Late-inning small ball lifts White Sox

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Late-inning small ball lifts White Sox

Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Updated 11:44 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

The 2009 Chicago White Sox may have folded under a 3-0 first-inning deficit, or a 5-1 second frame setback.

Not the 2010 edition, however; one that manager Ozzie Guillen molded in his name and steadfastly defends in the face of trade rumors stretching coast-to-coast.

The White Sox took seven innings, but they managed to rally all the way back to win 6-5 over the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday night.

That was a big game for us today, Guillen said. We made a huge comeback right away, twice. The offense did a lot of great things, as a team. We played very, very, very well today.

The seventh stanza, which provided the game-winning tick, was Ozzieball to a T. Leadoff hitter Juan Pierre worked a leadoff walk off of Seattle reliever Jamey Wright, stealing second to allow Alexei Ramirez to sacrifice him to third. Alex Rios followed with a run-scoring single, and just like that, the White Sox led for good.

Without a doubt, that was a big, big victory, left fielder Juan Pierre said. The way our lineup is set up, the little things become important: a bunt, a sacrifice fly.

Of course, U.S. Cellular Field was playing summer-small on this night, so naturally four of the Chisoxs first five runs came courtesy of the longball: a two-run shot by Gordon Beckham in the second and solo taps from Ramirez and Paul Konerko in the fifth.

The whole game I felt like wed come back and win, second baseman Gordon Beckham said. Weve got the ability to play small, and the ability to hit the ball out of the park. Thats a nice combination.

Early on, these were games we didnt win, said rookie reliever Sergio Santos, who recorded two Ks. Thats a cool part of the whole turnaround.

While the starting rotation has done more than its share in rallying the White Sox into first place25-9 with a 2.69 ERA and 35 quality starts in the last 44 gameson this night, it was all Mark Buehrle could do to keep his head above water.

You never want to go less than six or seven innings, but we won the game, thats what mattered, said Buehrle, who surrendered nine hits and five runs in five innings. The offense picked me up. If you get in too big a hole its hard to battle back.

Buehrle was fighting, Guillen said. Every game on the field, all my players fight hard; maybe they like me, or theyre proud. Buehrle battled, and the bullpen took care of the rest.

Indeed it was a lights-out quartetSantos, Matt Thornton, J.J. Putz and Bobby Jenkswho were the heroes, with four innings of scoreless pitching, allowing just two hits and striking out five.

The first three relievers extended scoreless streaks with their efforts: Santos has gone 10 games without surrendering an earned run, Thornton 17 straight scoreless appearances and Putz pitched a perfect eighth to extend his club-record streak of scoreless games to 27.

Perhaps most importantly, Jenks shook off his recent scuffles by striking out the side in the ninth for his 21st save. He hit 99 on the gun to strike out Russell Branyan for the second out.

All I know is if have to keep continuing to prove myself, Jenks said. I have to attack hitters, attack the zone and stay with the game plan.

You blow two games, thats going to happen, Beckham said. Jenks came back tonight and got it done. Thats what we need from him.

Guillen, who expressed surprise that there was any buzz over Jenks being displaced has his closer, praised the bullpen as well as his entire roster with his final, cheeky comment of the night.

Youre a good manager when the players execute well, he said.

Couple that with his first comment of the dayI should be happy, Im in first place. I should be the happiest man in baseballand couple it with his last, and at this point, two things are clear: The White Sox appear poised to take up seeming permanent residence in first placeand that Guillen is looking like the best skipper in the bigs.

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

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jose Quintana and Miguel Gonzalez looked like a pair of pitchers who began their offseasons earlier to prep for the World Baseball Classic.

Both White Sox starting pitchers looked sharp as they made their spring debuts in a 7-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies at Camelback Ranch on Sunday afternoon. Team USA relievers David Robertson and Nate Jones also pitched a scoreless inning each in the win. Prospect Zack Burdi also pitched a scoreless ninth inning.

Gonzalez, who is on the Team Mexico roster, only allowed a single on a dropped pop up on the infield in two scoreless innings.

“I’m a little ahead of the game right now,” Gonzalez said. “I started a little earlier this year in the offseason to work out, thinking I wanted to go to the WBC and get ready for that. But I think the most important thing right now is getting ready for April 1 with the White Sox. That’s my goal, and you don’t get these opportunities every year. To represent Mexico, it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be great.”

Quintana, who will start for Colombia in their March 10 opener against the United States, allowed a run and a hit in two innings. He struck out one and hit a batter.

“I feel good,” Quintana said. “I think for the first day I feel comfortable. I hit the glove. I feel good. A couple of pitches spinning were good and I feel really good.”

[RELATED: Jim Thome on being a finalist for National Baseball Hall of Fame]

Robertson is throwing much earlier than normal in anticipation of his March 6 departure for Miami, where Team USA begins its tournament. The club’s closer normally wouldn’t appear in a game until the calendar turns to March. Robertson said he usually only needs 5-6 spring outings to get in shape for the regular season. Though he felt a little rusty, the right-hander was pleased with several changeups and fastballs he threw.

“I wouldn’t say it was smooth but I got through it,” Robertson said. “I had a few bad pitches that were just not competitive. … All in all I got through what seemed like a tough inning for a first outing.

“I’m excited. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to go down there and put the ‘USA’ across my chest and have a chance to win something for our country. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m excited to play with a group of guys I’ve been playing against my whole life.”

Eddie Alvarez had a three-run double for the White Sox while Tyler Saladino collected two hits in three trips. Catcher Roberto Pena went 2-for-2 with an RBI. 

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Normally upbeat and positive, Jim Thome can’t help but beam with pride when asked about his Hall of Fame candidacy.

Thome, who blasted 612 career home runs, including 134 with the White Sox, is eligible for induction for the first time in 2018. Even though he’s expected by many to one day be voted into Cooperstown, perhaps even in his first year, Thome said he’s merely honored to be on the ballot. Thome is joined on the ballot by Chipper Jones and former teammate Omar Vizquel, among others. Voting begins in December and the results will be announced next January.

“To even be on the ballot and thought of, it would be the greatest honor I think you could get,” Thome said. “Or if you get an opportunity to go into the greatest fraternity baseball has or created, it would be indescribable. How do you ever think as a kid or a high school player or even going through the minor leagues, that you’d play at the big leagues that long? And then to get an opportunity at the end of your career to be put on the ballot is so great.

“That would be the coolest moment ever.”

Thome – who is in White Sox camp as a special assistant to the general manager – provided plenty of big moments in a career that spanned 22 seasons. He hit 30 home runs in 12 of 13 seasons between 1996-2008, leading the league with 47 in 2003. The slugger was a five-time All-Star and produced 72.9 b-Wins Above Replacement.

[RELATED: Brett Lawrie trying to clear final hurdles]

Thome isn’t as superstitious about his candidacy as others previously have been. He won’t be the guy to bring up the topic, but the Peoria, Ill.-native doesn’t shy away from discussing it, either.

“It’s not something you talk a lot about,” Thome said. “We’re not going to bring it up. But when people do bring it up, there’s a sense of pride, a sense of ‘Wow, baseball has thought that highly to put you on the ballot.’ And the fact that there’s just this wonderful fraternity of incredible players that you could be a part of, if you’re chosen.”