Chicago White Sox

Jackson plays punch out; Sox win home opener

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Jackson plays punch out; Sox win home opener

Thursday, April 7, 2011
Posted: 3:43 p.m. Updated: 5:45 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO After Brent Lillibridge gloved a warning-track fly ball by potential tying run Johnny Damon to end the eighth, Edwin Jacksons emphatic fist-pump on the mound put the finishing touches on an Opening Day gem, a game so dominant its immediately mentioned in the same breath as his 149-pitch no-hitter vs. these same Tampa Rays a summer ago.

Baseball is a game of inches, one pitch can ruin a whole game, Jackson said. When Damon hit that ball, initially I did think it was gone. It was a great feeling to see Lillibridge at the fence catching it for a last out. It was definitely exciting. Off the bat, I thought it was a home run.

Jackson punched out a career-high 13 batterswhich set a White Sox home opener recordin a 5-1 trampling of Tampa, which hasnt only failed to lead in a single game this season but fell to 0-6 for the first time in its history. Juan Pierre paced the Pale Hose with three hits, while Alex Rios, Paul Konerko, Lillibridge and Alexei Ramirez chipped in two apiece.

Sox Notes: Dunn still healing, feels feisty

The White Sox jumped ahead with three more early runs, two in the first off a two-run double misplayed by left fielder Sam Fuld, one in the third when Konerko tapped home Rios, who had doubled again and now stands at 7-11 career vs. Rays starter David Price.

Weve got a lot of dangerous hitters in our lineup, so its not the end of the world if you dont get the job done, said Konerko, who is hitting .360 on the season and set a White Sox record by driving home at least one run home in each of the first six games of the season.

But the story of the day was Jackson and an outing that Rays manager Joe Maddon characterized as more skillfully pitched than Jacksons no-hitter in 2010, tweeting after the game that Edwin had better command today then in his no-hitter against us last year. We weren't pressinghe was that good.

Jackson, even keel in that hell aw-shuck his way through good and bad both, could see his former managers point.

I mean, definitely this game is up there, Jackson said. Any time Im able to go out and get in an early rhythm, get outs quick and attack the strike zone, I like my odds. I have trouble in games when I get behind in the counts and have to throw strikes. There werent too many times where I had to do that today and when I did, I was able to make a quality pitch for an out.

He threw greateverything was working today, catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. He had all pitches going. He threw strikesthats the main thing. If he gets ahead against anyone, hes tough. I remember facing him. You didnt want him to get ahead of you because then it was, Oh boy, I got to try to hit this slider. Its as good as any slider there is. He continually got ahead of guys Once we got the lead, he got better and better as we went.

Jackson is characterized as a power pitcher but has long eschewed talk of him being all brawn and no savvy. Case in point: The fireballer doesnt count Ks.

I never really count the strikeouts, Jackson said. I really didnt know how many I had. I knew I had a lot. If you would have asked me an exact number, I probably wouldnt have been close. My main objective is get outs any way I can, either putting the ball in play or strikeouts.

Thats a blessing when youre a strikeout pitcher, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. His breaking pitches today were outstanding. He got into breaking ball counts, threw them and made those guys swing.

Pre-Velo

The fluke of schedule that had Jackson starting the home debut on Thursday, was one that the pitcher was eager to capitalize on.

Theres no jitters or anything right now, Jackson told CSNChicago.com on Wednesday. Its Opening Day at U.S. Cellular. Im sure it could be something exciting to see the crowds reaction. It would be even better to go out there and cap it off with a win.

Jackson was dominant in his home debut, setting a new career K mark (13) and retiring 20 of 21 batters to start the game (everyone except Fuld, who led off the game with a single) and allowing just four hits to the defending A.L. East champion Tampa Rays.

Jackson has proven a popular pitcher for the Pale Hose, but thats something the young righthander knows can turn at any time.

Ill only stay that way if I have a good game, Jackson laughed. Its always good if you can go out and have somewhat of a good day Opening Day, anywhere, regardless of whether its Chicago or anywhere else you play. You want to give the fans something positive to look forward to all season.

Thats just what Jackson has done, with an opener for the ages.

Its like youre opening the season all over again, Jackson said of his season opening honor. National anthem, lineups called outits like a brand-new Opening Day.

It would be easy to say that Jackson was a brand-new pitcher with his excellent work on Thursday, but as the strongest starter from the second half of 2010, hes just keeping on.

Asked about wanting to earn an A for his work on Opening Day, likening the pomp and circumstance to the first day of school, Jackson laughed in assertion.

Today, chalk Velo up for an A-plus.

Slip sliding

Perhaps the most devastating out pitch any White Sox starter has in his arsenal, with the possible exception of Mark Buehrles changeup, is Jacksons slider, which was as sharp as its ever been during Thursdays win, accounting for 12 of Velos 13 strikeouts.

I had a lot of strikeouts with the sliders, he said. I was able to mix it up a little bit in the count, keep them off-balanceyou know, put them away when I had chances to.

Interestingly, neither Jackson nor Pierzynski had any notion that the hurler would be so untouchable today.

Thats why they call it warming upthats exactly what it is, Jackson said by way of explaining why. I had some of my best games after some of my worst bullpens. I tried to go in and find a rhythm in the pen and bring it out to the game. Sometimes its not that easy. The main thing in the bullpen is get warm and ready for the first inning.

A guy can be pitching really well warming up and you still dont know how a hitter is going to react to his stuff, Pierzynski said. But the thing about Edwin is, when hes on, he can be unhittable.

Cool runnings

Jackson was pumped up before the home opener, so much so that he was walking through the White Sox dugout in short sleeves, seemingly impervious to the near-freezing temperatures.

I really wasnt cold, but I came out to see how cold it was and get used to the temperature. It really wasnt as bad as I thought.

With a gametime temp of 39 degrees and Jackson hailing from Georgia, Jackson proved he had some grit, throwing in the game with bare arms up to his elbows.

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

Tim Anderson wanted chance to lift White Sox to victory

Tim Anderson wanted chance to lift White Sox to victory

Tim Anderson has dealt with so many teachable moments this season that an enjoyable one was long overdue.

It arrived in the form of several freezing cold Gatorade showers late Wednesday night following the first walkoff hit of the White Sox shortstop’s career. Grinding through the final six weeks of a sophomore slump, Anderson shook off three hitless at-bats to single in the game-winning run and set off a raucous celebration as the White Sox topped the Minnesota Twins 4-3 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Anderson’s game-winner off Twins reliever Trevor Hildenberger was set up an inning earlier when rookie Yoan Moncada doubled in the tying run while batting right-handed against Taylor Rogers.

“I think it’s a big lift,” Renteria said. “We were talking about how they were trying to be able to do something with the secondary pitches. Obviously, they did both. Obviously, it’s a confidence builder, both of them getting big hits, one to tie and one to go ahead. We were sitting in there today in the last at-bat going, ‘Man, we really want this for Timmy right here.’ Big situation, see how he does and fortunately he was able to get it through the infield.”

Renteria and the coaching staff weren’t the only ones who wanted to see how Anderson would fare in the moment. The second-year player had a sense from the dugout how it all would play out after Avisail Garcia led off the inning with a single to right field. Renteria had Kevan Smith bunt Garcia into scoring position, which led to an intentional walk of Yolmer Sanchez. Sanchez’s free pass brought up Anderson, who had one hit in his last 20 at-bats, including a bases-loaded strikeout in Tuesday’s loss.

“I wanted that moment,” Anderson said.

Before the game, Anderson had a lengthy conversation in the tunnel between the clubhouse and the dugout with hitting coach Todd Steverson. Anderson said much of the discussion surrounded his season and the ways he could benefit from everything he has endured.

Anderson struggled early this season and then battled some more as he dealt with the sudden death of close friend Branden Moss, who was killed in May while trying to help an assault victim. With the help of a counselor, Anderson began to rebound in August, posting a .976 OPS in the first 16 games of the month.

He followed that with another downturn that carried into Wednesday’s game.

“We really were just figuring out who I am and kind of learning from this year,” Anderson said of his discussion with Steverson. “Talking overall about everything that has been going on this year and kind of how I’m maturing as a hitter, just to really get better.”

Anderson shook off three hitless at-bats when he stepped up in the ninth. He had struck out on three pitches in the third inning before, grounded out in the fifth and popped out on the first pitch he saw with the tying run aboard in the seventh.

But Anderson made sure none of that mattered in the ninth.

After he took a first-pitch changeup for a ball, Anderson ripped Hildenberger’s next offering, which caught too much of the plate, into the hole. Running all the way, Garcia raced home and scored when Eddie Rosario’s throw went offline. White Sox players then chased down Anderson and Jose Abreu dropped a full bucket of Gatorade on Anderson’s head with the help of Sanchez, who held him in place.

“I put the first three at-bats behind me and came up big,” Anderson said. “It was an exciting moment. I’m going to enjoy it and wear it until tomorrow.”

Ditto for Moncada, who produced only his second extra-base hit from the right side all season long. While Moncada entered the contest with an .886 OPS against right-handed pitching, he had just a .327 OPS against southpaws. But Moncada took advantage of Leury Garcia’s one-out double even after he fell behind in the count 0-2. Moncada worked the count even, fouled off a fastball and then ripped a curve from Rogers inside the third-base line to tie the game.

“I like the pressure,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “I like being in some at-bats with the game on the line, because that’s something that you can change the course of the game. I like to be that guy, and I like to be the guy to help to win games. I like to get those chances.”

WATCH: Tim Anderson records first career walk-off hit in White Sox win over Twins

WATCH: Tim Anderson records first career walk-off hit in White Sox win over Twins

Wednesday night featured another edition of #RICKYSBOYSDONTQUIT, and a rally unicorn!

Tim Anderson completed the White Sox comeback by recording his first career walk-off hit — a single — in a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field.

With the White Sox trailing 3-2 in the eighth inning, Yoan Moncada tied the game with an RBI double.

In the ninth, Avisail Garcia opened the inning with a single. Kevan Smith's sac bunt moved Garcia to second and Yolmer Sanchez was intentionally walked. 

With two on and one out, Anderson hit a grounder past the shortstop and the 26-year-old All-Star got on his high horse to come around and score, securing the White Sox 49th win of the season.

The comeback actually started with the presence of a rally unicorn, when the South Siders were down 3-2 in the eighth.

Hands down, the rally unicorn beats any rally animal.

And get that girl some season tickets, White Sox.