Chicago White Sox

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.

How Michael Kopech reminds the Birmingham Barons of Michael Jordan

How Michael Kopech reminds the Birmingham Barons of Michael Jordan

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — No player has impacted the Double-A Birmingham Barons the way Michael Kopech has since … Michael Jordan?

That’s the belief of long-time Barons play-by-play man Curt Bloom, who said Kopech has garnered more attention than almost every player he’s covered during 26 seasons in the booth.

Bloom acknowledges that nobody will ever surpass Air Jordan’s 127 games with the Barons in 1994. But the advent of social media has made Kopech an extremely popular attraction this season. Whenever he takes the mound, the team’s social media accounts see a significant increase in page views, engagement and impressions.

“Jordan-esque,” Bloom said. “Nothing will beat Jordan. LeBron could come down. But this reminds me of it. It triggers it. A jolt.

“Nothing stirred like this guy has and I do say, and I think Kopech will tell you the same thing, a big chunk of the reason is we have social media. We didn’t have that for Jordan. We did not have that for Aaron Rowand. There’s always a ying for a yang.

“That being said, it’s still gone beyond anything I’ve ever seen.”

It’s unavoidable to miss the Barons’ remembrance of Jordan’s season when he reportedly paid $350,000 to buy the club a luxury bus “The Jordan Cruiser and the Barons set records for attendance. The team drew 467,867 at their old stadium, Hoover Met, and Southern League attendance was more than 2.5 million.

Jordan’s image wearing a Barons No. 45 jersey can be found throughout Regions Field, including a massive banner near the home-plate entrance.

Kopech has been a focal point for White Sox fans since he was acquired in December.

Whether it’s his 100-mph fastball, his lofty prospect status or simply the fact he came over in the Chris Sale deal, eye balls have been drawn to Kopech all season. The right-hander has only increased the awareness with his steady presence on social media, including giving away game-used items to fans.

Throw in his recent dominance on the mound — Kopech has a 0.66 ERA and 54 strikeouts with only seven walks in his last 41 innings — and the hysteria is real.

The Barons determined early on this season that they would follow in the steps of several major league clubs and anoint the day he pitched at home Kopech Day. The White Sox, Seattle Mariners and Miami Marlins have all recently done the same for Sale, Felix Hernandez and Jose Fernandez.

Kopech has only lived up to the hype.

“He’s answering the bell,” Bloom said. “There’s definitely awareness in the city, in our followers, the Twitter universe.

“My daughter Chloe who has no idea about baseball, she asks me, ‘Is Kopech pitching?’

"That’s what has been created.”

Working relationship: Trust in pitching coach Jose Bautista key to Michael Kopech's dominance

Working relationship: Trust in pitching coach Jose Bautista key to Michael Kopech's dominance

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- A strong relationship with pitching coach Jose Bautista allowed Michael Kopech to make a midseason adjustment he thinks is critical to his dominant stretch.

The Double-A Birmingham pitcher said he’s learned a ton about himself during a very good first season with the White Sox. Much of Kopech’s newfound knowledge is related to the direction of his throwing motion and how he needs to be more consistent with it. The suggestion came courtesy of Bautista, who’s in his ninth season as a White Sox coach.

Kopech, who next pitches for the Barons on Friday night, has found the necessary amount of consistency since he and Bautista made the switch in early July. Since then Kopech, 21, has a 0.66 ERA and 54 strikeouts with only seven walks in 41 innings.

“He really trusts Jose’s information,” Birmingham manager Julio Vinas said. “They did some mechanical stuff fixing his direction. He just took off from there once they corrected that direction and make him understand, strike one, how important it really is. He had one good game where he got into the seventh inning and he came out and he says, ‘That’s the longest outing I’ve had.’ And it was like right after he had corrected the direction and he just took off from there. He’s done great. He’s a great kid. He works hard. Fantastic teammate.”

Kopech is pleased with the insight he has gained from Bautista.

“I feel like I’ve learned more about myself this year,” the right-hander said. “Just that I’m more successful as a starter when I’m able to repeatedly stay in one motion.”

Bautista’s fix came on the heels of a six-start run where Kopech posted a 7.46 ERA in 25 1/3 innings. The club used a nine-day window between starts from July 5-13 to work on his direction. Kopech had only one appearance, a scoreless inning in the Futures Game.

“I may be a guy that goes toward the plate and spins off,” Kopech said. “But I can’t be a guy that goes toward the plate and stays toward the plate and the next pitch goes toward the plate and then spins off. I just have to follow in that some pattern no matter what I’m doing. It’s about consistency and I’ve learned my most consistent patterns as a pitcher. That’s put me in a good position.”

Rather, it’s put Kopech in an elite position.

The No. 12 prospect in baseball has perhaps begun to outperform the lofty expectations that have been in place since he arrived last December from Boston in the Chris Sale trade.

Opposing hitters have a .414 OPS against him over the last month. He has completed at least six innings in each of his last six starts and has gone seven frames or more four times.

“He’s going deeper into games,” player development director Chris Getz. “A lot of it has to do with that fastball command and really its staying within his delivery and going after hitters early with that fastball, trusting it, because he’s got good action on the fastball, not just the upper-90s straight fastball. He’s got natural two-seam action to his ball.”

Undoubtedly, throwing more strikes has played a big role in Kopech’s dominance. In his first 16 starts, Kopech threw strikes 61 percent of the time en route to a respectable 4.02 ERA. He’s increased that figure to 67 percent in his last six games.

Ultimately, Kopech credits Bautista for getting him back in the right direction.

“Getting a little bit of success with one mechanical adjustment kind of made the mental adjustments easier,” Kopech said. “It made me feel a little bit more comfortable with myself.

“I stayed in line. I stopped spinning off so much. The solution to that was getting out there and throwing more strikes. One thing became another and after that I started feeling a lot more comfortable with myself.

“A lot of it has to do with Jose and him being in my ear and telling me when I’m coming off and when I’m doing certain things.

“It’s the best I’ve been all year, the most consistent I’ve been all year. I’m feeling pretty good about myself.”