straight subpar starts, Phil Humber had expressed hope that when he drives home after pitching in his last startthe finale to the Chicago White Sox seasonhed have a smile on his face.

Humber, in a season filled with most improbable success, accomplished his mission, with one-hit pitching over 6 23 innings and a career-high nine strikeouts. With a game score of 71, it tied the Lillibridge game in the Bronx back in April for Humbers second-best of the season.

Today I went with more of a relaxed mindset, Humber said, noting that for most of the second half hes been putting too much pressure on his shoulders. I worked through things and pitched strong.

Phils been great all year, look at his numbers, catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. Its a shame we couldnt get him his 10th win. I said at the time in July, he should have been an All-Star He can go out with his head held high, hopefully knowing he has a spot in the spring.

Unfortunately for Humber, he fell short in his bid for that 10th win and a record over .500 when Chris Sale blew the save in the ninth, when he loaded the bases and proceeded to walk in the tying and lead run.

Chris didnt quite have it, White Sox interim manager Don Cooper said. He had a surprising lack of strikes. He just didnt have it for us today.

The White Sox finished in third place in the AL Central, at 79-83.

The notion that Humber has been the White Sox's top starter this season if difficult to dispute. He leads the staff (in his 25 starts) in average game score (54.5) and WHIP (1.18), and finished second in ERA (3.75).

Chicagos first run came on a solo homer in the fourth from Gordon Beckham, his 10th of the season. The White Sox took the lead in the next inning, when Alexei Ramirez doubled home Alejandro De Aza. Toronto had leaped out to a lead in the first inning before an out had been recorded in the game, as Mike McCoy led off with a walk and was doubled home by Eric Thames.

Overall, it was another terrible offensive day for the White Sox, with lost opportunities at every turn. In what ex-Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen would have termed White Sox baseball, the club was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base. Twice the sacks were stranded packed.

Still, the slim lead was intact heading into the ninth, when Sale came on and stitched two hits and three walks into two runs and a blown save. Sergio Santos and Will Ohman were forced to come on and bail Sale out, leaving the score at 3-2.

But the White Sox failed to rally in the ninth, evening Coopers career slate at 1-1.

Ive got to believe that my managing tenure has come to an end, Cooper smiled, noting he still feels he could manage in the big leagues and that, contrary to popular perception, pitching coaches have brains, too.

We always want to end on something positive, but it didnt happen today, Cooper said. Now weve got to come get it done next year. It wasnt a fun season. Take a couple weeks off, and get back to the routine.

As for whether his gut tells him whether the White Sox will come back strong in 2012, Cooper was direct.

They better come back stronger, otherwise crawl into a ball and let them beat the hell out of you again, he said.

Managerfan

At heart, Cooper is a fan of the game, and now that his stint as manager is finished, he enters the offseason in his usual roleas a fan.

Ill pick up the paper every day and scan the transactions, like I did when I was a kid Cooper said. Ill be looking at the ticker. Im back to being a fan now.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information. CSNChicago staff contributed to this report.