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 bullpen taking pride in slogging through heavy, high-stress workload

White Sox bullpen taking pride in slogging through heavy, high-stress workload

It might be figuratively held together with chicken wire and duct tape at this point, and it hasn’t been entirely effective recently. But the White Sox bullpen can’t be criticized for a lack of effort. 

Over the last four days, White Sox relievers have had to throw 19 1/3 innings. To recap: Starter Jacob Turner only lasted 3 1/3 innings Friday against the Detroit Tigers, then Chris Sale was scratched from his start Saturday after blowing up over the team’s uniforms and earning a five-game suspension. The White Sox bullpen shouldered Johnny Wholestaff duties and threw eight innings on Saturday — right-hander Matt Albers started and pitched two of those innings despite throwing an inning in the team’s last two games — in lieu of the team’s All-Star ace. 

David Robertson, who pitched a third of an inning in relief Saturday, pitched twice on Sunday (he allowed three solo home runs to the Tigers to blow the save in his second game). Nate Jones appeared in the first three games of the Tigers series, too, totaling 2 1/3 innings. 

On Monday, both Jones and Robertson were given a much-needed rest day. So Zach Duke, Albers and Dan Jennings were called upon by manager Robin Ventura to cover seven outs against the powerful Cubs lineup. Albers blew the save, but Jennings’ strikeout of Jason Heyward with the go-ahead run on second set up Tyler Saladino’s walk-off single to net the White Sox a 5-4 win. 

“We’ve picked up a lot of innings lately,” Robertson said. “Everybody’s just giving it everything they got right now. It’s obviously, we would’ve loved to have nothing but zeros go up, but that’s not the way baseball works. We’re facing a lot of good lineups. And we’ve just hung tough and tried to at least give us a chance to win. Thankfully, we’ve been very fortunate to walk off these last three games.” 

It’s not just the volume of innings that’s taxing the bullpen, though. With three consecutive walk-off wins — the first time the White Sox have done that since Aug. 4-6, 1962 — have come plenty of high-stress pitches. Over the last week, the White Sox bullpen has the highest average leverage index in baseball, and that’s with this group shouldering the generally low-leverage early innings of Saturday’s game in place of Sale. 

“The more we work, the more proud we are of what we do,” Jennings said. 

Still, this group could probably use a breather. Without an off day until Aug. 1, though, the only way to get one is to be ruled out for a game, as Robertson and Jones were on Monday. 

“Hopefully we can rotate, I know there’s some other guys that I know might need a day so maybe hopefully Nate and Robertson are really fresh tomorrow and we can build off that,” Jennings said. “(Or) maybe we can get that eight, nine, 10-run win where we can kind of sit back and relax a little bit, hopefully.”

Manager Robin Ventura said he went with seniority in choosing who to cover Jones and Robertson’s innings Monday, which helps explain why he didn’t use 2015 first-round pick Carson Fulmer against the Cubs. Fulmer’s recent control issues — he only threw 12 of 30 pitches for strikes in blowing a lead against the Tigers on Friday — could’ve played a factor, too. 

“You’re trusting the guys who have been here,” Ventura said. “You’ve got some new faces that are out there, it would’ve been asking a lot to bring them in and put them in that.”

White Sox relievers have squandered leads in each of the team’s last four games, though: Fulmer on Friday, Jones on Saturday, Robertson on Sunday and Albers/Jennings on Monday. In addition to a short outing from Turner and no outing from Sale, the White Sox are missing right-handers Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam from a group that looked to be fairly deep earlier in the season. 

The White Sox relief corps could certainly use a day off or at the least, as Jennings said, a blowout win where some of those young arms — Fulmer, Michael Ynoa and Tommy Kahnle — could polish off some low-pressure innings. But those easy wins have been few and far between this season: The White Sox only have three wins by more than three runs since May 14. 

So if that trend continues, this group is going to have to continue to cover plenty of high-stress innings without a break, at least for the next week. 

“Obviously the bullpen the last few days had to pick up the team, and we take pride in that,” Albers said. “Especially Nate and D-Rob were down today, shoot, they’ve been pitching every day too. Everybody else started to try to pick them up. That’s what we’re here for.” 

Cheering section of one: Melky Cabrera adds three highlight plays to the reel

Cheering section of one: Melky Cabrera adds three highlight plays to the reel

The human GIF made quite an impact on the White Sox on Monday night.

A staple of The Melky Cabrera experience the past year and a half has been the outfielder’s personal celebrations that come with every big play. Monday night’s edition included three rounds of festivities critical to the White Sox pulling out a 5-4 victory over the Cubs at U.S. Cellular Field.

Cabrera got the party started almost instantly, robbing Kris Bryant of a first-inning solo home run before he patted himself on the back in only the way he does.

“I think every celebration is a motivation to try to give us a boost to our confidence and for the fans, too,” Cabrera said through an interpreter. “Every time you can make a good play, it’s good for your team and for your fans to try to invigorate the confidence.”

Cabrera not only leads the team with a .303 batting average -- he’s the biggest self-congratulator of the bunch. It’s as if the GIF function was created for the sole purpose of recording Cabrera’s awkward claps or fist pumps after every big play.

On Monday, he opted to clap for himself after he robbed Bryant of what would have been his 26th homer. Cabrera said he watched the ball the entire way off Bryant’s bat and drifted back to the warning track before leaping and snagging the ball just above the yellow line on the left-field fence.

[MORE: White Sox win in walk-off fashion over Cubs]

On his way down, Cabrera landed hard on the warning track before righting himself against the wall, where he sat with each appendage sprawled in a different direction. At that point, Cabrera held up the ball to show the world he had it in his possession before he stood up and clapped for himself with both hands over his head.

“I thought after that play, things were going to be pretty good today,” said pitcher Miguel Gonzalez, the recipient of the play.

It was only the beginning.

Cabrera’s relay throw home in the third inning led to a rundown that netted an out at the plate when Javy Baez made an ill-advised decision to go home. Then in the ninth, Cabrera recorded the first out, which slowed a game-tying rally, when he fired a perfect strike to second base to throw out Bryant stretching a single into a double.

Each time, Cabrera cheered for himself without shame.

“He’s probably his own best (cheering section), but we try to keep up with him,” said reliever Zach Duke, who often views Cabrera’s celebrations from the bullpen. “It’s great. His celebrations, they’re just truly heartfelt, truly spontaneous and he has such a good time playing the game we can’t help but join in and enjoy the moment.”

White Sox: Chris Sale discusses jersey-cutting incident, suspension

White Sox: Chris Sale discusses jersey-cutting incident, suspension

One day after being handed a five-game suspension, White Sox ace Chris Sale spoke exclusively to MLB.com's Scott Merkin about the incident that led to the suspension, his desire to win with the White Sox and his future with the team.

Below are Sale's quotes from Merkin's story, which can be found here:

-- "I want to win a championship in Chicago. That's been my goal from Day 1. It has never changed. I only get more passionate about it because I know that it's not easy winning a championship. There's a lot that goes into it.

"Our main focus should be winning. I know that every single player comes in ready to win every day. I can't speak on anybody else. ... I don't think I would be traded. I don't know for sure. I don't know what they are thinking now or what's going on."

-- "Nothing else matters really. People don't talk about the guys who get paid the most. They talk about the guys with the rings and teams that won the rings. Our guys in this clubhouse deserve, in every single game, the best opportunity to go achieve that goal of winning a championship. That's why we are all here. Nothing else matters."

-- "When I saw that there was something in the way of that 100 percent winning mentality, I had an issue," Sale said. "I tried to bring it up and say, 'Hey listen, these are my thoughts and concerns,' and they got pushed away because of the business deal that was set in place. I'll never understand why we need to do something on the business side on the field that might impede us winning a game.

"[The '76 uniforms] are uncomfortable and unorthodox. I didn't want to go out there and not be at the top of my game in every aspect that I need to be in. Not only that, but I didn't want anything to alter my mechanics. ... There's a lot of different things that went into it. Looking bad had absolutely zero to do with it. Nothing."

-- "I get you have to have the business side, and if you want us to take pictures with these things, whatever. If it's going to affect the style of play or the outcome of the game, I just thought that would be a no-brainer."

And below is a list of CSN's coverage of the Sale incident:

Chris Sale's suspension 'does not move the needle' regarding his value to White Sox

Chris Sale suspended five days by White Sox

Chris Sale will start Thursday against Cubs