Humber makes his best pitch, hurls gem

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Humber makes his best pitch, hurls gem

Saturday, April 9, 2011
Posted: 5:55 p.m. Updated: 8:28 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO The third time was the charm for Phil Humber.

The 28-year-old righty threw the game of his life in the White Sox's 4-2 win Saturday afternoon, turning his third career start (and first for the White Sox) into a sort of masterpiece alleviating the pressing need for Jake Peavy to rush back into the Chicago rotation.

We had a good game plan going in, and A. J. took care of me behind the plate, Humber said. I made pitches when I had to. Last night was a tough loss, and everybody came to play today.

He was great, catcher A.J. Pierzynski returned. He was the story of the gamethe way he threw the ball, especially the way last nights game ended. To come out and shut them down the way he did, it was awesome.

WATCH: Pierzynski laughs off Lopez altercation

The most important person to impressWhite Sox manager Ozzie Guillencertainly was.

Great, wow, said the jefe of his fifth starters effort. He got an opportunity to win the game, he pitched very well, he got in trouble in one inning maybe, but he threw the ball very, very good, threw strikes. He gave us more than what we thought he was going to give us. It was outstanding today.

And thats just the impact Humber had hoped to have.

Hopefully it wasnt a surprise, he said. They got me on the team because they wanted me on the team, they didnt just throw me out there because they didnt have anybody else. They believe in me, and that gives me a lot of confidence as a player.

You always want to at least meet the expectations, if not exceed them. I dont know what they were, but I wanted to go out there and give the team a chance to win, and thankfully I was able to do that.

The outcome was in doubt for a full nine innings, however, as the Pale Hose were opposed by Wade Davis, who authored a best-seller of his own, holding the high-octane Chisox to two runs on five hits in six innings of work.

They are a good team, Pierzynski said. You can say what you want, but Wade Davis has always pitched very well against us. Hes tough. He changes speeds very well. He mixes up his pitches very well. Hes a good pitcherthey signed him to a long-term deal because hes good.

Davis was rescued from potential catastrophe in the fourth, when Juan Pierre hit a two-out, bases-loaded, screaming line drive into the right-field corner that Sam Fuld laid out to snag and retire the side. Pierre was inches away from a potential game-breaking, inside-the-park grand slam.

WATCH: Pierre still can't believe the catch

Guillen laughed off the notion that Pierre was thatclose to a granny, with a loud laugh.

Maybe five or six years ago, it was an inside-the-parker, but I dont know about now, Guillen said. I dont remember seeing any catch better than that. The situation, where he was playing, this kid went a long way. If that ball landed, it would be a different ballgame. Its just a helluva play.

It was an incredible catch, and I tip my hat to him that he didnt kill himself on the fence and he got there and made the play, Pierzynski said. It was an amazing play.

Fulds belly flop followed Brent Morels single, a rather hilarious Rhode Island Leaguer pop that floated tantalizingly beyond Davis grasp for a bases-loaded single.

Thank God Brent Morel hit that ball a foot too far, where Davis he couldnt reach it, Pierzynski said.

In the seventh, Chicago finally drove Davis from the box and immediately doubled its lead, as Pierzynski drove a deep double to right that Fuld failed to handle. The two-run knock would ultimately prove to be the game winner for the South Siders.

Sergio Santos, Fireman of the First Week for the Sox, came on to anesthetize the Rays with a scoreless eighth, giving way to fellow young gun Chris Sale, who earned the save after giving up a home run to Felipe Lopez in the ninth.

Guillen was thrilled at how his team bounced back after expressing before the game that hed be studying how much fight his troops had in them.

Good teams are supposed to not carry what happened the night before to the next day, whether you win or lose, he said. We brought a lot of energy. We knew it would be a challenge to see how we could bounce back from the game last night and I was very satisfied with what I saw.
Did U.S. Cellular Field witness MLB's best defensive play for the second straight season? Sam Fuld's full-speed running dive to make this catch robbed Juan Pierre of at least a triple and three RBIs. (AP)
Not Fuld

Fulds amazing catch in the fourth was the defensive story of the game.

Somebody said that guy is really good in the outfield, and hes made some nice plays against us these three games, but that catch he made off of Pierre is one of the best catches Ive ever seen, Pierzynski said. Honestly, he ran like 50 yards to get to that ball.

Closing time

While Guillen was clear not to spark a closer controversy, he did edge a bit back toward a closer-by-committee situation, judging by his postgame remarks.

Thornton was beat up todayhe threw a lot of pitches yesterday, Guillen said. But this is what youre going to see: Im going to go with my gut feeling. Obviously, Thornton is going to get the most opportunities, but Im the manager of this ballclub and Im going to put the best guys out there, the ones I think are going to do the job.

"The way Santos is throwing, Sale is throwing, if Thornton needs a break well give it to him. Matt threw like 30 pitches FridayI know he couldnt pitch today.

Guillen had a brief conference in the clubhouse with Sale after the game, and also cited Santos as a closer in a more specific way than he has yet this season.

Whenever your name's called, you have to go out there and do your job, and do it the best you can, Sale said of his save opportunity. It just so happened today I was throwing in the ninth. You go out there with the same mindset: Get three outs, get this game wrapped up, and go home with the win.

At the end of the day its a goal of mine to be closer, but until they name somebody Im going to be in that same role whether its the sixth, seventh, or eighth, Santos said. When my names called, Im gonna give the same effort as if Im closing the game.

Santos has had an unbelievable run through 2011 so far, unscored upon in spring training and now stretching his scoreless streak to four regular season games as well.

Everythings starting to come together a little bit. Everything is working in my favor, he said. If I miss a spot, they hit it to somebody. Im making the pitches I need to with two strikes, putting guys away. Im in a good rhythm right now and I just want to ride it out for as long as I can.

Santos is very aggressivedont be surprised if you see Santos in the ninth, Guillen said. All the people out there, they see closerthats a title. I dont know who gets that title. Im going to go by my gutwhat I feel, what my pitching coach feels, what I feel is best for the ballclub. Santos threw the ball very well.

Weve done it before. In 2005, I had three closers. In 2007, I had seven closersnobody could close. But I gotta go about what is best for the ballclub, its not about individual numbers and titles.

In the end, no one has replaced Thornton as the teams stopper.

"As far as were concerned, Thornton is still our closer, and were going to fill in in front of him, Santos said.

Box Score

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

Preview: White Sox start series at Twins tonight on CSN

Preview: White Sox start series at Twins tonight on CSN

 

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Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jose Quintana (8-8, 2.97 ERA) vs. Ricky Nolasco (4-8, 5.40 ERA)

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Back with White Sox, Chris Sale ready to move on from 'fiasco'

Back with White Sox, Chris Sale ready to move on from 'fiasco'

Even though he felt isolated and experienced a five-day stretch he called “a fiasco,” Chris Sale was right where he wants to be Thursday, surrounded by White Sox teammates.

Shortly after a 3-1 loss to the Cubs, the pitcher echoed the sentiments of White Sox management in a 10-minute media session when he suggested he’d like to move on from a five-game suspension for insubordination and destruction of team property.

With the trade deadline only four days away, Sale wants to stay with the White Sox and hopes the current roster gets an opportunity to win. He also thought an incident in which he destroyed promotional throwback jerseys had been blown out of proportion.

While he didn’t apologize for his actions, the left-hander said he regretted letting down his teammates and fans who attended Saturday’s game. Sale, whose record fell to 14-4 after he allowed two runs in six innings, said he plans to address White Sox players and coaches soon and intends to let them know his level of appreciation.

“I want to let them know where my head is at, where my heart is at,” Sale said. “And let them know how much I appreciate them.

“I felt like I was out on an island, really. 7 o’clock rolls around and I usually know what’s going on. Sitting at the house sucks.

“I regret not being there for my guys. I’m a pitcher. I’m called upon every fifth day and when I can’t go out there for my guys and the fans, it gets to me.”

Similar to March when he pitched a day after ripping executive vice president Kenny Williams, Sale said his focus is back on the field. He declined to answer what he didn’t like about the throwback jerseys, calling it “counterproductive.” Even though the White Sox are on the outside looking in, Sale is hopeful he and his teammates can rally and make a strong postseason push over the final 60 games.

“I think everyone is making just a little bit bigger deal of this than it really is,” Sale said. “We are here to win games and from this point forward, I think that’s our main focus. We are going to come in every day and do our jobs and try to win ballgames, that’s at the forefront.

“I don’t like people filling in for me. I love what I do. I love pitching. I love competing. I love the guys that I’m surrounded by.”

“When I let them down, it hurts me more than it hurts them.”

Three days after he suggested manager Robin Ventura didn’t properly support him, Sale declined to discuss their future relationship and again diverted the conversation back to the field. When asked what was the biggest lesson he took from the ordeal, Sale said he wasn’t quite sure.

“I know you guys are trying to get in there and you guys have to write stories and stuff,” Sale said. “I understand. But they said their side. I said my side. I’m ready to talk about baseball and playing baseball and getting back to winning and getting the Chicago White Sox into the postseason. That’s my goal. That’s my focus. Anything else, that’s for you guys.”

While he admits that his competitive side may have fed into Saturday’s events, he also knows abandoning it would hurt him on the field. Sale said he was inundated by texts and calls from teammates past and present during his absence. That only strengthened his desire to win with the current group, Sale said.

“There’s no doubt my emotions have got me to this point,” he said. “I wouldn’t be the same person without them but stuff happens. Move on. We have an unbelievable group of guys in that clubhouse. We’ll just push forward.

“I’m here to win. I love exactly where I’m at. I have an unbelievable group of guys in that clubhouse. We’re pulling for each other, they are pulling for me and vice versa, through and through. I’d like to stay with this group of guys and make a push for the playoffs because I love those guys.”

White Sox find normalcy in Chris Sale's return from suspension

White Sox find normalcy in Chris Sale's return from suspension

The word of the day Thursday around the cramped confines of the visitor’s clubhouse at Wrigley Field was normal, as in getting things back to it with ace left-hander Chris Sale taking the mound after serving a five-game suspension for “insubordination and destruction of team property.”

A completely abnormal story — Sale cut up the 1976 throwback uniforms he didn’t want to wear last Saturday and was sent home for his actions — gave way to a relatively routine evening. Sale allowed two runs on six hits with three walks and four strikeouts over six innings, though the White Sox lineup was shut down by John Lackey and the Cubs’ new three-headed bullpen monster in a 3-1 Crosstown loss.

“Things were pretty normal,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Guys got here, not a different clubhouse or anything like that. I think everything went fairly normal as far as him going out there and pitching and it was about baseball.”

First baseman Jose Abreu said things felt like an ordinary Sale start, even though the American League’s All-Star starting pitcher hadn’t pitched since July 18. He didn’t have his best stuff and wasn’t his sharpest, either — those three walks were his highest total in over two months — as he wasn’t able to consistently paint the corners with his explosive arsenal of pitches.

But, as usual, Sale worked quickly and kept his team in the game against one of baseball’s best offenses.

“He pitched a very good game,” Abreu said through a translator.

The Cuban first baseman added: “I think that we already moved on.”

Catcher Dioner Navarro agreed.

“He gave us a great outing, we just weren’t able to score any runs for him,” Navarro said.

Before the game, third baseman Todd Frazier said he and his teammates rallied around Sale and hoped a solid outing from the 27-year-old left-hander would put the bizarre incident squarely in the rearview mirror. 

“Some mistakes are bigger than others but you gotta understand that we’re all not perfect,” Frazier said. “Things do happen in this game, different things that you think (you’ve) never seen before, and then it happens. It’s just one of those things, hopefully it goes away quick with the way he pitches."

Sale said he didn’t discuss the incident or his suspension with his teammates before the game to keep things as normal as possible. After he showed up a little after 4:40 p.m., he received hugs and handshakes from teammates welcoming him back following his five-day exile.

But after that, Navarro said things were business as usual. He and Sale went through the gameplan and got ready to face the Cubs' powerful lineup instead of dwelling on what happened last Saturday. Eventually, Sale will talk to his coaches and teammates on a personal level to “let them know where my head is at, where my heart is at, and let them know how much I appreciate them.”

With the White Sox playoff hopes flickering as the trade deadline approaches, though, Sale’s teammates are eager to keep the focus on trying to dig themselves out of a substantial, two-games-under-.500 hole.

“Everything’s in the past,” Navarro said. “He did a great job. Quality start, nothing else you can ask.”