Clutch White Sox remain hot, win 7th straight

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Clutch White Sox remain hot, win 7th straight

Monday, Sept. 6, 2010
Updated 7:01 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

DETROIT Achievement after achievement got trumped in a memorable Labor Day game for the White Sox, but all were subjugated to the most important mark of this Labor Day, Chicagos 5-4, 10-inning victory over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.

Obviously, Im not thinking about records now or how many hits or how many games, said Omar Vizquel, who set the all-time record for most games played among players born outside of the United States with his 2,832nd game. Everyone here is focused to do one job, and thats trying to finish strong. Thats what Im trying to do.

I threw the ball well, said rookie Chris Sale, who earned his first career major-league win with 2 23 innings of hitless relief. Im just trying to do my best every time I get in the game and help the team win.

It was A.J. Pierzynski (2-for-5 on the day with three RBI, and batting .411 during his 13-game hitting streak) with an opposite-field looper that scored pinch runner Alejandro de Aza with the winning run, icing the seventh straight win for the White Sox, now a perfect 7-0 on their road trip.

When A.J. swings at strikes, A.J. can be dangerous, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. A.J. is the type of guy that was wasting a lot of at-bats this year. Hes been getting anxious, but when A.J. gets discipline at the plate, hes a guy I count on putting the ball in play, and he can do a lot of things with his bat.

No one is panicking, Pierzynski said. Were not giving away our at-bats. Were not swinging at bad pitches. Were just going in there saying, Hey, Im going to fight and see what happens. Its been working out.

The Chisox were sans their hottest hitter, first baseman Paul Konerko, who sat out with a balky back. Shortstop Alexei Ramirez and center fielder Alex Rios also were sidelined until the late innings, ceding starts to Mark Kotsay (first), Vizquel (short) and Andruw Jones (center).

We had Manny Ramirez in the lineup and we didnt have Rios, Alexei Ramirez and Konerko, and the lineup still looked good, Guillen said. Our depth is one thing thats a plus to have.

The Detroit damage was done almost exclusively by left fielder Don Kelly, who was a defensive dervish while also tapping an RBI single in the first inning and belting a two-run homer in the fourth that appeared for a while to be the game-winner.

Thats because the two potential aces dealt for one another this past winterEdwin Jackson was traded by Detroit for the Diamondbacks Max Scherzer, and was swapped by Arizona to Chicago at this years trade deadlinebasically mirrored one anothers effective pitching in the game.

Kellys RBI single came after Detroit led off the game with three straight hits and four in the first five batters facing Jackson. Those first-inning RBI, from Johnny Damon and Kelly, were the first earned runs allowed by Jackson in the first five innings in his first six starts with the White Sox.

The White Sox came right back at Detroit in the second, loading the bases on a blooper from Jones, which led to a game-tying, two-run base knock from Pierzynski. In the fourth, Juan Pierre pushed the Chisox ahead 3-2 with a two-out base tap.

In the end, both hurlers earned a no-decision for their labors. Jackson lost his streak of three straight games of double-figure strikeouts, exiting with six after overcoming early struggles to toss 7 13 innings of nine-hit, four-run, one-walk ball.

Scherzer busted out an almost identical line to Jackson, dealing for 7 13 innings and surrendering nine hits, four earned runs and two walks against six strikeouts. The burly Bengal was in line for the win until the eighth, when Alexei Ramirez pinch-hit for Kotsay and drove in pinch-runner Brent Lillibridge with the tying run, off wilding Tigs reliever Rick Perry.

I know the Tigers kid that was going to start Scherzer was going to throw the ball good. Hes got a good arm, Guillen said. Jackson was struggling early; it seemed every ball they hit, they hit hard. After that, he turned it around and settled down very well.

It was just one of those games, one of those days where you just go out and tell yourself youre going to have to battle, keep the game close and give our team a chance to win, Jackson said. It was one of those games you dont have your best stuff, but you dont want to show it. You have to go out and still have the same mindframe as if you did have good stuff.

A potentially tragic turn of events for the White Sox was averted in the eighth inning. With one on and two out, Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge clocked a long drive down the left-field line off Sale, initially ruled a home run by third-base umpire Tony Randazzo. The call was met with howls of protest from the White Sox and even a groan of honest disappointment for the 32,924 partisan Motown fans. The call was reviewedit was the second time Inge had hit a phantom homer this season vs. the White Soxand was overturned.

It was foul, Sale said. At first off the bat, I was like, Oh, boy, this is bad. Then, I saw where it went foul. Pierzynski was back there and was asking if it was fair or foul, and he said it was way foul. The home plate umpire didnt make a call. They circled around, and I said I thought it was foul. They went back and reviewed it and the reversal was big. Thank God it didnt catch fair.

Apparently all of us knew it was foul except for Randazzo, Pierzynski said. Replay made the right call. Brandon knew it was fouleveryone pretty much knew it was foul. Thats why they have instant replay, and it worked out because they got it right.

That correct call clicked in the same way the White Sox have of late, as they are beginning to look like the club that reeled of the incendiary streak (36-17 in June and July) that pulled them back into the AL Central race in the first place and are now a season-high 17 games over .500 at 77-60.

Were just finding ways to win games, Pierzynski said. Were battling; were not giving at-bats away. Nobodys panicking. Everyones sticking with their plan. It was a great win. It was a good ballgame, both teams played really hard and both teams battled. It was a good win.

Great game, man, great game. Great game to watch, Guillen said. Im a baseball fan, and that was a lot of action there, a lot of movement, a lot of decisions to make. A lot of good things happened today.

But on today of all days, the final state of the White Sox is delivered by a fella whos seen just about as many baseball games as (and played in more) than Guillen, the soft-spoken Vizquel.

We are in a pennant race right now, and this is the last three weeks of the season, Vizquel said. We have to give it all we can right now. And a couple weeks ago we went into a stretch where we lost a couple games in the last inning and we couldnt come back. Its a great sign that everyone is putting forth their best effort.

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

Lucas Giolito striving to contribute to White Sox 'as soon as possible'

Lucas Giolito striving to contribute to White Sox 'as soon as possible'

At one point, it was looking like Lucas Giolito could be headed to the White Sox in exchange for Chris Sale.

But when Sale was dealt to the Boston Red Sox, Giolito's name was in the clear of rumors — until 29 hours later, when the Nationals' top prospect would be headed to Chicago in a different trade, which sent outfielder Adam Eaton to Washington.

“It’s kind of like the world we live in now. Social media is always out there and everything is on Twitter,” Giolito said in a conference call Friday. “I saw my name being mentioned on Twitter for Chris Sale. I know with the winter meetings all sorts of stuff being thrown around. I was just trying to focus on what I’m doing in this offseason which is lifting and all my workouts. Kind of just whatever happens, happens. 

“It’s funny that Sale ended up going to the Red Sox and something else happens that I’m going to the White Sox now with a couple teammates. It’s really interesting stuff but I’m super excited.”

The move for Rick Hahn & Co. to acquire Giolito was the second major trade to begin the White Sox rebuilding process. But Giolito didn't come alone.

In addition, the White Sox received Reynaldo Lopez — who Giolito has played with since 2014 — and the Nationals' 2016 first-round pick Dane Dunning.

"I definitely think it’s amazing to be coming over to the White Sox with a bunch of young talent," Giolito said. "I think it’s a great opportunity for us to all develop and get better and hopefully put a really good team together in Chicago. Definitely excited to be coming over with a couple guys from my previous organization."

[MORE: Rick Hahn, White Sox prepared to make more 'painful decisions' if the price is right]

Giolito went 6-5 with a 2.97 ERA and 1.28 WHIP across three minor-league levels this past season. He admitted his mechanics weren't quite in sync and is looking to improve on that.

"Sometimes things get out of whack. I believe I let too much get out of whack last year," Giolito said. "So this year with my training program I have in this offseason — lifting and Pilates and everything — I’m just trying to make sure that I can stay as athletic as possible so I’m able to repeat the right delivery more often. Once I start playing catch and doing bullpens and everything these next few weeks, right before spring training, I’m going to make sure I put that all together so I can repeat my delivery as best as possible."

His struggles continued when he got to The Show.

In his major-league debut on June 28, Giolito held the New York Mets to just one hit over four scoreless innings before a rain delay cut his night short. That turned out to be his most effective outing of the season as he finished the year with an 0-1 record, 6.75 ERA and 1.78 WHIP in six games with the Nationals, four of them being starts.

"(My MLB debut) didn’t go as well as I would’ve liked it to go, obviously, as you look at the numbers and everything," he said, "but I feel that with the White Sox now (and) getting traded and everything, it’s kind of like a fresh opportunity and a new start to get up to the big leagues again and contribute and do everything I can to stay there as well."

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Despite his low numbers, the 22-year-old Giolito believes he's ready to play on the White Sox main roster as soon as next season.

"I’ve had some experience in the big leagues last year," Giolito said. "Especially last year, I took a lot positives away because I did experience such a good amount of failure in a lot of I’d say like hardship when I made it up and didn’t perform up to what I believe is my best capabilities.

"I’ve pitched a good amount of innings in the minor leagues and I’ve had a little experience in the big leagues so I’m just really looking forward to making it up in the big leagues with the White Sox and contributing as soon as possible."

Rick Hahn, White Sox prepared to make more 'painful decisions' if the price is right

Rick Hahn, White Sox prepared to make more 'painful decisions' if the price is right

That Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada have reunited is a nice story, but it won't dramatically change the mindset of the rebuilding White Sox, who earlier this week demonstrated they aren't messing around.

Abreu said in a statement issued by the White Sox on Friday that he's "very happy" about the prospect of again playing alongside Moncada, who played 12 games with the star slugger in 2012 for Cienfuegos in the Cuban National Series. Moncada, 21, is the centerpiece of a four-player package acquired from the Boston Red Sox for Chris Sale on Tuesday, a toolsy infielder who MLB.com has rated as the No. 1 prospect in baseball.

While the concept of Abreu mentoring Moncada has plenty of merit — the first baseman's work ethic is outstanding, and he's beloved by coaches and teammates — don't think the White Sox would hesitate to trade him if someone paid the right price. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn just spent four days at the Winter Meetings discussing how a team that just traded away its best pitcher and position player remains open to listening to all offers and is prepared to do what is must to get the franchise healthy again. 

"We're extremely open-minded on ways to continue the process that we started," Hahn said earlier this week, adding that the White Sox "have to make some painful decisions."

The White Sox have grown tired of never having all the pieces — or even more than a few — to fill the holes created by injury, poor performance, etc. They want to be flush with young talent and essentially have said anything that isn't nailed down at Guaranteed Rate Field is available with the exceptions of Tim Anderson and Carlos Rodon.

The team wants to cash in on the chips it possesses.

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While they don't have a ton, the few the White Sox have could help expedite a rebuild process as the Sale and Eaton trades have shown. Those deals brought back seven players, including three who played at the big league level last season (Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez). Some of those players potentially would start 2017 in the big leagues, and that possibility increases the internal value of Abreu and starting pitcher Jose Quintana, who is equally revered among teammates and coaches for his dedication and team-first mentality. 

Having those young players see firsthand what it takes to excel in the majors from veteran teammates is invaluable. Abreu, who arrived in the United States from Cuba in late 2013, addressed that point in his statement about Moncada, who signed with Boston in 2015.

"Moncada is a five-tool player," Abreu said. "He really has everything needed to succeed, and I know that with the proper guidance of veteran players and coaches with experience he can become an All-Star caliber player."

"He is going to make a huge impact in the White Sox organization, and both the fans and the team will be thankful.

"I already spoke with him to welcome him to the team. I told him that I'm going to be there for him for everything that he needs on and off the field."

In a conference call Wednesday, Moncada said he's "thrilled" to once again play with Abreu. Whether they will hasn't yet been determined.

When asked about Moncada's 2017 starting point earlier in the week, Hahn said the 21-year still needs to develop. Moncada appeared in eight big league games last season for Boston and struggled with contact, striking out 12 times in 20 plate appearances. But that promotion came after a meteoric rise through Boston's farm system, an aggressive path that included only 45 games played above High-A. Nothing has been announced, but it appears Moncada will receive an invite to big league camp next spring and be seated near Abreu in the clubhouse. 

Still, Hahn sounds like he intends for Moncada to spend much of 2017 refining his approach in the minors. He also has demonstrated he is willing to dig deep and make more painful moves if it betters the team in the long run, all of which means the White Sox wouldn't hesitate to trade Abreu or Quintana if they get what they want.