Grand finale? Buehrle leaves on a winning note

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Grand finale? Buehrle leaves on a winning note

Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011
Posted: 9:29 p.m. Updated: 10:41 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik
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This game, his season or career finale with the Chicago White Sox, couldnt possibly have gone better for Mark Buehrle.

The lefthander won his 161st career game with the White Sox and further cemented his place in team history with a memorable, soggy, seven shutout innings in a 2-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

In the process, Buehrle logged his 11th straight season with 200 innings pitched, 10 wins and 30 starts. The win was also Buehrles 13th of the season, giving him the team lead and marking the fifth time hes led the White Sox in wins.

Catcher A.J. Pierzynski also crossed a milestone after the first inning, catching 1,000 innings for the 10th straight season, the only streak of that length currently in the majors.

And lets not forget another milestone in the game, interim manager Don Coopers first major league victory.

I had a blastit was fun, the baseball lifer said.

It was Pierzynskis possible eventual replacement, Tyler Flowers, who provided the first scoring, with a massive blast to straightaway center, hitting homers in back-to-back games for the first time. Later, Pierzynski singled in Alejandro De Aza to drive in the eventual deciding run.

Buehrle, at 97 pitches, was sent out by Cooper to start the eighth, but the interim manager held back the rest of the lineup. With his starter out on the mound, alone, Cooper went out to give him a hug and send him to the showers, giving the lefty the chance at a long, heartfelt standing ovation.

It came up perfectly, Cooper said of the Paul Konkero-Cooper staged production. It wasnt exactly plannedbut it couldnt have gone better I relished the opportunity to yank a multimillionaire.

It was the tribute he deserves, Pierzynski said. Hes probably my very favorite pitcher to catch. That my locker was next to his for seven years is pretty great.

I knew I was going out for the eighth, but figured theyd do something, admitted Buehrle, noting he was a lot more nervous before the game and had warned Konerko not to surprise him.

As Jesse Crain warmed up to relieve him, Buehrle was pushed back onto the field by Konerko, to get what Buehrle termed his first-ever curtain call.

The fans kept calling for him, Konerko said. The only regret is we werent really playing important games to finish the season.

Crain immediately gave up a solo shot to Mike McCoy, but Toronto would get no closer than the single-run final. Chris Saleironically slated to enter the starting rotation if Buehrle doesnt re-sign with the White Sox for 2012relieved Crain and got the final five outs of the game, striking out three and earning his eighth save.

By postgame, even Ozzie Guillen was getting into the Buehrle tribute act, tweeting from Miami: Mark buurrrrrr thanks for a great memories buddy. love ya man To bad I couldn't have been there.

As for the current manager, Buehrle offered an honest assessment of the Cooper Era.

So far, so good, he said with a smirk. Lets see what he does Wednesday. Who knows, maybe hell get the job next year.

READ: Cooper on the hot seat - for good?

We thought there was one play where he could have gone out and argued, Konerko laughed. We teased him and said he was too scared to go out there and argue.

Meanwhile, Cooper laughed in recollecting how the game began, with the new manager watching his ace warm up in the pen pregame: I had to laughI told Mark, One career is ending, another is beginning.

What was said around their warm embrace on the mound?

Thanks for everything, Cooper said.

For a first-day guy, Coop seems to have instantly connected with the hearts of White Sox fans everywhere.

Comeback kid

All along, Buehrle has maintained he could very well come back for 2012, saying after Tuesdays win that the White Sox are all I know. Its hard to think otherwise about returning. Deep down, Id love to be back.

The veteran also admitted that if presented with similar offers, he would opt for the White Sox, preferring a three-year deal, but if presented with only a one-year offer, he might opt for retirement.

Hes still doing the job, Konerko said. As a teammate, you want him around.

A.J. left behind

Pierzynski was proud as punch over Buehrles win, but admitted the pulling of the lefty should have looked different: I was supposed to go out there with Coop, but he got caught up in the moment.

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

Preview: White Sox open series with Royals tonight on CSN

Preview: White Sox open series with Royals tonight on CSN

The White Sox open a three-game set with the Kansas City Royals tonight, and you can catch all the action on CSN and live streaming on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage begins at 7 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Tonight's starting pitching matchup: Jason Vargas (3-0, 0.44 ERA) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (2-0, 2.84 ERA)

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White Sox snap skid by forcing, capitalizing on Indians' mistakes

White Sox snap skid by forcing, capitalizing on Indians' mistakes

White Sox force, capitalize on Indians' mistakes 

The White Sox haven't had many opportunities to capitalize on mistakes from their opponents lately because they haven't been in a position to force them. 

But in their 6-2 win over the Cleveland Indians Sunday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field, the White Sox put the pressure on the defending American League champions and reaped the results. 

Two plays stand out, both of which came in the sixth inning. After Omar Narvaez drew a leadoff walk, Jacob May put down a well-placed sacrifice bunt between the pitcher's mound and first base line. Indians first baseman Carlos Santana charged in and turned to underhand a toss to second baseman Michael Martinez, who was covering first. 

But the speedy May was hustling down the line, which forced Martinez to awkwardly stretch for the ball. He dropped it, allowing May to reach. 

"Anytime you you have players that are forcing defenses to complete plays you can put them in an awkward position," manager Rick Renteria said. "I don't know that that led to that in particular but he busted his rear end down the line."

That error paid off for the White Sox three batters later — after Tim Anderson and Tyler Saladino struck out — when Melky Cabrera singled to left. Narvaez was aggressively waved home by third base coach Nick Capra (a common practice with two out) but looked to be easily out at the plate on Brandon Guyer's throw. Again, though, forcing the issue paid off: Cleveland catcher Roberto Perez dropped Guyer's throw, allowing Narvaez to score. 

"That's kind of what we've been stressing in spring, play with your hair on fire," Anderson said. "That's definitely something that we've been working on and that's something we can control, that energy level and the way we hustle."

The White Sox were sparked by a three-run first inning, which ended a stretch of 23 consecutive innings without scoring a run. Anderson began with a double off Indians starter Danny Salazar and, after Saladino singled, scored on Cabrera's sacrifice fly. 

Jose Abreu followed with a line drive to right, which fell in front of outfielder Abraham Almonte and skipped past him for a two-base error, allowing Saladino to score. Leury Garcia later delivered a two-out single to score Abreu. 

"Everybody knows how good this Cleveland pitchers are, especially the first two games with (Carlos) Carrasco and (Corey) Kluber," Abreu said through an interpreter. "Our offense was silent. But today we had more life against Salazar. We know him and we did our job."

The White Sox cruised behind that three-run first inning and a solid start from left-hander Derek Holland, who allowed one run over six innings. Holland's only mistake was a third inning hanging curveball to Francisco Lindor, who launched it for a solo home run. But he came back two innings later and struck out Lindor with the bases loaded on another curveball, ending Cleveland's best scoring threat of the game. 

"Just because something happens you got to turn the page and not worry about those kind of things, and get ready for the next one," Holland said. "He may have got me that first time but I got him the second time. So those are the kind of things, you never let something take you away from your game."