Chicago White Sox

Manny debuts, Konerko the hero in White Sox win

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Manny debuts, Konerko the hero in White Sox win

Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2010
Updated 3:47 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

So, given all of the Manny Ramirez hullabaloo over the past week, is it OK that the Chicago White Sox apparently acquired him to stand in the on-deck circle and menace opposing pitchers into surrendering game-winning, three-run homers in the eighth inning?

For the second straight game and the second time in about 12 hours, Ramirez had the best seat in the house for such a blast. On Wednesday afternoon in Cleveland, it was Paul Konerko who launched a two-out, three-run bomb to lead Chicago to a 6-4 win and a series sweep of the Indians. It was Konerko's 12th home run this season hit after the seventh inning.

"Don't forget, I've had a real good run producer behind me all season long in Carlos Quentin," Konerko said in response to queries about the Manny Effect, as locker neighbor A.J. Pierzynski joked that his days of seeing a fat pitch in front of the team's newest slugger were over. "And besides, whenever I think too much about who's hitting behind me or what pitches I'll see, it screws me up."

Manny himself took questions in English after the game, indicating that he was indeed getting confortable (as evidenced by his animated jostling with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen in the manager's office after the game) in his new clubhouse: "I'm just happy to contribute to a win here, and I'm looking ahead to a lot more."

Seemingly everything had pointed to a White Sox sweep of the Indians at this matinee in front of a few thousand Ramirez rubberneckers.

Indeed, the ballyhooed slugger was making his White Sox debut, but the factors lining up for Chicago were more numerous than that. Freddy Garcia, the team's fifth starter who nonetheless led the team in quality start percentage and traditionally pitches well in day games and vs. the Indians, took the mound. The game began some 14 hours after an emotional and dramatic win for the White Sox. And the team was searching desperately for a kick-start into a stretch-run September in which it must make up a game per week on the first-place Minnesota Twins.

Things started off well for Chicago, as the third batter of the game, Alex Rios drove a pitch 407 feet to left-center. And in the eighth, that other Ramirez, Alexei, blasted a solo shot to left field as an appetizer for Konerko's clout one out later.

In-between, there was little joy for the Chicago 9. In the third, Asdrubal Cabrera tied the game with a two-out single to drive in Larry Donald. In the next frame, Jordan Brown tapped Jayson Nix home to push Cleveland ahead. And in the fifth, the Wahoos tallied two more, one on a double-play ball struck by Cabrera, the other a two-out infield hit by Nix.

Garcia appeared to strain his back chasing a Nix infield hit in the fourth, although he stayed in to finish the frame, and both Guillen and the starter pronounced Garcia fit for his next start. The veteran was cheated out of a chance for the win, however; pitching just four innings and 60 pitches.

The White Sox added an Ozzieball insurance run in the ninth, with Mark Teahen singling and eventually scoring while being pushed ahead by an Andruw Jones walk, Ramon Castro sacrifice bunt and Alexei Ramirez sacrifice fly.

Chisox rookie phenom Chris Sale, who Guillen hours earlier had said he was now comfortable inserting in any situation, came on in the ninth, pitched through a minor rally and notched his first career save.

"You know Ozzie, he's not afraid to do anything," an obviously-proud Sale said. "Ramon came out to talk to me, slow me down, and we just broke it down to the basics from there."

The manager himself was delighted by the resilience and fortitude of his team, which shook off its August doldrums by completing the sweep. The skipper launched kudos toward everyone from the Ramirezes to Konerko, the bullpen, yeoman long reliever Tony Pena, Garcia, Sale, and anyone else we're unable to find room to let him thank in this cyberspace.

But after a much-needed day off in Beantown, a crucial three-game set with the playoff-contending Boston Red Sox looms.

"Every series - every game - is crucial," Guillen said. "We're fighting for our lives and there's no room for rest."

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

Look away, White Sox fans: Chris Sale makes history

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USA TODAY

Look away, White Sox fans: Chris Sale makes history

This one may sting a bit, White Sox fans.  

On Wednesday evening, former White Sox ace Chris Sale accomplished a feat that no other American League pitcher has since 1999. The current Red Sox left-hander whiffed his 300th batter of the season, becoming the first A.L. hurler since Pedro Martinez to do so. 

Sale reached the impressive milestone in a dominant eight-inning, 13-strikeout gem. Vintage. 

Overall on the season, he's posted a 2.75 ERA with opponents hitting a mere .203 against him. Before his postseason debut in October, Sale has a shot at leading two franchises in season strikeout totals: 

The consolation on the South Side is that the prized prospect acquired in the Sale blockbuster had a pretty nice night himself. Yoan Moncada drilled a two-run blast in Houston, his seventh since being called up from Triple-A Charlotte on July 19. 

The great trade debate wages on. 

Jose Abreu's gift to Yoan Moncada just keeps on giving

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USA TODAY

Jose Abreu's gift to Yoan Moncada just keeps on giving

HOUSTON -- Yoan Moncada took Jose Abreu’s advice to switch to a lighter bat and the White Sox rookie has been on a tear ever since.

The veteran first baseman thought Moncada would benefit from a slightly smaller piece of lumber and purchased it. Moncada began to use the bat at the start of the team’s current 10-game road trip and has since produced the best stretch of his career. Moncada is hitting 432/.488/.649 with 16 hits, including a triple, two home runs, six RBIs and 11 runs scored in 37 plate appearances.

“I just thought he wasn’t using the bats for him to take advantage of his swing,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “These new bats have better balance with the weight and are a little shorter than the other ones. I just did it thinking of him taking advantage of his power, his hands and to feel more freedom in his swing.”

Neither Abreu nor the White Sox have wavered in their faith in Moncada since his promotion from Triple-A two months ago. Baseball’s top prospect flashed plenty of talent in spring training and further convinced them by showing a consistently good eye at the plate after arriving in the majors.

But while Moncada had his share of highlights early on, he still hadn’t begun to receive the desired results on a consistent basis. Abreu saw him missing his pitch from time to time and suggested that Moncada use a smaller bat.

Moncada previously a 34-inch, 32-ounce bat. The ones purchased by Abreu are 33 1/ 2-inches and 31 ounces. Moncada has said the bats have produced a more fluid swing and he feels like he has a stronger swing since.

[MORE: Top 10 storylines from the White Sox minor league season] 

Manager Rick Renteria thinks it’s a combination of the new bat and Moncada having a better understanding for how teams are approaching him at the plate.

“Lighter bats can help you manipulate the barrel a little more, keep you on the ball,” Renteria said. “You don’t think you have to force yourself to get out in front too much. You can allow the ball to travel and do what it does, so you can see it as much as possible. Just in general, the at-bats and the experience and the sequence of pitches he’s been seeing over time now, he’s starting to understand and get a feel for hitting in the big leagues.”

Abreu said his own bat size has varied during a red-hot second half depending upon how he feels. Moncada’s mentor started the season with a 34-inch, 32-ounce Albert Pujols-model bat, but also began to use the 33-inch, 33 1/2-ounce at the All-Star break.

Abreu has enjoyed watching his protégé have consistent success over the past nine days.

“I knew he had the talent,” Abreu said. “I never had a doubt about it. It was just a matter for him to get to know this process and to get to know the league and for him to use the proper tools to take advantage. We are just seeing what he’s capable of doing and it’s a good sign for him building for next season.”