Floyd aces unlikely pitchers' duel in the Bronx

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Floyd aces unlikely pitchers' duel in the Bronx

Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Posted: 9:09 p.m. Updated: 1:12 a.m.
By Brett Ballatini
CSNChicago.com
NEW YORKIvan Nova, having vanquished the Chicago White Sox for 6 13 innings, sat in the Yankees dugout, spitting sunflower seeds and bobbing his head to Sweet Home Alabama.

As incongruous as a Dominican grooving to southern men seemed, even more so was the White Soxs comeback in the eighth inning, erasing Novas win and propelling the Pale Hose to a second straight win in the Bronx.

Paul Konerkos two-run homer in the eight off of flailing reliever Rafael Soriano instead handed a 3-2 win to Gavin Floyd, who authored a brilliant outing of 10 strikeouts against one walk and just three hits.

Gavin, man, he threw the ball good, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. Today is the best Ive seen him throw the ball in a little while.

Floyd upped his record to 3-1 on the season and trimmed some 40 points off his ERA, which now stands at a taut 3.60.
Sergio Santos came on for his second straight save, escaping a jam created by Floyd and Matt Thornton and further cementing his place as the clubs closer. He did it with amazing help from sub right fielder Brent Lillibridge, who ended the game with two straight spectacular catches.

With runners on first and second with one out, cleanup hitter Alex Rodriguez slapped a screaming line drive toward the wall, over the substitute right fielders head.

It came off hard, but I saw the slice and tried to get to the wall as fast as I could, Lillibridge said. It started moving on me a little bit, and I kind of ran out of space hitting the wall. Working in that confined space, with the right-field foul pole at 314 feet is a little different than most ballparks. I reached out there and concentrated on it and made the catch to get the first one. But I didnt know the next one would be harder.

Lillibridge robbed Rodriguez but was unable to double off either Derek Jeter at second base or Mark Teixeira at first, giving Robinson Cano a chance to be a hero. The second sacker stroked a line drive down the right-field line that Lillibridge made an even more incredible catch on, a full-extension diving grab to save the game.

I got a good read on it, but the biggest thing in my head was if there was a close ball I have a chance to catch, Im going for it, he said. We have to have that attitude. Its been rough for us, so I said, All or nothing. I could have been the goat. In this instance, I was able to win the game.

The loquacious manager had his punch line all set up, from the beginning of his postgame remarks, and as usual, he was dead on.

Well, first of all, finally I found my closer: Lillibridge, Guillen said, laughing uproariously. Hes the one thats going to be closing games from now on. All Chicago fans, they can sleep very well, because I found my closer.

Sleep tight, Chicago. Life in the White Sox world is starting to look up.
Lillis Pad

Its been a wild ride for Lillibridge, who just a month ago was fighting for his White Sox life and now finds himself in some waysGuillens joking asideas the offensive and special-teams closer for the club. As a pinch-runner, bunter, and especially as a player able to man six positions on the field, Lillibridge has proven invaluable.

One of the big reasons Lillibridge made the ballclub is because we know he can play the outfield very well, Guillen said. He got three wins for us. He steals second just yesterday and we come up with the run. Every time we put him in the game, he scores some runs. On defense hes been great we know he can play the outfield.

His two catches to end the game can be burned onto the season highlight DVD already, no matter how far the White Sox play into October.

Ive never had anything like that in my career right now, Lillibridge said, shyly smiling with pride. Sometimes you dont know whats going on even as it happensyou react to the ball and take a chance. You cant practice diving in batting practice.

Usually, when the ball goes over my head off the bat, you have a pretty good impression of what the results going to be, Konerko said. I didnt think either of those was going to be caught. Both of them were completely different plays, but coming late in the game like that, making those two plays in those situations was awesome I dont think Ive ever seen a game end with two great plays like that by one guy.

The Lord was with Brent, making those two catches, Floyd said. He made some fantastic catches out there. They better be No. 1 and 2 TV web gems.

Somewhat humorously, Santos let out a yell upon the closing out that you could practically hear in the press box.

Gosh, amazing, said Santos, with his arm wrapped but still a bit dazed in the locker room minutes later. I havent felt that alive in a long time, just the adrenaline. For Lillibridge to make two huge plays back-to back, just, its nice that things are finally going our way, especially in the ninth inning because we had bad luck at home. So its nice to steal another win out here.

As a former fielder himself, Santos was more than interested in talking more about the incredible end to the game, courtesy of his pitching and Lillibridges defense.

I thought the first catch was tougher because I knew Lillibridge was playing deep, and it felt like it was up in the air for 10 minutes. After he made the catch, I was like, Great, Santos said. The one to Cano, once it left the infield and I saw it kind of hanging up in the air, I thought maybe hes got a chance to dive and catch it, because I knew he couldnt catch it on the run. I dont think Ive ever yelled as loud in my life. It was good.

Whats sweet about Lillibridges story is that hes no longer a player tormented by his role or shortcomings. Obviously, any major leaguer wants to move up the depth chart from No. 25 on the roster, but the superutilityman has turned a lack of playing time into an opportunity to impact the game with a single at-bat or run scored. The maturity hes put on display even dating back to last season makes him a guy the entire clubhouse roots for.

Typically, Lillibridge shrugs off most plaudits, with a bottom-line approach to playing, and winning.

Im just trying to get a games played recorded in the stat book, he said. Im just doing my job of going in there and playing defense. I try to steal a base and allowed Paulie to get a couple of fastballs Ive always felt a part of this team and have done what Im supposed to do. Making plays like tonight, even in a limited role, how can you not be excited?

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

Omar Narvaez helps father celebrate his birthday in style with first home run

Omar Narvaez helps father celebrate his birthday in style with first home run

Omar Narvaez’s teammates gave him a beer shower after he blasted the first home run of his career on Friday night.

But the rookie catcher said it wasn’t the best gift he gave or received in a 7-3 White Sox victory over the Minnesota Twins. Narvaez’s father, Omar, was in attendance at U.S. Cellular Field and celebrating his birthday when he son blasted a 377-foot drive to right field.

“It was great, especially because it was my dad’s birthday today,” Narvaez said. “It’s a very special gift for my dad. That’s what I was thinking as I was running the bases. It’s the best thing I could do this day.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Narvaez, who hails from Maracay, Aragua, Venezuela, said his family has been in town all week to see him play. His fourth-inning homer off Twins pitcher Pat Dean put the White Sox ahead 6-0. Narvaez -- who has seven minor-league homers, including two at Triple-A Charlotte this season -- homered in his 111th plate appearance in the big leagues.

“That was awesome,” pitcher Carlos Rodon said. “I’ve been waiting a while because I know he’s got that pop. Took him a little bit, but I was happy for him.”

Young White Sox players star in win over Twins

Young White Sox players star in win over Twins

The word electric was used multiple times to describe several young White Sox players on Friday night and it wasn’t hyperbole.

Carlos Rodon tied an American League record with seven consecutive strikeouts to start a 7-3 White Sox victory over the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field and Tim Anderson was an all-around force. Anderson turned several double plays and finished a double shy of the cycle and Rodon, who was coming off the best start of his career, struck out 10 to close out a stellar second half. Rookie catcher Omar Narvaez also blasted the first home run of his big league career in the victory.

“This was some electric stuff coming out,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I would say the first seven hitters were better than (Sunday’s start). He just, it looked like his confidence and end of the year, letting it out. It was definitely the best stuff-wise of having it all -- fastball, slider, mix in a change. I think that’s just a big confidence boost for him of getting to that point where he can do that.”

Where Rodon is now compared with 2 1/ 2 months ago is vastly different. Frustrated by a 2-7 start and a sprained wrist sustained when he fell in the dugout, Rodon was about as low as he’s been in his two seasons in the majors. But the North Carolina State-product vowed to treat the second half like an entirely different season when he returned from his injury and he has done just that.

Featuring a fastball that topped 99-mph, according to brooksbaseball.net, and with his wipeout slider in tow, Rodon quickly looked in control against the Twins. He struck out the side in each of the first two innings. Only two of his first seven strikeouts came via called third strikes.

Rodon’s third-inning whiff of John Ryan Murphy moved him into a tie for the team and AL record with ex-White Sox hurler Joe Cowley, who struck out the first seven he faced in a May 28, 1986 loss at the Texas Rangers. Coupled with the three strikeouts to end Sunday’s start in Cleveland (part of 11 overall), Rodon’s 10 straight strikeouts between the two games matched the most by a major league pitcher since Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Eric Gagne did it in 2003.

“He was throwing a lot of strikes,” Narvaez said. “The slider was perfect today. He was at his best today.”

Rodon was only slowed down by a 31-pitch sixth inning as he allowed three runs (two earned). He yielded three hits, walked three and struck out 10 to improve to 7-3 with a 3.45 ERA since the All-Star break. The left-hander struck out 77 batters in 73 innings from July 31st through the end of the season.

“It’s easy to play behind him because it makes my job a lot easier when he’s striking out people,” Anderson said.

Rodon feels the same about the way Anderson has played since he arrived in the majors in June. The rookie shortstop continues to excel even though he has never played more in a season than he in 2016.  

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Anderson headed into the eighth inning with a chance to complete the cycle. Needing only a double after he tripled and homered in his first two at-bats, Anderson grounded out and finished 3-for-5.

He turned on his speed when he tripled off the glove of Byron Buxton in the first inning and scored on Melky Cabrera’s RBI double. Anderson flashed his power when he blasted his ninth home run in the third, a two-run shot that traveled 410 feet. And used his glove and arm to turn several nice plays in the field.

“He’s electric,” Rodon said. “Just watching him develop over this few months here, it’s been incredible. Making those plays in the hole and just swinging the bat great. That’s a guy our team can feed off of when he’s in the lineup.”