Hope for .500? It could take a prayer for Sox

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Hope for .500? It could take a prayer for Sox

Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011Posted: 9:00 p.m. Updated: 10:37 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik Box scoreValue survey: White Sox starters falter

KANSAS CITY Alex Rios strode to the plate to lead off the second inning and clocked a devastating blow into State Farms neighborhood at the back of the Kansas City Royals bullpen in left field.

The former five-tooler, slumping yearlong to the bane of Chicago White Sox fans everywhere, returned to the dugout to find manager Ozzie Guillen steadfastly in his fleet centerfielders corner greeting him with heart taps and sky kisses.

It could have been playful teasing, but Guillen is a man of steady and manifest faith, so more than likely the big smile masked a heartfelt prayer may we all return to the White Sox in 2012 and right this dastardly wrong we now are all enveloped All-In to.

Well, Rios would not have another hit in the game and the White Sox were again battered by the Royals burgeoning young offense, which dropped the Pale Hose 10-3 as Kauffman Stadium fireworks blared and fountains flared with little remorse.

Ozzie almost dropped his postgame meal when asked by a local reporter whether these first three K.C. romps were a product of prodigious offense.

When you score 30 runs in two games OK, 24 over three, what do you think is the reason? he queried with incredulity.

Zach Stewart, who was a near Mr. Perfecto just two starts ago, turned from hero to zero in a rough, five-inning, five-run, 11-hit effort.

They just battle, Stewart said, reporting that his pregame bullpen was excellent but on the mound, only his fastball was effective. Theyre always taking good swings, no matter what the count. They were putting pressure on me, and got to me in those last two innings.

And aside from Rios clout and another multi-hit (2-for-4) effort from Alexei Ramirez, there was little to highlight on the Chicago ledger.

The White Sox dropped to 73-78, reeling from a season high-tying, seven-game losing streak and finding themselves in need of a major rally to just to break even for the season. With four games still to play against Kansas City, its not completely out of the realm that the Royals just seven games behind Chicago in the standings passes the South Siders for third place in the Central.

Even Guillen himself realized that he would be on full clich alert with his rah-rah comments looking ahead to the series finale against Bruce Cy Chen, already 2-0 vs. Chicago this season.

Its not one thing people want to hear, but well get them tomorrow, Guillen smiled, to keep from shouting. Well be back here. Well try again tomorrow, and hopefully tomorrow works. When you give up 17, 18, 20 hits in one game like today, and you miss a few opportunities to score early in the game, I dont think we deserve to have a better outcome.

Guillen, still audibly fighting a head cold that has marred his entire K.C. stay, was quick to dress and head back to the team hotel, where he would spend a quiet evening with family, perhaps breaking away for a short stint for a couple of pops downstairs and a glance at the Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz fight.

And before he retires for the night, there may indeed be a little prayer. Not for tomorrows forecasted rain to abate, or a thugworthy rally off Chen, or even for that contract extension hes hoping so hard for. No, Ozzie may well pray for a simple thing: The chance to see the team thats lain dormant since April Fools Day rear its head and exact some punishment, just for one single day, before the dust settles for good on this sad season.

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

Preview: Jose Quintana, White Sox continue series with Mariners tonight on CSN

Preview: Jose Quintana, White Sox continue series with Mariners tonight on CSN

The White Sox continue their series against the Seattle Mariners, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 5:30 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: Jose Quintana (10-9, 2.84 ERA) vs. Ariel Miranda (1-0, 5.49 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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— Latest on the White Sox: All of the most recent news and notes.

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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.”

White Sox hope second-rounder Alec Hansen's 'fun ride' continues at Kannapolis

White Sox hope second-rounder Alec Hansen's 'fun ride' continues at Kannapolis

The way he dominated the Pioneer League had to boost to Alec Hansen’s confidence. It also prompted his promotion.

When the White Sox sent their second-round pick to Great Falls last month it was in the hope he could rebound from a rough junior season at Oklahoma that caused his draft stock to fall. Once thought to be the potential first overall pick of the 2016 draft, Hansen was selected 49th after he posted a 5.40 ERA and walked 39 batters in 51.2 innings. But Hansen — who made his first start at Single-A Kannapolis on Friday — looked every bit the first-rounder at Great Falls with a 1.23 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 36.2 innings.

“We wanted to put him in a position where there was a little less pressure to start off the season,” White Sox player development director Nick Capra said. “There's always pressure, but it's a little less magnified in the Pioneer League. We wanted to get him on the right road. We did a couple things with him mechanically and he took off with it.”

“We kind of held him hostage in Great Falls a little bit too long. He’s been really good. He’s double-digit strikeouts every night. He’s not walking people.”

Hansen is expected to make two starts at Kannapolis before the team’s season ends. He earned a no decision after he allowed three earned runs and five hits with two walks and six strikeouts in five innings against the Columbia Fireflies on Friday.

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Capra described the mechanical changes the White Sox made with Hansen as minor. Essentially, they want Hansen to take advantage of his 6-foot-8 frame and stay taller and release the ball more quickly. They believe it will help him better command his pitches.

Through 11 minor-league starts, Hansen has walked 18 batters in 49 innings (he also pitched seven innings in Arizona). That’s compared with the 96 batters he walked in 145 innings in college.

“Our player development guys deserve so much credit for the way they've handled it,” amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said. “There was a little bit of concern about the confidence part of it, just him taking the ball every fifth day and knowing that we believe in him. Our pitching guys and PD guys deserve a huge amount of credit for just the time they put into it. They really, really know how to make these guys excel and succeed. Been a pretty fun ride to watch and I hope it continues.”