Buehrle sharp, but Lincecum baffles Sox's bats

Buehrle sharp, but Lincecum baffles Sox's bats

Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Posted 5:41 p.m. Updated 6:44 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. Mark Buehrle tossed his longest and strongest outing of the spring on Wednesdaybut San Francisco Giants ace Tim Lincecum was better.

Paced by an outstanding 5 13 innings (three hits, seven Ks) from the ace of the defending champions, the Giants defeated the Chicago White Sox 5-3 at Camelback Ranch.

Don't worry about Buehrle

Buehrle was touched for seven hits over five innings, punching out three and leaving the game tied 1-1.

Throwing to A.J. Pierzynski helped, Buehrle said. We work well together and get into a routine. This is the first time Ive thrown to him in spring training.

Im very happy for him, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. After his last performance he was a little upset. He threw the ball very good. Every time Buehrle goes out and pitches well, he creates a positive thing for him We know what he can do, but he needs an outing like this before we break camp.

The lefthander mentioned that while San Francisco didnt field its starting lineup in the game, there was a good mix of hitters to face: they were bunting and kind of mixed everything up, so it felt good.

I was taking it a little bit easier, not overthrowing and mostly working on location and movement than trying to throw the ball hard. Thats a strength of mine, location and movement, offspeed pitches and keeping them off-balance.

In short: Buehrles in midseason form.

The White Sox drew first blood when Alex Rios tripled in Paul Konerko in the second. San Francisco got that run back in the fourth, when Brad Eldred singled in Giants phenom Brandon Belt (the rookie first sacker went 3-for-4 with three runs scored on the game). The champs pushed ahead two innings later, pummeling White Sox reliever Jeff Gray for four hits and two earned runs, the first coming on a solo shot from Belt.

Brian Bruney came on to pitch in the seventh and gave up two runs as well, pushing the Giants lead to 5-1.

The White Sox halved that on a seventh-inning, two-run blast from Brent Lillibridge.

Lillibridge nearly tapped a second round-tripper with a massive blast to left-center with two on and one out in the ninth, but left fielder Tyler Graham chased the ball down on the warning track.

Hes swinging the bat goodthe battle for that 25th roster spot is getting fun, Guillen said Two-three days ago I said nobody was impressiveI guess they read the papers The battle from the guys in the back is pretty good right now. Milledge is playing well, De Aza playing good, and Lilli is swinging the bat well. Its going to be fun. Thats the fun thing about spring training. This ballclub is going till the end of spring training to be picked.

Infante en fuego

Gregory Infantes last three appearances have vaulted him to the front of the line for the 12th man in the bullpen, according to Guillen.

Infante is moving up, throwing the ball very well, he said. Im very surprised, personally. Were going to continue to give everybody looks, but right now Infante has been throwing the ball well and Im hearing a lot of good things from Coop.

Against San Francisco, Infante finished the game with a perfect inning and one strikeout, lowering his Cactus League ERA to 6.00.

Love from 2005

Buehrle buzzed former teammate Aaron Rowand when he faced the centerfielder twice in the game, retiring him both times, starting with a first-inning, inning-ending strikeout.

I threw all curveballs to him, Buehrle said with a smile. Its kind of hard to buzz him with a curveball. Im just glad A.J. didnt tell him what was coming, since theyre roommates for spring training. I figured something was going to slip out. And if A.J. did, keep on telling everybody whats coming because it worked. I got Rowand out.

See the World Champs

Guillen joked about the large crowd 10,074 that showed up on a Wednesday, Ozzie had a laugh at his own clubs expense.

I dont think people came to see the White Sox and Buehrle, he said, laughing. When youre the champs, people are going to follow you everywhere. When you win it all thats what you get, people follow you all over the place. People root for you. Its fun. Id rather play in front of 10,000 than the 1,000 weve had in the last two weeks. Its always fun to have people in the stands. I know bigger crowds are coming up, but its nice now.

Jake Flued

Jake Peavy remained at home today, stricken with flu. Nothing physical with him. He just doesnt feel good, Guillen said.

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

White Sox crush four homers to support Jose Quintana in win over Mariners

White Sox crush four homers to support Jose Quintana in win over Mariners

Fireworks Night started early for the White Sox on Saturday night.

The White Sox homered four times to support Jose Quintana in their 9-3 win over the Seattle Mariners at U.S. Cellular Field in front of 27,318 fans. Quintana, who set a career high in season wins last week, notched his 11th victory of the season.

"This year is special for me," Quintana said. "Now we have momentum. (We have to) try to keep (it) going to get more for my team. It’s really good. I’m trying to do my job."

Quintana was on point again right from the get-go. After allowing a double to the first batter of the game, the 27-year-old southpaw retired the next 11 batters.

Quintana pitched 7.2 innings with eight strikeouts and two runs on five hits and a walk. He lowered his ERA to 2.77 on the year.

"He's pretty consistent," said manager Robin Ventura. "I think that's the biggest thing for him. Mentality wise and just focus, just his attitude and everything that goes with him is pretty consistent. You're never going to really tell what's going on with him on the game.

"He's had so many games that were close or tied or even behind that he never changes. I think that's what endears him to a lot of guys. He's consistent."

While Quintana has been consistent all year, the offense hasn't been. But on Saturday, the team gave their starter a healthy dose of run support.

"What was really impressive was the offense tonight was really good for us and for me," Quintana said. "It’s fun when you’re throwing when a lot of runs are scored."

The Mariners opened up the scoring with a sac fly from Robinson Cano in the first. But the White Sox answered back right away.

Melky Cabrera drove in Tim Anderson, who tripled in the previous at-bat, with a sac fly. The next batter, Jose Abreu, crushed his 18th homer of the year to put the White Sox in front. Cabrera was the only White Sox who didn’t record a hit in the game.

The White Sox offense began to heat up in the fourth after a quiet second and third from both sides.

After the first two batters of the inning were retired, the next four White Sox got on. It cleared the path for Tyler Saladino’s RBI single, which put the Sox up 3-1. Saladino finished the night with one homer and three RBI.

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The White Sox added four more in the fifth inning.

The scoring started with an RBI triple from Justin Morneau — the team’s second three-bagger of the night.

Back-to-back homers from Avisail Garcia and Alex Avila made it 7-1. It was the fifth time the White Sox hit two consecutive homers this season.

"I think Q's probably the happiest guy of anybody. He was great," Ventura said. "Any time you swing the bat as well as we did tonight and you get some add ons with the homers, you like seeing that kind of offense and you like seeing balls over the fence.

"Guys had a good night of just being patient and being able to cash in."

The Mariners added a run in the sixth from an RBI single by Guillermo Heredia and a sac-fly Franklin Gutierrez in the ninth.

Avila went 1-for-3 with a solo homer and walk in his first game since July 5.

Garcia, who had five extra base hits in June and July, had three on Friday night.

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.”