Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011
Posted: 9:01 p.m. Updated: 10:25 p.m.
By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik
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VIDEO: Ozzie hopes Buehrle isn't at the end
CLEVELAND When it comes to playing the Cleveland Indians, for much of 2011 the darlings of the American League, the Chicago White Sox didnt get the memo about being scared of em.
Another comeback victory and another heavy dose of runs in the late innings to pair with Tuesday nights nightcap triumph have made it 11 wins in 17 games so far this season, including six of eight in Cleveland.
Mark Buehrle came within five outs of becoming the first pitcher since Mickey Lolich to record at least 200 innings in 11 straight seasons. The veteran earned the win after six innings, as the White Sox started their rally in the seventh.
Buehrle threw greathe needed that, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. The last couple of games, maybe three, it was very rough for him. Having that type of game he had today, he bounced back very well. He had a little bit of team support out there, but thats the Buehrle we see every time.
I felt good, Buehrle said of leaving after six. Knowing the situation in the game, the pitch count around 100 97, it was a long inning, we scored some runs and turned it over to the bullpen, and theyve done a good job all year. I was kind of walking out to go back there for the seventh and I was asking if they want me out. They were saying hold on to make sure Jesse Crain was ready.
Indeed, the win almost didnt happen. Heading into the seventh, Chicago trailed 2-1, but a seven-run eruption in the next two frames turned squeaker into laugher. The lead turned on three runs, one on a Brent Morel double, two more on a two-out Alejandro De Aza single.
A big hit, two-out base hit was huge, Guillen said. It meant I didnt worry about bringing Buehrle back to earn the win or going to the bullpen. It was kind of a crazy mood in the dugoutafter De Aza got that hit, everybody felt a little better, because we wanted Buehrle to win that game. This kid De Aza, whew, right now hes the best player we have overall, fielding, running, big hits for us, stealing basses. Hes been doing everything for us. Hes been outstanding.
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De Aza, reticient to take much credit-certainly not as team MVP, was typically modest: Im just trying to put the ball in play, and hopefully something could happen I feel good, because Im helping the team with the little things that I can but its never enough. Im just trying to keep grinding and taking what they give me.
And with a 4-2 lead in the eighth, the White Sox clubbed three homerssolo shots from Alexei Ramirez and Alex Rios, a two-run blast from Morel (his seventh of September), pushing the lead to 8-2.
The Wahoos extended the game with two tallies in their eighth, as neither Jason Frasor nor Will Ohman seemed content to hurl with a large lead. Sergio Santos entered and executed a perfect ninth to close out the win.
The win, and Buehrles impending milestone, was cause for reflection.
We looked pretty good on Opening Day winning at Progressive Field, 15-10, Buehrle said. I thought wed win every game, but thats why you play 162 games. Guys get injured, go through struggles, guys get hot. Look at the way Cleveland startedthey looked like they were going to win the World Series and they kind of struggled. Thats why you play every game and cant go off just the first couple of weeks.
These guys right now are having good at-bats, Guillen said of the recent offensive rallies. Rios is swinging the bat good. Even Adam Dunn is swinging the bat better. Thats what I expected all season long, to have those games, and unfortunately it didnt happen. At least theyve shown they continue to play hard. Thats something you like from the players, to go out there for nine innings and play your best.
A sort of homecoming
With the nearness of his milestone of 10 wins, 30 starts and 200 innings pitched for 11 straight seasons, Buehrle took time to contemplate the possible finale to his White Sox career, his start next Tuesday vs. the Toronto Blue Jays.
Mark Buehrle says he will try not getting too emotional, but his start Tuesday night vs. the Toronto Blue Jays could be his last as a White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. (US PRESSWIRE)
Im trying to tell myself not to get too emotional, Buehrle said. When the day gets here, it might be a little harder, but this is all Ive known for 12-13 years of my life. So going into it, I still think Ill come back because, again, every spring training Ive gone to the same spot, youre ready to go with the same team. Deep down inside, thats all Im looking at. You try to tell yourself not to be emotional or, Hey, theres a chance youre coming back, but theres the chance youre not coming back, either.
Buehrle was fired up about righting his recent slump, but wasnt upset over falling short of the 7 23 innings he needed to reach 200.
Even if I had done it here, Im still making that start at home, Buehrle said. That said hopefully I dont go out there for 1 23 innings and take a line drive off my head and have to come out. Id like to get to 200 but if something happens and I dont, its not the end of the world.
Although hes steering himself away from getting too emotional, Buehrle has already envisioned the type of reception White Sox fans will give him, having witnessed the faithful seeing off Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski received a year ago.
Coop said go out there and go five, possibly, then pull me and do the whole fan thing, he said. Im not looking at it as my last start. Even though theres the possibility of it being my last start is really good, Im going out there like Im coming back next year and not trying to make a big deal of it.
It happened to us last year with PK and A.J., and we got them back, Guillen said. I dont know whats the difference. I will treat it like its the last game for the White Sox, the same way I did it for A.J. and the same way I did it for PK, I will treat it the same way. If he comes back, good. It will be special. White Sox fans should go out there and support him and get behind him the way they always did.
Regardless of what happens, coming back or not, this kid he means a lot to the White Sox organization. This guy, when you talk about pitching in a White Sox uniform, the first name that comes out is this one. A lot of people forget about Billy Pierce and all those guys in the past, even Billy is still with us all the time, the first name that comes up is Mark Buehrle. I think the least they can do for him is to show up and the ballpark and support him.
Without a doubt, Buehrle feels that the best place for him is in Chicago. Hes just not sure if the White Sox feel the same way.
It all depends on what the White Sox want to do, Buerhle said. They spent a lot of money this year and we didnt do a good job of getting where we wanted to get. It all depends on what they want to do. If they want to go young and got some guys in the bullpen they want to start, then theyll go that route. But its on them.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.