Danks, White Sox counterpunch into first-place tie

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Danks, White Sox counterpunch into first-place tie

Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010
11:47 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO Last night, a muted Juan Pierre described the Chicago White Soxs abominable series-opening loss to the Minnesota Twins as an old-fashioned butt-whipping.

The unassuming speedster then speculated about what was needed in the second game of the series, the first tilt where the White Sox would be looking up at first place in a month.

It doesnt have to be a punch in the mouth runaway win, Pierre said. I dont care if its 1-0. We just gotta get em.

Well, in spite of Savoir Pierres admirable gentility, the White Sox did jump up and punch Minny in the mouth on Wednesday, regaining a share of first place with a 6-1 triumph.

Postgame Wednesday, Pierre had a big smile when reminded that he wasn't asking for a smashmouth win a day earlier: Yeah, but I guess we got one anyway.

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, like the veteran Pierre, knows to keep the season in perspective, but was nonetheless relieved with the win.

I didnt want to wake up tomorrow and have to see all the people in Chicago panicking, he said. If you lose the first two of a three-game series, you lose the series. Now, tomorrow, we can fight to win the series.

Carlos Quentin led the romp with a two-run blast to straightaway center in the second and the White Sox pushed across six runs over the first five frames before the Twins countered with a tally of their own.

John Danks proved to be a Twinkie stomper, pitching eight innings of one-run, six-hit, seven-strikeout ball, and stranding six of Minnys finest. He eluded trouble all evening, most spectacularly by allowing leadoff doubles in two of the first four innings yet allowing no Twin to cross home.

What a great performance, great timing, Guillen said of Dankss work. Our coaching staff begged him to go seven, eight innings.

Our coaches are always begging us to go that far, said Danks postgame, with a laugh. There was no added pressure. Going deep in the game was in the back of my mind, but thats the case all of the time.

While Danks was frank in saying he hates to pitch against the Twins, dont tell that to the guys down the hall.

Danks gets off the hook by himself, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. You dont get many opportunities, and when you get them, you have to make a swing on the ball. He just ate us up tonight.

A moment of controversy in this combustible rivalry came in the fifth, when Twins starter Glen Perkins hit Quentin with a pitch for the second time since his dinger. While neither HBP did so much as blush the skin of Hulque Incredible, that quickly became beside the point as home plate umpire Mike DiMuro warned both benches, making retribution moot.

Guillen argued with vociferous logic that his Chicago-9 did nothing to merit such a knuckle rap, as Gardenhire listened in with bemused contentment over another advantage his Twins gained simply by showing up and grinding.

Everything points to Perkins hitting Quentin on purpose, Guillen said. I know 100 percent it didnt come from Gardy. But they kicked our butts yesterday and we didnt come close to beaning any of their hitters.

The first HBP was a 2-2 slider. The second one, I didnt want to leave it out over the plate where Quentin could hit it, Perkins said. It was a bad situation to hit a guy. Its unfortunate that happened. I was trying to make a pitch and yanked it a little bit.

Guillen, with a couple of rather infamous exceptions, refuses to retaliate for his own hit batsmen. And his pitching staff by and large echoes such strategic thinking.

Theres some point to playing out for revenge, said reliever Sergio Santos, who pitched a scoreless ninth. But the best revenge is playing in October.

Another surprise to come out of the game was just how uncharacteristically sloppy the Twins were, committing two errors and going just 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

We made a lot of mistakes out there and cost us a lot of runs, Gardenhire said. We shot ourselves in the foot today and didnt perform very well.

They made mistakes, and we made em pay, said White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham.

Danks, who felt he had some of the nastiest stuff hes had all season even if his command wasnt at its peak, also admitted there was something a little extra attached to this game.

I had a little more adrenaline tonight, he said. We didnt want to dig ourselves too big a hole. We didnt like how the game went last night, but weve had a pretty short memory on this team, and we proved that tonight.

Some games, you just want to get them over with, for sure, Santos said in reference to Tuesdays blowout. But thats when you want a new day to go out and put your best game together. Thats what we did tonight.

Now on to a marquee pitching matchup of Gavin Floyd vs. Francisco Liriano in the series finale on Thursday, and reclaiming sole possession of first.

This game means that at worst, were a game back at series end, Beckham said. But were thinking about finishing things up in first.

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

What White Sox 'fireman' Anthony Swarzak has done to increase trade value

What White Sox 'fireman' Anthony Swarzak has done to increase trade value

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Anthony Swarzak held a high-leverage audition for a potential contender on Sunday long before the Kansas City Royals walked off the White Sox.

The nonroster invitee to big league camp continued a stellar campaign as he took over in a critical spot midgame and helped the White Sox escape with the lead. The White Sox bullpen ultimately relinquished the lead and Brandon Moss sent them to their ninth straight loss — Kansas City won 5-4 — with an RBI double in the ninth inning.

But Swarzak continues to thrive in the opportunities handed to him and could make for an interesting trade chip before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline.

“He’s been excellent,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s become for us, with (Nate Jones) going down and (Jake Petricka) going down he’s actually become a fireman. He’s come in in some of the highest-leverage situations we could possibly get. And then we use him for multiple innings.”

A free agent after the season, Swarzak has 50 strikeouts and a 2.30 ERA in 47 innings for the White Sox this season. He also has only allowed nine of 33 inherited runners to score (27.2 percent), including two on Sunday. The American League average for inherited runners scoring entering Sunday was 30 percent, according to baseball-reference.com.

All this has come in a season where Swarzak went to camp with the White Sox with no certainty of making the 25-man roster. The right-hander not only thrived in camp, he came out strong in April with 19 2/3 scoreless innings to start the season. Combined with early injuries to Jones and Zach Putnam, Swarzak’s performance helped him climb the totem pole in the White Sox bullpen from the outset. His stature has grown even more of late with the injury to Petricka as well as the trades of Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson.

“As far personal expectations, I’m right where I want to be,” Swarzak said. “More to accomplish for this year, absolutely. But I like what I’ve done so far and I like the opportunity that I have to accomplish even more.

“That’s the situation we all work so hard. That’s the situation we want and it’s why we all work so hard in the offseason in general is for situations like that.”

Swarzak took over for starter Derek Holland in the fifth inning with the White Sox ahead 4-3 and runners on the corners. He threw three straight sliders to Jorge Bonifacio and struck him out to strand the pair.

“It was huge, what he did coming in right there,” Holland said.

As significant as it was, it only held off the Royals for the time being. And as much as Swarzak has enjoyed things on a personal level, it isn’t making what the thinned-out White Sox roster is experiencing any easier to handle.

“Everything going on around here right now is pretty hard to swallow,” Swarzak said. “We’re going out there losing 8-0, 6-0, we’re up 6-0 and we end up losing. We lost a 1-0 game against the Dodgers and the next night we lose 10-1. We’re kind of losing all types of ways right now, which is really hard to swallow because as a bullpen guy we take pride in holding the lead and right now it seems like we’re not getting it done at all, any aspect of it, as a group.”

With eight more shopping days left before the deadline, chances are high that Swarzak may not be part of the current group much longer. He has already seen the departures of Robertson and Kahnle and knows his impending free agency could result in a trade elsewhere. But the veteran reliever is doing his best to keep his focus on the mound.

“It all comes back to quality pitches and getting guys out,” Swarzak said. “If you’re getting guys out, you’re going to get some attention from the league and if you’re not they’re going to close the book on you. It’s very straight forward for a pitcher, for a major league baseball player in general: Do better. Get it done and you’re going to play for a long time and you’re going to have the success that goes along with getting it done. That’s really all I’m worried about is continuing to make good pitches and hopefully get the results I’m looking for.”

White Sox: The big-picture reasoning behind Rick Renteria and bunting

White Sox: The big-picture reasoning behind Rick Renteria and bunting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Rick Renteria wants his players to be able to execute a bunt regardless of how much it drives White Sox fans crazy.

The White Sox manager wants to win now, but he’s also looking at the big picture.

Even though he knows how much a team’s chance of scoring decreases when an out is surrendered via the sacrifice bunt, Renteria is using the opportunity to see what abilities his players have. He wants to know what they can do.

Renteria is well aware that his calls for sacrifice bunts aren’t popular with fans (see: Twitter’s reaction to Yoan Moncada’s bunt tries on Saturday). But he also thinks there’s no better time to work on bunts than during a game. So as much fury as it brings, Renteria will continue to ask his players to work on a skill he’d like to see remain part of the game.

“Listen, (Moncada’s) a plus runner,” Renteria said. “He’s going to be able to use that as a part of his arsenal. I see a whole lot of home run hitters dropping bunts right now against shifts and things of that nature. I don’t think that art should disappear. We’re in the era of quote-unquote the long ball, but like I’ve said, sometimes you need to do certain things to kind of put your club in a better position.

"If you think that’s one of the things that’s available to you, you use it. I don’t think you’re necessarily giving it up in terms of an out, because when you’ve got guys who can run anything is possible. You end up loading the bases possibly. I know our guys are very cognizant of just playing the game. If they feel like they want to get two guys in scoring position on their own, they do it. It’s not something I want to take away from them. I think they read the defenses. Sometimes we talk about other ways of dealing with the defenses, but I think they’re understanding that we’re going to want that to be a part of all their abilities.”

As for the team’s execution, Renteria isn’t satisfied with the results. That means you can expect to see more bunts the rest of the way.

“It’s still a work-in-progress,” Renteria said. “I think that would be a falsehood to say we’re at the point where I go, I’m very, very happy with the way we lay down bunts. It’s still a work-in-progress, something that we’re going to continue to emphasize. Something we’re going to continue to work on. And then again, the only opportunities you get in real time are games, and that’s when you need ‘em.”