Buehrle bitten by bad start bug; Sox eliminated

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Buehrle bitten by bad start bug; Sox eliminated

rThursday, Sept. 15, 2011
Posted: 9:54 p.m. Updated: 11:19 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik
Box score
VIDEO: Ozzie regrets outcome after elimination
READ: Vizquel won't retire, upset with 'mates

KANSAS CITY The last of the red-hot Chicago White Sox starters has bit the dust.

Mark Buehrle was utterly torched by the Kansas City Royals on Thursday, allowing a career-high 15 hits on the wrong side of a 7-2 romp.

The final hita liner back through the box from Alcides Escobar that hit Buehrle flush on his left pitching bicepwas the greatest insult, driving the lefty out of the game.

Its fineI think Ozzie just said, Enough, Buehrle said. I could have stayed in the game if it happened earlier in the game but he came out and said, There no reason to stay in. Youre getting your ass handed to you, lets get you out of there.

Well see how he feels tomorrow, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. But hes lucky it hit him right in the muscle. He should be fine.

Melky Cabrera continued his mastery of Buehrle, going 4-for-5 with a home run off him. Billy Butler added a round-tripper in the sixth to put the game out of reach.

It appears that the White Soxs flirtation with a six-man rotation for a fair spell of the summer did not help Buehrles stamina, as hoped. Through his first 25 starts, Buehrle had a 3.10 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 54.2 game score and 20.4 outs per start. Over his last three, games in which the White Sox have lost by a collective 33-8, the lefthander has a 12.00 ERA, 2.54 WHIP, 18.3 game score and 15.3 outs per start.

The last three outings have been very rough, very rough, a lot of balls in play, Guillen said. Hes been roughed up pretty good. For him, the biggest thing is location and changing speeds. Right now, I dont think he has that with him. Hes kind of behind hitters a couple of times.

Ozzie says don't blame Kenny

Buehrle denied there was anything behind his September swoon, attributing it to, Some bad luck. Obviously theyre hitting the balls hard and finding holes. But it seems like when I make a pitch theyre hitting the ball hard and putting it in play, and when I make a mistake, theyre crushing it.

"When things are going your way and youre missing pitches, they either foul them off or hit them at our guys. Now theyre finding holes or putting them over the fence, Buehrle said.

A.J. Pierzynski was the lone bright spot for the White Sox, going 3-for-4 and in the process tapping out the 1,500th safety of his career.

Alexei Ramirez had a ninth-inning single almost negated with Royals right fielder Jeff Francoeur nearly throwing him out at first base. Ramirez gestured and appeared upset at Francoeurs challenge, but was lighthearted about the exchange after the game.

I wasn't really upset with the play, Ramirez said. Francoeur is just doing his job, and Ive got to do my job and get to first base. I'm aware of his highlights in getting guys out at first and I don't want to be one of them. I just told him that next time he's up, he better run hard because if it gets past me I'm still going after him.

The loss officially eliminated the White Sox from the 2011 postseason. But despite the dreaded X now residing next to the White Sox in the standings, Guillen doesnt foresee a change in his lineup over the final two weeks of the season.

No, were going to continue to play the guys who should be playing, he said, adding with a laugh, the kids are playing right now.

But no, weve got to go through the season. Everyone knows its a very disappointing season and very inconsistent season, but weve got to try to finish it as strong as we can. We should have played better. I thought with the club we have wed have a better season and have a better shot to win the division. But obviously, it didnt go the way we wanted it to go.

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

After missing nearly two months, Alex Avila happy to be back with White Sox

After missing nearly two months, Alex Avila happy to be back with White Sox

Alex Avila is ready to play baseball again after being out of action for almost two months with a right hamstring injury.

The White Sox catcher was activated from the disabled list on Friday and started behind the plate and bat eighth during Saturday's contest against the Seattle Mariners.

“I feel like it’s opening day for me right now,” Avila said.

The 29-year-old had been on the disabled list with a right hamstring injury since July 6. He thought his return was going to be a lot sooner, but a setback negated that during his first rehab assignment on July 20.

Avila said that he “probably tried to rush back a little too quick and wasn’t ready,” so this time around, he was being extra cautious.

“It definitely took longer than I expected it to,” Avila said of his recovery process. “But at the same time I couldn’t jeopardize coming back and reinjuring it again. At this point in the season I feel like I’m definitely ready to play and can get through the last few games.

“It’s been a rough few weeks, personally, but sometimes there’s things you can’t control and you gotta make sure you let mother nature take its course and play that out. It can be difficult when you’re on the DL because at times you feel a little disconnected. Stuff like that. But you have to really worry about yourself and getting healthy, then once you are you can get back to being a team player.”

Avila is .236/.362/.358 on the season with three homers and six RBI in 41 games played.

“It’s been awhile. I know it’s been tough on him to be able to do that,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He has worked hard to get back where he was. Even when he came back, to have an injury happen fairly quickly. He was swinging it great. That’s the part of baseball that’s tough. You get back, and something like that happens. You don’t really plan for it. It’s nice to have him back.”

To make room for Avila, the White Sox traded catcher Dioner Navarro to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for 25-year-old pitcher Colton Turner, who the White Sox are hoping can continue to build on his strong season.

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For now, Avila and Omar Narvaez will split the catching duties.

“He’s a very mild-mannered kid. He works hard,” Avila said of Narvaez. “He’s been asking all the right questions as far as how to call games and what to do in certain situations and we’ve talked a little bit. At the same time it’s about him gaining that experience and having those experiences on the field is one thing I’ve told catchers that I’ve come across.

“Coaches and veteran players can say all the right things you need to hear (and) can give you all the advice you want. But it comes down to getting that playing experience on the field with the pitcher, with guys on base, in the sixth inning with two outs and a guy on third. All those experiences mean so much more than any advice I can give him.

“One thing I can do and what coaches can help him do is have an idea going into it. But he’s got a good head on his shoulders and up to this point he’s shown that up here hasn’t overwhelmed him and he’s been playing well."

Narvaez is .325/.426/.375 in 14 games with the White Sox this season.

Miguel Gonzalez is also getting closer to a return.

“I know (Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer) will be in there at some point to get their starts,” Ventura said. “How we do it when they’re in there, we haven’t really nailed that down. It’s an open dialogue at this point of being able to figure out the right spot to get them back in there.”

Chris Sale strikes out 14 but White Sox fall to Mariners

Chris Sale strikes out 14 but White Sox fall to Mariners

Felix Hernandez has proven for years that he doesn’t need much help.

But the White Sox provided him with three free outs on the bases anyway on Friday night.

Those mistakes allowed Hernandez to hold the White Sox in check as they wasted a 14-strikeout performance from Chris Sale in a 3-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners in front of 25,651 at U.S. Cellular Field. Sale retired 16 in a row to end it, but it wasn’t enough as the White Sox dropped back to five games below .500.

“We didn’t run the bases very well tonight,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “That ends up costing you. You’re getting something going against them, and it just takes the wind out of your sails. Both guys pitched great.

“They just executed better than we did when they got the chance. Both guys were going strong. The way we ran the bases, we didn’t deserve to win that game.”

Sale (15-7) deserved much better than to lose for the fifth time in his last six decisions.

[MORE: White Sox trade catcher Dioner Navarro to Blue Jays]

Though he allowed a run in the second, third and fourth innings, Sale got on a roll late.

After Adam Lind’s two-out RBI double in the fourth, Sale found an extra gear and retired the last 16 Mariners to hit, including 10 strikeouts. He struck out the side in the sixth and seventh innings and afforded his teammates a chance to rally.

“Thank God we did it early because as everybody saw, when he gets on a roll it’s like lights out,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “He’s obviously one of the best pitchers in the league for a reason. We had no chance, really, after the fourth and fifth inning. He got into a groove and got all his pitches working.”

Two of Seattle’s three runs off Sale came on opposite-field drives as Lind doubled to left in the fourth and Franklin Gutierrez homered to right in the second inning. Sale walked none and only allowed five hits and three runs in nine innings. He threw strikes on 88 of 120 pitches.

It was the 13th complete game of Sale’s career and his fifth this season.

“I wanted to find a groove and I felt like after the fourth inning I got into a pretty good groove, that cruising speed I was talking about,” Sale said. “I just tried to lengthen it as much as I could, just fill up as many innings as I could. Just give us a chance to win, keep us in the game.”

While Sale kept his team in the game, they repeatedly took themselves out of it.

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The White Sox had plenty of chances against Hernandez, none better than the bottom of the eighth inning. Trailing by two runs, Avisail Garcia and Tyler Saladino singled on both sides of a J.B. Shuck fielder’s choice. Adam Eaton’s one-out walk knocked Hernandez out of the game after 104 pitches.

But closer Edwin Diaz got Tim Anderson to hit into a fielder’s choice as third baseman Shawn O’Malley made a perfect throw home on the slow roller for a force out. Jose Abreu then fouled out to leave the bases loaded. Diaz retired the side in order in the ninth for his 11th save.

Todd Frazier homered in the seventh inning of Hernandez for the team’s only run, but they should have had more. The White Sox had the leadoff man reach base in five of eight innings started by Hernandez, who allowed a run and eight hits in 7 1/3 innings. Hernandez erased two of those five as he picked off Frazier and Shuck in the second and third innings. He also got out of a first-and-third jam in the fifth inning when Shuck lined into a double play and Omar Narvaez was caught leaning.

“That’s the frustrating part,” Ventura said. “You know you’re not really going to have too many opportunities (against Hernandez). You might be able to hit and run or all of a sudden you’re first and third. But if you just take it out of your own hands, that’s where you scratch your head.”

White Sox hope second-rounder Alec Hansen's 'fun ride' continues at Kannapolis

White Sox hope second-rounder Alec Hansen's 'fun ride' continues at Kannapolis

The way he dominated the Pioneer League had to boost to Alec Hansen’s confidence. It also prompted his promotion.

When the White Sox sent their second-round pick to Great Falls last month it was in the hope he could rebound from a rough junior season at Oklahoma that caused his draft stock to fall. Once thought to be the potential first overall pick of the 2016 draft, Hansen was selected 49th after he posted a 5.40 ERA and walked 39 batters in 51.2 innings. But Hansen — who made his first start at Single-A Kannapolis on Friday — looked every bit the first-rounder at Great Falls with a 1.23 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 36.2 innings.

“We wanted to put him in a position where there was a little less pressure to start off the season,” White Sox player development director Nick Capra said. “There's always pressure, but it's a little less magnified in the Pioneer League. We wanted to get him on the right road. We did a couple things with him mechanically and he took off with it.”

“We kind of held him hostage in Great Falls a little bit too long. He’s been really good. He’s double-digit strikeouts every night. He’s not walking people.”

Hansen is expected to make two starts at Kannapolis before the team’s season ends. He earned a no decision after he allowed three earned runs and five hits with two walks and six strikeouts in five innings against the Columbia Fireflies on Friday.

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Capra described the mechanical changes the White Sox made with Hansen as minor. Essentially, they want Hansen to take advantage of his 6-foot-8 frame and stay taller and release the ball more quickly. They believe it will help him better command his pitches.

Through 11 minor-league starts, Hansen has walked 18 batters in 49 innings (he also pitched seven innings in Arizona). That’s compared with the 96 batters he walked in 145 innings in college.

“Our player development guys deserve so much credit for the way they've handled it,” amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said. “There was a little bit of concern about the confidence part of it, just him taking the ball every fifth day and knowing that we believe in him. Our pitching guys and PD guys deserve a huge amount of credit for just the time they put into it. They really, really know how to make these guys excel and succeed. Been a pretty fun ride to watch and I hope it continues.”