Bottom of order propels White Sox to Seattle sweep

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Bottom of order propels White Sox to Seattle sweep

Thursday, July 29, 2010
Updated: 11:23 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

From day one, the Chicago White Sox have been a team-first outfit, preaching the importance of player one through player 25 on the roster. But the club is starting to spread the wealth so thin it may stitch a hammer and sickle on its jersey sleeves.

In an eventual 9-5 win over the Seattle Mariners on Thursday-Chicagos 11th straight home win and ninth in 10 tries vs. the Ms-it was the pesky bottom of the order that pulled the White Sox back into the game. Alexei Ramirez, Ramon Castro and Gordon Beckham loaded the bases to start the third inning and all eventually scored to give the Chisox a lead they would not relinquish. Castro and Beckham combined to go 5-for-7 with five runs scored.

Now we play a different ballgame, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said, contrasting his current club from those of the recent past. Were pushing guys to run the bases and be aggressive.

Castro, in particular had a remarkable game, with a double in the third and solo blasts in the fourth and sixth. While to this point hes been Freddy Garcias designated catcher, Castro will be seeing increased playing time, as at age 34 hes having a career year just as incumbent backstop A.J. Pierzynski is slumping.

Castro is making it harder for me, Guillen said. I may give A.J. another day off. Castro takes care of himself. Hes always had good potential. We should take advantage of what hes doing right now.

As soon as I hit the homers, I knew they were gone, Castro said, recounting with exacting detail his prior two-homer game (off Jason Marquis on April 14, 2002). Hopefully, Ill hit two homers again.

Garcia got down early, Ichiro Suzuki menacing him for doubles and runs in the first and third to put Seattle up, 2-0. But the veteran hung in for six innings, scattering seven hits and striking out three en route to his 10th win of the season.

I got off to a hard start, but I put in my six innings, Garcia said with typical economy. A lot of people are surprised I have 10 wins, but I said from the start I would try to win 15 games, at least. I know how to pitch and get guys out.

There was little surprise or doubt in the Chicago dugout that the team would rally for another come-from-behind victory, its 27th of the season.

Were believing that we can win every game, no matter who were playing, designated hitter Paul Konerko said. We just had a tough road trip, and its good to see us starting right back up winning and not worrying that the party is over.

Were always battling back, said Beckham, who doubled to left and singled to right for his two hits on the night, which he noted as a sure sign hes swinging the bat well. Guys who are supposed to hit are doing it, and the guys who are supposed to get on base are doing it.

If there was one bummer in the win, it was the snapping of J.J. Putzs team-record scoreless appearance streak of 27 in the seventh. Putz surrendered two runs, the first tallies hes allowed since May 7.

I dont know what wed do without him, Guillen said of Putz, acknowledging he could say the same of virtually his entire bullpen.

As if to extend the party, Konerko and Carlos Quentin smashed towering blasts in the seventh to get those runs right back and provide the final markers in the game.

No matter how we score some of our runs, home runs will always come in this park, Guillen said.

I was just trying to scrape by tonight, Konerko said. But I didnt panic.

It seems that these days, the 1-25 deep White Sox are doing a lot more sharing than panicking.

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

Why Adam Engel came up with his unique batting stance, and how he's tweaked it since

Why Adam Engel came up with his unique batting stance, and how he's tweaked it since

Adam Engel stepped into the batter’s box for his first major league at-bat in May armed with a batting stance that, to say the least, wasn’t conventional. 

Engel’s hands were pushed far away from his body and were level with his head. His bat pointed straight up in the air, and his right (back) arm was raised above his left (front) one. On first glance, you had to wonder — how can that be comfortable? 

“That’s something that I probably wouldn’t coach a little kid to do,” Engel said. 

But there was a well-thought-out method to Engel’s stance. He used the word “tension” in describing what he was trying to avoid by thrusting his hands high and away from his body. And as White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson noted, nobody does anything well when they’re tight. 

“The closer I get my hands to my body, I tend to grab the bat a little harder, which causes a chain reaction I don’t want,” Engel said. “As long as my hands get to where I want them before I start swinging, that’s the goal.”

Since arriving in the majors two months ago, though, Engel has lowered his hands and dropped his back elbow. Here’s the difference in his stances between his first career hit (May 27) and his first career home run (June 25)

And almost a month later, Engel's gradually brought his hands lower:

For a rookie, tinkering with hand placement can be hazardous. But Engel’s batting stance has been a work in progress for a while now, as evidenced by what it was back in spring training of 2016:

Even during spring training in 2017, Engel’s stance was closer to what it was in 2016 than what it was when he made his major league debut:

But here’s the point Steverson made about all those tweaks and changes: As long as it helps Engel get the barrel of his bat to the point of contact, who cares how it looks before the swing?

“At the point of contact, 99.9 percent of every hitter looks the same,” Steverson said. “… How you get it done is based upon timing and your inner functions. But can I get it to here on time is what it’s all about. There’s many myriad ways of doing that. You’re not going to teach somebody to do that because there’s not their functions. 

“… You got guys (in basketball) taking free throws different — did it go in the bucket or did it not go in the bucket? It’s kind of the same way with hitting. Can I get the barrel to the point of contact or can I not get the barrel to the point. And that’s the end of the story.”

The 25-year-old Engel is still trying to find his way through his first major league season, hitting .233 with a .317 on-base percentage and a below-average .650 OPS.  But he’s had some sporadic positive results, like his four-hit game against the Minnesota Twins June 22. 

There’s a fine line between finding a batting stance and hand placement that you’re comfortable with and tinkering too much, especially for a player as green as Engel. But he’ll continue to put in the work trying to find something that will yield consistent success — and that may mean another batting stance that sticks out. 

“it’s just pregame work, watch a lot of video on the starter before the games and then try to work all my work pregame, batting practice, swings in the cage, try to have a mindset that I’m going to have in the game,” Engel said. “Work on the mindset, and then when I step in the box, it’s as close to practice as it can be.” 

Yoan Moncada's first White Sox game had same 'special' feeling as MLB debut

Yoan Moncada's first White Sox game had same 'special' feeling as MLB debut

First came the roar from the home crowd. Then a bunch of fans in the first deck beyond third base stood to watch Yoan Moncada. The patient approach surfaced next.

Moncada made his White Sox debut on Wednesday night and although it didn’t feature any highlight reel moments, there were plenty of good signs. Moncada drew a walk in his first plate appearance and also lined out hard to center field in his last. The rookie second baseman went 0-for-2 as the White Sox lost 9-1 to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“It was fun to watch him come in,” pitcher Carlos Rodon said. “I saw him in Triple-A for a while, he’s a great talent. It’s good to have some good defense. That first at-bat was obviously really good. Fought it back to 3-2, got that walk. Two good swings.”

“It was cool. It got very loud when he came up to the plate, as we expected. That was fun to watch.”

The hype and energy surrounding the arrival of baseball’s top prospect was easy to detect.

The amount of media members on hand to document Moncada’s first game was akin to an Opening Day crowd. Every camera was aimed on Moncada, who flew in from Rochester, N.Y. earlier in the day to join the White Sox.

News of Moncada’s promotion at 11 p.m. Tuesday boosted the announced crowd of 24,907 by 5,000 fans, according to the team. Fans arrived early, some in Moncada White Sox No. 10 jerseys direct from China, while others brought Twinkies, the second baseman’s favorite snack food. Moncada spotted some of those bearing the sugary snacks when he stepped out of the home dugout and onto the field about 45 minutes before first pitch. Moncada, a former teammate of Jose Abreu’s in Cuba, received a loud ovation as he started to stretch.

“I was excited with the way the fans treated me and how they were cheering me,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “I was really happy in that at-bat and excited because all that atmosphere and the excitement in the ballpark.”

The rumble was even louder when Moncada stepped in for his first Major League plate appearance since he played for the Boston Red Sox last September. Though he quickly fell behind in the count 0-2 against Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda, Moncada never wavered. He took several closes pitches, fouled off two more, and drew a nine-pitch walk.

“He had some nice at-bats,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Obviously worked a walk. Hit two balls well. He looked very comfortable. Turned a nice double play. I think he didn’t look overwhelmed. I think he ended his first day here with us as well as you could have it be. I know he didn’t get any hits but I thought he had some pretty good at-bats.”

Moncada’s second trip resulted in a groundout to first base. He fell behind 0-2 once again before working the count even. Moncada then ripped an 88-mph from Maeda down the right-field line only to have it go foul by several feet before grounding out on the next pitch.

Moncada got ahead 2-0 in the count in his final plate appearance as he faced reliever Ross Strippling. He produced an easy, fluid swing on the 2-0 pitch and ripped a 93-mph fastball for a line drive but it found the glove of center fielder Joc Pederson. The ball exited Moncada’s bat at 102.5 mph, which normally results in a hit 62.5 percent of the time, according to baseballsavant.com.

“I felt good,” Moncada said. “I think that I executed my plan. I didn't get any hits but I hit the ball hard and I executed my plan.”

“I made my debut last year but this one was special, it had kind of the same feeling for me.”