Sox Drawer: Suzuki strikes again

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Sox Drawer: Suzuki strikes again

Kurt Suzuki is not the most clutch hitter in the history of Major League Baseball, but give him a bat, a helmet, and a late-game situation where he can beat the White Sox, and the Oakland As catcher will deliver.

Every. Single. Time.

Tuesday night, the notorious White Sox killer struck again, hitting a go-ahead, pinch-hit RBI double in the bottom of the 8th inning off Matt Thornton. It was the first run given up by Thornton in his first nine appearances this season. It was the As first run in the previous 16 innings combined. The As beat the White Sox 2-0.

If this sounds like a broken record, well it should. Suzuki has made a career out of breaking the White Sox hearts. If doctors did a DNA test on him, they would likely find a gene called Beating the White Sox to Smithereens.

Its what Suzuki does. All the time. Every time.

Lets take a look back:

On June 12, 2007, Suzuki made his major league debut for the As. Two months later, he played his first series against the White Sox, and it didnt take long for the carnage to begin.

On August 15, with the As up 1-0, Suzuki belted a two-run homer off Mark Buehrle in the bottom of the 7th inning. That was the difference in the ballgame. The As won 3-2.

But that was nothing. Were just getting started.

The next day, Suzuki came to the plate in the bottom of the 10th inning in a 5-5 game. What did he do? He blasted a game-winning, three-run homer. Who did he hit it off? Thornton.

The As swept the three-game series.

But wait. Theres more. Plenty more.

On April 15, 2008, Suzuki had his first career four-hit game. Of course, it came against the White Sox. His RBI single off Buehrle snapped a string of 22 scoreless innings pitched by the White Sox. And yes, it was the difference in the game. The As won 2-1.

Later that season on August 15, 2008, the White Sox and As were tied at 4 in the bottom of the 9th inning with a man on base. Rob Bowen, who had been catching that game for the As, had gone 0 for 3 with a pair of strikeouts. Who strolls to the plate as a pinch-hitter? You know. On a 3-2 count, Suzuki nailed a two-run homer to left off D.J. Carrasco to beat the White Sox 6-4.

"I knew at the worst it was a sac fly, Suzuki said after the game. I was happy. We have a day game tomorrow, we didn't need to play extra innings."

No, that would happen on April 11, 2011. This time, Buehrle was a victimized again, but not by his own doing.

Buehrle had a no-hitter until the 6th when it was broken up by -- Suzuki. After pitching eight scoreless innings, allowing only three baserunners -- and none past first base -- Buehrle was replaced by Thornton to start the top of the 9th inning with the White Sox up 1-0. Thornton gave up a leadoff double to Andy LaRoche. One out later, Daric Barton hit a deep fly to left. It should have been the second out except for one problem -- Juan Pierre dropped the ball. Cliff Pennington scored easily to tie the game at 1.

In the 10th inning, Jesse Crain struck out Mark Ellis. Then he struck out Hideki Matsui. Life was good.

But then...

Suzuki.

The White Sox killer came to the plate. Reporters were already starting to write the obituary.

Crain had him on a 1-2 count. In his career on 1-2 counts, Suzuki is a .201 hitter with 100 strikeouts in 319 career at-bats.

Didnt matter. Why?

This was Suzuki. This was the White Sox. This was the 10th inning in a tie ballgame. And you know what happened.

Suzuki launched a solo homer deep into the Chicago night. The As beat the White Sox 2-1. Of his five career homers against the White Sox, four have come in the 7th inning or later.

Ozzie Guillen had been the manager for all those Suzuki beatdowns. Youd like to think that someone would have warned Robin Ventura when the As catcher popped out of the dugout to pinch hit in the bottom of the 8th Tuesday night with Barton on first base and Thornton on the mound.

You normally dont pitch around a guy who hasnt hit above .250 the last two seasons, but when it comes to playing the White Sox late in the game, they should know better. Suzuki transforms into a three-headed monster of Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Ted Williams. They should have walked him. Or hit him somewhere where it hurts. Why not? The man has inflicted so much pain towards the White Sox over the years, its the least they could have done.

But Thornton was given the green light to pitch to him, and Suzuki smacked the Sox again, right between the eyes.

Over the years, weve seen a number of opponents save their best games for the White Sox; Jason Kubel, Billy Butler, Wilson Betemit are the clubhouse leaders. But when its late in the game, and the opponent is in its final at-bat, whos the last person you want to see with a bat in his hand?

Not Josh Hamilton. Not Miguel Cabrera. Not Derek Jeter.

Its Kurt Suzuki. I said it. I mean it.

Because he kills the White Sox.

Every. Single. Time.

White Sox: Jake Petricka hopes DL stint is short

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White Sox: Jake Petricka hopes DL stint is short

Jake Petricka will have to resume some mechanical work with Don Cooper as soon as he’s healthy.

With hip tightness he’s experienced in the early part of the season continuing to linger, the White Sox reliever went on the 15-day disabled on Thursday. Petricka has a right-hip impingement and seems optimistic that rest and treatment should have him on the mend quickly.

“I have a little history of tight IT bands,” Petricka said. “I just thought it was part of the normal wear and tear, so I upped my other stuff to take care of it and it just kept coming back and coming back and it kinda hit a point.

“It sucks being on the DL, but I think Herm (Schneider) will take care of me and get it cleaned out and be good to go when I get back.”

Petricka described the injury as a minor ailment. With treatment, he can avoid a worse future injury. But he needs at least a week off, which forced the White Sox to place him on the DL.

Petricka has struggled with command early in the season. He has issued eight walks and allowed eight hits in eight innings, which has resulted in a 4.50 ERA. The right-hander said he and Cooper have begun to try and make some corrections and he hopes to get back to it shortly.

“I felt good,” Petricka said. “Obviously, location has been off. We were looking at mechanics and stuff with Coop and we were getting into a good groove of figuring stuff out and this kind of popped up. We’ll pick up right where we left off when we’re done with this.”

Lackey's 'country hardball' leads to 11 strikeouts in win over Nationals

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Lackey's 'country hardball' leads to 11 strikeouts in win over Nationals

John Lackey struck out 11 hitters for the second time this season Friday.

He had a slightly different way of describing it:

“We’re going to play a little country hardball and figure it out.”

The “country hardball” was working well for Lackey, who punched out nearly a dozen Washington Nationals in the Cubs’ 8-6 win at Wrigley Field, matching a season high in whiffs and earning his fourth win of the year.

After surrendering a pair of early runs, Lackey settled in nicely, allowing just two hits in his final five innings of work. Getting a ton of assistance from his offense certainly helped, the Cubs digging out of that early 2-0 hole by bashing four home runs against Nationals ace Max Scherzer.

Given Scherzer’s fate, Lackey’s performance on a day when the ball was soaring out of the Friendly Confines was particularly impressive. So too was his second 11-strikeout game of 2016 after not reaching that number in any game last season with the Cardinals.

“It was definitely a day for the hitters. A little warmer, wind blowing the other direction. It was a tough challenge today, for sure, with a good lineup, and I was fortunate to get a few strikeouts,” Lackey said. “You never know with the fly ball when things are like that around here.

“You’re going to have to miss some bats in this ballpark, especially later on in the summer when it warms up. Obviously it’s not a great place to pitch some days when the wind’s blowing out. It can play pretty small. Today I was fortunate.”

The Cubs’ hitters will take the headlines and make the highlight shows, an unsurprising result when Ben Zobrist hits four homers in three games and the Cubs boast a mind-boggling plus-98 run differential.

But that run differential and the Cubs’ success in general — 22 wins in their first 28 games of the season — wouldn’t be possible without elite pitching. Jake Arrieta’s credentials are well known, as are Jon Lester’s, and Jason Hammel has dazzled, too, with a 1.24 ERA.

Lackey has maybe seemed the odd man out with an ERA north of 4.00, but he’s shone in more than half his starts this season. In fact, he’s finding the confines at Wrigley to be quite friendly, owning a 2-0 record and a 2.49 ERA in three home starts. He’s gone at least seven innings in three of his last four starts and has a team-high 40 strikeouts on the season.

Make no mistake, every piece of this five-man rotation is pulling his weight, and Lackey is no exception.

“I’ve been in a few rotations, I try to handle my own business,” Lackey said. “We definitely root for each other hard. Jake’s on another level right now doing his thing. It’s a great group, it’s a fun group to hang out with and we work hard in the weight room, push each other. And then whoever’s day is that day, I’m their biggest fan, and I hope everybody does well.”

Lackey also became the fifth active pitcher to reach 2,000 career strikeouts, an achievement he chalked up to being old.

“I guess it means I’m old and been around a while, done a few things.”

The truth is that Lackey has “done a few things,” and it’s why he’s here. Theo Epstein’s front office brought Lackey in this winter because of his pedigree, which includes a pair of World Series rings and a dominating performance against this very Cubs lineup in Game 1 of last year’s NLDS.

Lackey signed on for the same reason the other big-name free agents did this offseason: This Cubs team has a chance to make his jewelry collection even more impressive.

With the Cubs owning the title of baseball’s best team almost 30 games into this season, is it time to start comparing this group with Lackey’s past title-winning squads?

“It’s a little early to get too crazy,” Lackey said. “Let’s play a little baseball.”

Injury Report: White Sox, Cubs weekly update

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Injury Report: White Sox, Cubs weekly update

Each week, CSNChicago.com takes a look at the injury report from both the Cubs and White Sox, presented by Service King.

WHITE SOX

- Catchers Alex Avila (strained hamstring) and Kevan Smith (back) were sent to the 15-day disabled list on April 24. On Friday, Avila started his rehab assignment in Triple-A Charlotte. Smith is in Glendale, Ariz. rehabbing his injury.

- Daniel Webb went to the 15-day DL on April 29 for right elbow flexor inflammation.

- Jake Petricka hit the 15-day DL with a right hip impingement.

CUBS

- Jason Heyward returned to the field mid-game on Thursday night after Dexter Fowler was ejected in the third inning against the Washington Nationals. Heyward, who missed three games due to a wrist injury, started for the first time in four contests on Friday, going 1-for-3 with a double and a walk.

- Matt Szczur was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday with a strained right hamstring.

- Miguel Montero is eligible to return from the DL next Tuesday but Joe Maddon isn't sure if he needs a rehab stint. Montero landed on the DL on April 25 with back stiffness.